Sherman's Food Adventures: Royal City Thai

Royal City Thai

*Restaurant is now closed*

Is it just me or are food bloggers roaming around in packs from restaurant to restaurant? Could it be safer in numbers? Is it a pack mentality? Well, it certainly takes away the awkwardness of taking pictures when you have many more people doing the same thing. So once again, we have a few of us, armed with our DSLRs, meeting for another meal. The destination this time around was thanks to Karl. In the former location of Royal City Cafe comes Royal City Thai. Yah, I know, not very creative with the name; but it gets the point across. Of course New West is not the hot bed of Thai food; yet there can be gems found here and there, such as Lhy Thai in Burnaby. Also joining us were Kim, Jessica & Mark.

I brought my daughter with me this time since Viv was busy. I didn't bother bringing my son because he doesn't even eat hamburgers, let alone Thai food. For a Sunday morning, I struggled mightily to find a parking spot on Columbia. I must've circled quite a few times before I got one right in front. So even before we got down to ordering the food, I did my usual spiel about how good Kim's pictures are. Once and for all, he wanted to stop my endless gibberish about his pictures. So he proposed that we switch cameras for today's meal. Naturally, I was a bit apprehensive since the usual questions bothered me, such as: what if the pictures I take suck? Or what if they are good? Do I even know how to use his camera?

Well, I must add that Kim was at a disadvantage since my camera settings in manual mode are a mess since I don't really fool around with them much. Kim's camera was already setup and all I needed to do was take the picture. Furthermore, he has a much more superior lens. With that out of the way, we all decided to try their all-you-can-eat lunch for $12.95. Looking over the menu, it reminded me of Thai House and their AYCE that they no longer offer. The server asked us what we wanted to order and unanimously we all replied, "Everything!" And one by one, everything arrived. We started with the Tom Kah Gai. This for me was a bit average. It was a bit bland with neither a strong coconut or spice flavour to it. I realize that they do not want to make it too bold since it might alienate some customers. Thus, if you like it spicy, just ask. That's what we did for the second round of food.

Next up was an order of Calamari. This was not bad with soft squid in crispy breading. The dipping sauce was pretty standard sweet chili. In the form of more fried goodness, we go the obligatory Spring Rolls. They were crunchy and filled with veggies and vermicelli. What can I say? They were spring rolls. I wasn't that fond of the diluted sweet and sour sauce. I dipped it in the sweet chili instead. The sweet chili sauce accompanied the Fried Chicken Wings as well. It went well with the crispy wings. The fried appies were decent; but we all know that the main event are the curries and stir fries. The first to arrive was the Chicken Red Curry. It was quite pleasant if one was looking for a mild curry. Let me rephrase that, if one was looking for a coconut sauce. Yah, once again, to appeal to the masses, this tasted watered down without much in the way of spice. Our bad for not asking at the start of the meal. Otherwise, it was alright with chicken, bamboo shoots, peppers, onions and basil.

Next up was the Basil Beef Stirfry. I know this is AYCE; but there was a serious lack of meat in this dish. Try looking for it, it's like "Where is the Beef?" Once again, this was pretty decent with fresh veggies and tender beef. And again, not much spice to speak of. However, in the second round of food, this dish was much spicier which made it ultimately better. On a personal note, I could've eaten spicier. Although that would've put the flavour profile of the dish into an unbalanced state, which some people may not like. That once again explains the blandness of the dish - to not alienate the majority of people who do not eat that spicy.

Next up was the Pork Yellow Curry. It was slightly more spicy than the red curry. Furthermore, I felt that the meatiness of the pork added more depth to the dish. Somehow I find chicken to be a bit bland and it really doesn't enhance a dish. On that note, I still like the texture of chicken over pork and beef when it comes to curry. I guess you really can't have the best of both worlds. This curry was predominantly sweet with underlying heat. One particular dish I didn't care about was the Chili Pepper Fried Rice with vegetables. It's partially due to the fact that fried rice was probably the lest interesting dish other than the white rice. It was a tad dry with not a whole lot of flavour. I had to put some curry on it to liven it up. I did like the texture of the veggies, they were still a bit crunchy.

Continuing with more stir fries was the Gai Pad Namman which consisted of snow peas, peppers, pineapple and chicken in a black bean sauce. As expected with this dish, it was not spicy. Not much to really complain about it. The veggies were crisp, chicken was tender and an interesting sweetness provided by the pineapples. As you can see from the picture, the whole dish appeared quite glossy which is from the coating of oil on all of the ingredients. I guess that helps the food slide down your esophagus?

