Food & Drink

Holy Kao! The Bright Flavors of Kao Thai

Located in a busy Millcreek stripmall on 3300 South is a terrific family-run restaurant that, judging from the sparse number of customers on a recent Saturday evening, could use some love and support.


It’s called Kao Thai and, obviously, specializes in Thai cuisine, both classic and with some twists. 

From the exterior, you might not expect Kao Thai to be as nicely appointed as the interior is. Modern decor combined with splashes of warm wood and subtle lighting makes for a very inviting – even romantic – ambiance. 

Unique wall art is another defining factor at Kao Thai, with hand-painted murals, display cases, and more, including a see-in kitchen. And, the restaurant does serve beer and wine, although decidedly not a large selection, nor inexpensive. We were charged $45 for a bottle of Vinho Verde Rosé from Portugal, which sells at DABS stores in Utah for $11.99. But, at least wine and beer are beverage options, in addition to sodas and tea. 

Chicken Satay

I sort of wish we’d have tried the Thai Ceviche ($12) at Kao Thai, which is mixed seafood with mango, white onions, cilantro and Thai chili in lime juice, served with fried wontons. The reason I wish we’d have tried the ceviche was because we were disappointed in the Chicken Satay ($13) starter we ordered. Every chicken satay I’ve ever had in restaurants was seasoned, skewered boneless chicken tenders that were grilled and served with a peanut dipping sauce. But this chicken was coated in some sort of batter and cooked to the consistency of shoe leather. No bueno. We could barely even cut it up with a fork – the single utensil we were given. 

Fresh Roll with Shrimp

Additional starters include fried calamari with sweet & sour sauce ($10), Crispy Larb ($10), Fried Tofu ($10), Curry Puff ($12), and a “Fresh Roll” ($8-$10) which was a rice paper roll stuffed with mostly lettuce and cilantro, plus a few strands of carrot and a single shrimp per roll, served with a tasty tamarind-peanut sauce. 

House specialties at Kao Thai include Kao Soi ($17-$23), which is Northern Thai-style curry served with chicken legs and thighs topped with pickled cabbage, shallots and lime. There’s also Keng Ped ($25) – braised short ribs cooked in yellow curry sauce with coconut milk, Thai eggplant, Thai chili, fresh green peppercorns, and Thai basil. Rounding out the house specialties is a dish called Pla Raad Prik ($23), which is crispy salmon served with veggies and a sweet & spicy sauce. 

Massaman Curry

Kao Thai offers the traditional range of Thai curries – massaman, green curry, yellow curry, and red curry with a choice of chicken, pork, beef, tofu, shrimp, short ribs, or salmon, ranging from $18 to $23. But they also offer a couple of curries you don’t see everywhere, like pumpkin curry and pineapple curry. I found the generously portioned massaman curry with pork ($18) to be very flavorful even though we forgot to ask the kitchen to make it spicy. It was a luscious yellow curry with coconut milk, carrots, potatoes and onions, topped with peanuts and served with steamed jasmine rice on the side. 

Since there were just two of us at dinner we didn’t order the Pineapple Fried Rice ($18-$20), but I’ve heard that it’s legendary: a choice of meat stir-fried with jasmine rice, egg, pineapple, carrots, tomatoes, raisins & cashews in a yellow curry sauce. We’ll give it a go next time. Other rice dishes include Basil Fried Rice and Kao Pad. Speaking of rice, there’s a half-wall room divider at Kao Thai that has the word “rice” printed in a dozen and a half different languages.  

Drunken Noodles

There’s the usual complement of noodle dishes at Kao Thai – Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, Raad Na, and Pad See Ew – plus one that marries Thai and Japanese cuisines: Thai Sukiyaki. I thought our Drunken Noodles with chicken ($17) was very good – stir-fried chicken with flat, wide rice noodles, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, white onions, bell peppers, cabbage, and Thai basil in a mild Thai chili sauce. Again, I wish we’d have thought to ask to have it made spicier; there’s no mention of heat/spice levels on the menu, nor did our young teenage server ask for our preferences and it slipped our minds when we ordered. He did bring us a small ramekin of hot Thai chilies to help spice things up, however. Next time we’ll try to remember to ask the kitchen to turn up the heat. 

Photos by Ted Scheffler 

Culinary quote of the week: “NASA asked me to create meals for the space shuttle. Thai chicken was the favorite. I flew in a fake space shuttle, but I have no desire to go into space after seeing the toilet.” – Rachel Ray 

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