Okay, I know what you're thinking, Thai food in White Rock? Yes, Viv and I made the journey out to White Rock to meet Nikita and Bluebeard. They have have frequented quite a few Thai restaurants and rave about this place. They've been right about many restaurants in the past, so I was game for this adventure. Leela Thai, unlike many of the Thai restaurants in the GVRD, is run by actual Thai people. This might be one of the reasons why it is so popular out in the White Rock/Surrey area. Nikita made a reservation for the buffet, since it is apparently quite popular. Every year, Leela Thai celebrates Songkran, which is the traditional Thai new year, by offering a buffet for 5 days (normally they do not have a buffet). This year, it is from April 14 - 19th.
Upon arriving at Leela Thai, I noticed the buffet on the back wall, there seemed to be a good selection of items. We spotted Nikita and Bluebeard and quickly settled in. While the others began to get their food, I started snapping photos. I don't think I got to eat until everyone had almost finished their first plate. I'm so dedicated! Actually, one of the servers starting chatting me up as to what is better - Nikon or Canon. Well, I really didn't have an answer for that since I'm such an amateur with my DSLR right now.
When I finally got some food to eat, I started with the Me-ung Sod, which is essentially a lettuce wrap. The filling consisted of ground beef, chili paste, garlic, basil, onion and bell peppers. It was quite spicy and Viv made the mistake of adding more chili peppers. Suffice to say, it was fiery experience for her. I liked the dish, it was flavourful and spicy, it's just too bad it was a bit cold. I also tried the Spring Rolls and they were quite crispy and not oily at all. Combined with the sweet dipping sauce, it was quite pleasant to eat. Up next, I got some Tom Yum Gai, which is a popular Thai soup (this one had chicken, thus the "gai"). Unfortunately, the soup was lukewarm, I think the heating apparatus was insufficient. Overall, the soup was quite flavourful with lots of lemongrass and lime hits. However, I think they were a bit heavy with the Nahm Plah (fish sauce) since the soup was a bit salty.
The Pad Thai was a stripped down version of the regular version. It only had tofu, salted radish and eggs, while the shrimp, bean sprouts, green onions and peanuts were missing. I guess the carrots took the place of the bean sprouts. Despite being the bare-bones version of Pad Thai, it was still quite good. The noodles were soft, yet still firm and the taste of fish sauce were present. It could've used some tamarind though for more zing. I also tried a piece of the Thai Gai Yang, which is essentially Thai BBQ chicken. The chicken had really good colour and was super tender. The marinade completely penetrated the entire piece of chicken and every bite was flavourful.
There was an interesting dish called Ruam-mit Seafood, that I've never tried before. It consisted of mussels, prawns and squid sauteed in a chili sauce with peppers, garlic, onions and basil. I quite enjoyed this dish. It was very flavourful and a bit spicy; yet it didn't take away from the delicate flavours of the seafood. One dish that really didn't work was the Pad Ped Moo, which is fried pork spareribs sauteed in a roasted chili sauce with bell peppers, garlic, onions and basil. The flavours were really good; but the pork was severely overcooked. Fortunately the Pla Laht Prig was cooked perfectly. It's filets of Tilapia which are deep-fried and sauteed with a sweet & sour-type sauce.
Last on the buffet line were 3 types of Thai curry, there was a tofu red curry; a chicken yellow curry and a pork green curry. Being quite full, I only tried the yellow and green curry. Both were quite good. Lastly, I tried the Tub Tim Grob, which is a dessert soup consisting of sweetened coconut milk. What's in the soup is quite interesting. There were bits of pear that had been coated with tapioca flour and red/green food colouring (apparently, the traditional method uses water chestnuts). In addition, there were slices of jack fruit, young coconut and lychee. I really enjoyed this dessert and if I wasn't so full, I would have had a few more bowls of it.
Eating a buffet is both a blessing and a curse, especially for a restaurant that usually doesn't do buffets. The blessing is that you can try so many more items than a regular meal. The curse is that most the food is not exactly how it is supposed to be. The food may not be at the right temperature since it's been sitting there and the flavours could be a bit off since the food is being cooked in big batches. Moreover, meats and vegetables may overcook as it sits in the warming tray. Thus, I gave Leela Thai the benefit of the doubt for the issues with some of the dishes. But, the flavours were generally quite good and nothing was terrible. I saw a table having the regular menu and the portions seemed very decent compared to the pathetic-sized portions from Sala Thai. Combined this with personable service, I can see why Leela Thai is so popular in this area.
- Food is decent
- Portion size is adequate
- Friendly service
- Some of the items were salty
- Probably due to the buffet, some items were not representative
1310 Johnston Road
White Rock, B.C.
12:00pm - 2:30pm, 5:00pm - 10:00pm (Mon - Fri)
5:00pm - 10:00pm (Sat & Sun)