The last curry to arrive was the Beef Green Curry. Somehow, this one had a lot of beef in it. Maybe that's where the beef is? I not sure if my taste buds tricked me or not; but I found this curry to be the mildest of all (which shouldn't be the case). Not really all that spicy nor much coconut flavour, I found this one almost bland. However, I did like the pieces of tender beef and eggplant. It's interesting that the AYCE menu did not have the ever-popular Pad Thai. Rather, there was Pad See Ew available instead. This is nothing remotely close to Pad Thai since the flavouring is predominantly soy sauce rather than tamarind. Furthermore, there are veggies in the form of broccoli, baby corn and carrots in this version. Although we like our rice noodles al dente, this one was bordering on uncooked. But I really didn't seem to mind it that much, much better than mushy. The second time around for this dish, it was significantly spicier and the noodles were a bit softer.

In a nutshell, my initial reaction was that both the menu and food was very similar to Thai House (especially seeing how both AYCE menus are alike). Now, they can either take that as a compliment or an insult. However, it really depends on expectations and the clientele. For people who crave spicy, flavourful Thai food, the normal iterations of each dish are quite conservative (like Thai House). Not necessarily a bad thing considering where it is located and the majority of their customers will not want tongue-burning food.

The Good:
- Food is decent for its location
- Nice decor and wide open seating
- Friendly staff and efficient service

The Bad:
- Food is on the safer side of things, although you can request to have it spicier
- Reminds me of Thai House (can be a compliment if that's what you're looking for)

Royal City Thai on Urbanspoon


Jessica604 said...

Yes, you guys packing your speedlites make me look normal. Hmm. There's a t shirt waiting to happen. "You packin'?" *slr w camera flash*

Sherman said...

You know what your next purchase is!

trisha said...

i think the best part of calamari is the tentacles and i'm always disappointed when they don't include them. so yummy!

the spicyness thing - it makes me nuts when food that is supposed to be spicy isn't. i find a lot of indian places turn down the spice factor even when i ask for hot. i can handle it, lay it on me! :)

Sherman said...

Yes, I love the tentacles! Yah, I like stuff tasting the way its supposed to be. However, I can see why restaurants do what they do. Appeal to more people.

Calico said...

Hmm...I was wondering about this place. It doesn't look quite authentic to me though. Why is Thai food so hard to get right in Vancouver? There seems to be an appetite for more true Thai cuisine (re: Maenam), but most of the restaurants out there are not that great. Anyhow, thanks for the review--might check it out sometime.

Sherman said...

Well, in terms of authenticity, they try; but it is made to appease the bulk of the patrons in the area. It actually wasn't too bad. Yah, really authentic Thai is difficult to find. In fact, Victoria (www.victoriasfoodsecrets) is half-Thai and remarked that Maenam is not all that authentic either and in fact, she didn't like it. For me, I still liked it considering what it is (modern Thai). If you want good Thai, I'd suggest going to her blog or even emailing her.

Calico said...

I was actually born + partially raised in Thailand, so I know what Thai food should taste like. Though there is alot of variation in the food of all of the different parts of Thailand (the country is HUGE), and there are personal preferences, of course.

I've visited Victoria's blog, it's pretty good.

Sherman said...

Gosh, then I should be asking you for advice! On that note, any places I haven't been that you recommend in terms of Thai food? All I seem to get are watered-down versions (I guess to appeal to North American tastes). I consider Thai House the McD's of Thai food here. I heard that Tom Yum is pretty good. But then again, I haven't tried that yet. Another is Chada Thai in Coquitlam. Any thoughts?

Calico said...

My mom's place....

But seriously, there is a lack of really authentic places in Vancouver. I was impressed w/Maenam on a few of their dishes (the Thai sausage is pretty amazing and they are trying), but some of their other dishes are really watered down. I like Lhy Thai quite a bit--it's run by a Thai couple. Other places are weak (I agree with you about Thai House). But then again, regional infuences are key too--I'm more a fan of Northern Thai and Issan cuisine, which is more sour/spicy, but others may prefer more balance (Bangkok), or Indian influences (South).
The ironic thing is, when you go to Thailand, the food is so cheap, fresh, and seemingly easy to make. Like the street food is amazing, ya know?

Sherman said...

LOL, shows what I know, I didn't like the Thai sausage at Maenam! But I guess personal tastes. It's such a shame that our street food here consists of hot dogs only... Well, a few exceptions, but not exactly accessible to all.