Restaurant review: Thai Thai in White Center stands out for its varied menu, fresh ingredients and distinctive flavors — not to mention reasonable prices and hospitality.

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Don’t be put off by the non-

descript white cinderblock building in a drab section of White Center. Step inside Thai Thai restaurant, where the food and hospitality tell you that you’ve found someplace special.

Sawang “Sam” Sudthaya has been running Thai Thai since 1986, and many of his customers clearly are loyal locals. His wife, Orawan, does the cooking, with help from her sister, Nutjaree Chaiboonruang. Sam is host, waiter and busboy. The couple’s daughter helps with the serving on busy nights.

The menu: With more than 100 numbered items, all of the Thai standards are represented — and then some. Appetizers include the traditional (chicken satays, fried wontons, spring rolls) and the more interesting: angel wings (like a chubby spring roll but fashioned from a stuffed chicken wing; two for $5.50) and pandan leaf chicken (marinated, seasoned meat wrapped in a pandan leaf and fried; four for $6). The latter — served with a tasty tangy-sweet dipping sauce — is a bit messy but delicious.

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What to write home about: Sam will tell you that red curry chicken with rice ($7) is the Thai equivalent of hamburger and fries. Served like a stew, his is a wonderful blend of sweet and spicy.

The broccoli and prawns ($10), flavored with oyster sauce, came with good-sized prawns (about eight) and fresh, perfectly cooked broccoli.

The lunch combinations are a ridiculously good deal. They include four items — pad Thai (as good as any I’ve tasted), a spring roll, a piece of Thai fried chicken and an entree with rice — for $6.

The setting: Travel posters of Thailand provide a distraction while you wait; white lace curtains and beaded light fixtures also brighten up the place. A couple of big, round tables are available for families or groups.

Summing up: Sure, there’s a lot of Asian food to be had in Seattle. But Thai Thai stands out with its varied menu, fresh ingredients and distinctive flavors — not to mention reasonable prices. A recent dinner for two (two appetizers and two entrees, with some left over to take home) came in at less than $30 before tip.

Julie Hanson:

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