Sonora Thai -- Exotic variety found in downtown Sonora
Sierra Lodestar 02/01/2012

Foothill Flavors 711 words

Sonora Thai offers exotic variety

By Antoinette May Herndon

Don't you dare call it "girls night out." We were four women on a mission.

Kathy Luke hails from Sonora, Lucy Sanna from San Carlos. Ginger Griffin and I are Peninsula transplants living in Mokelumne Hill. We're directors of the Gold Rush Writers Conference and had come together on that dark and stormy night to plan the 7th annual event.

We arrived at Sonora Thai armed with notebooks, pens, plans and a laptop. We were determined to get the show on the road that night, but we also looked forward to a good dinner in a pleasant setting.

Recently a reader had emailed me a rave review about Sonora Thai. When I googled the restaurant, I found more enthusiastic comments. One writer called it "the best restaurant in the Mother Lode." Wow!

Another recalled a night when she'd worked late and run into the restaurant freezing and starving. "Is the kitchen still open?" she asked, tacking on an urgent plea: "I'll take anything hot."

She got lucky and departed with a "huge to-go cup of spicy shrimp soup, made to order with an awesome salad."

Those sounded like pretty good recommendations, so we had decided to try our luck as well.

First off I'd like to tell you that the restaurant is inviting right from the getgo. The "down town" Sonora restaurant is easy to find and the ambience as one enters from the street is lively and inviting. We

four agreed that Sonora Thai is not a quiet, romantic venue for a proposal. (More about romance destinations in next week's column.)

The noise level is high. Diners appear happy and animated. The decor is traditional Gold Rush--high, white sculptured ceilings with whirling fans, and old stone walls--but in this case those historic walls are highlighted by Thai photos and artwork.

Sonora Thai is a new kid on the block. May Anderson opened the restaurant just two years ago. She and her family (who staff the bistro) are all natives of Thailand. They know exactly what they're doing--and cooking.

The northern contingent of our party was a little late but Kathie was already waiting with a plate of Satays. Yum! Satays are skewered slices of chicken breast marinated in coconut milk and Thai spices and served with sweet and sour sauce and a crisp cucumber salad. ($6.95)

Right off the bat, I'll tell you that I was not happy with the Tiger Beef I ordered. ($10.95) It sounded great (grilled beef marinated in fresh garlic, pepper and Thai herbs), but turned out to be tough and totally flavorless. Also, be prepared, should you order this dish. It comes with nothing but rice--not a single veggie.

Happily for me, my companions were generous and their selections way better than my own.

Lucy chose the Gang Dang Gai, a traditional Thai curried chicken simmered in coconut milk and herbs and served with basil bamboo chutes and egg slices. ($10.95)

Kathie and Ginger selected the Pad King

Sod ($9.95). This was also chicken served with young ginger root, black mushrooms, corn and onion. Really delicious!

Our waiter, Mark Jendong, the owner's nephew, was a pleasant and attentive waiter. Sonora Thai is sensitive to dietary limitations and accommodates well to them. Lucy, who is attempting to adjust to a gluten-free diet got brown rice rather than white--unusual in a Asian restaurant. Her salad was made specially with lemon rather than vinegar and sugar was omitted.

I will definitely go back to the restaurant for another try. This time I'll ask for the Crispy Duck with Stir Fry Vegetables ($15.95) which was not available that night. Some things are worth waiting for.

And speaking of that, despite the culinary distractions, we did an efficient job of sticking to the program with our conference planning. If you're a writer, a wannabe writer or know someone who fits one of those categories, ink the Gold Rush Writers Conference in on your calendar. May 5, 6, and 7. Hotel Leger, Mokelumne Hill. Think 16 workshops to choose from taught by 11 published writers. Two celebrity speakers. More on that later!

VITALS: Sonora Thai. 51 Washington, Sonora. Phone: 532- 2355. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

Pictures: Mark Jendong, nephew of the owner, May Anderson, is a friendly and attentive waiter at Sonora Thai.

The entree of Sonora Thai is as exotic and inviting as its interior