East Meets West at Chao Phya Thai

Digest On the Menu

April 19, 2015

Story By: Lindsey Appleton | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

For generations, Mama Toy’s Chao Phya Thai restaurant in Kaneohe’s Windward City Shopping Center has dished out authentic and timeless Thai cuisine. In the last few months, Chao Phya Thai has had quite the makeover, while still retaining its from-scratch recipes, which patrons regularly seek out. With its new Thai Tapas Cafe outdoor seating area, executive chef Guy Smith and chef Aniruth “Tui” Bunmee are mixing it up in the kitchen to offer the perfect blend of East and West.

“Our relationship is symbiotic,” says Smith. “Chef Tui has been with Mama Toy from the start. He really knows how to cook authentic Thai food. I come in with these ideas, and we collaborate on it. Rather than a clash, it’s a harmony of flavors.”

While still maintaining Mama Toy’s original beloved recipes, such as Thai Basil Mahi, Smith and Bunmee team up to offer some additional “really cool” items — as Smith puts it. One of these new, inspired dishes is Thai Poke with taro tortilla chips. Garnished with sea asparagus and radish shoot, the tender poke is served with house-made taro chips, which are perfectly crunchy, salty and light. Look for it on the restaurant’s new Tapas menu. For a delicious appetizer, chow down on the crunchy Coconut Shrimp Basket ($13.95) with li hing mui pina colada sauce.

“We feature our daily specials on the table in front,” says Smith. “And, on busy nights, I walk around with samples for the customers to taste as a Chef’s Tasting. Almost all of our ingredients either come from Thailand or Hawaii. It’s important for us to serve the best food we can. ”

At Chao Phya Thai, customers can enjoy local Big Island beef from Parker Ranch. Order Thai Prime Rib ($27.95) served with Thai brown rice and Big Island mushrooms, and experience tender, local beef marinated for at least five hours in kaffir lime and galangal (Thai ginger) marinade.

“We have an exclusive affiliation with the ranch,” says Smith. “We are the only restaurant that has the pleasure of serving Parker’s high-quality meat. It’s really a pleasure and a compliment to partner with them.”

For dessert, grab a spoon for one of Chao Phya Thai’s unique ice cream dishes: Thai Tea Ice Cream, served over lilikoi cake and topped with crystallized ginger. With Mother’s Day fast approaching, treat the mother in your life to live music and Mama Toy’s special Thai Tapas Pupu Buffet, which features Thai Basil Guacamole and taro chips, Basil Fish Cakes, Chicken Satay and hand-made Spring Rolls (also served meat-free).

Chao Phya Thai

Windward City Shopping Center
45-480 Kaneohe Bay Drive, A1F
Daily, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

45-480 Kaneohe Bay Drive, Kaneohe, HI 96744

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