The Stumptown Vegans Travel!
|Araya’s Palace Thai in Seattle, Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: 1121 NE 45th St Seattle, WA 98105|
|Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-9pm
Closed Sundays (206) 524-4332
|Times Visited: 1|
It took five years of living in the Pacific Northwest to try Seattle’s Araya Palace and their famous, weekday lunch buffet ($7.99 per person). I know exactly why it took me so long. Portland has Vege Thai, Pad Thai Kitchen, Thai Food Café, and more vegan friendly Thai food. Araya was simply a restaurant I’d visit some day in the future.
The visit to the lunch buffet came at the insistence of a dear friend, and I’m kicking myself I didn’t go sooner. Variety is massively appealing, but a buffet visit installs fear of stale and bland heaps of food. Just putting it out there – Araya’s offers the best vegan buffet I have ever encountered.
I’ve been to some good ones, but Araya had an array of frequently replenished food I wanted to dine on for days. This all-vegan* U-District tradition devotes three walls of their front room to the buffet!
The lunch buffet is served Monday-Saturday, during which you also have the option of ordering from the lengthy regular menu. On this visit, my small party was seated at a table for four in the large, ornate Thai restaurant upon entering. Without issue, we divided between buffet goers and menu ordering from our attentive waitress. The restaurant wasn’t quite half full, but the popularity and stream of satisfied customers to and fro the buffet was apparent.
And as for the delicious buffet, here’s my stroll:
Buffet Table One features primarily cold items and a gigantic container of steamed, short grain brown rice, warm and almost mushy, but that’s the most negative comment coming out of my mouth here. From this table, I sampled baby spinach dressed in a light, sweet and sour vinegar sauce, helped myself to fresh bean sprouts, and the nice touch of fresh orange slices.
Moving onto the middle Buffet Table Two, you enter the land of soup, appetizers, and accompanying sauces. There was a cilantro spiced Hot & Sour with fresh tofu cubes and fancy mushrooms, piles of hot spring rolls filled with shredded cabbage, sweet dipping sauce, and did I mention really great, crispy spring rolls? No pathetically stale, flavorless insides here. My biggest regret was overlooking the tray of peanut sauce on this table. No dishes are labeled, and I mistook it for brown gravy.
Buffet Table Three was the home of the entrées. The star was the unstoppable, straight forward Pad Thai. Credit to the kitchen staff, credit the ingredients, and credit the ongoing helpings: the rice noodles didn’t cling to each other for dear life, nor were they greasy, stir fried cabbage and onions were present, the fried tofu was hot, and the sauce was evenly dispersed in a combination of tangy sweetness, just like you want it to be. I didn’t see any peanuts around, but there are the crisp bean sprouts on the first buffet table to complete the experience. There are dishes on the regular menu with noodles and multiple vegetables if that’s your thing.
My second favorite offering on the buffet was the fried rice. Sure, it’s standard fried rice with tiny peas and carrot pieces, but it was exemplary for buffet fried rice, glistening with peanut oil. The giant tray was simply inviting. I recommend skipping the steamed brown rice across the way and scooping into this to accompany the mild yellow curry or tray of vegetables, both with tofu. The yellow curry with cubes of smooth tofu is on the satisfyingly mild side, but easily spiced up with hot sauce if you prefer more heat. It’s one way to load up on vegetables at the buffet, but I preferred the mixture of broccoli, cabbage, and carrots with broken slices of tasty fried tofu. It’s essentially a light stir fry, but much fresher than vegetables I’ve had on other buffets. If only I realized there was peanut sauce to top this completed Pra Ram type combination!
My buffet inauguration at Araya was a positively overwhelming experience, and there’s literally not enough room on your plate(s) to try everything. You can go back for more, but I don’t think it’s possible to fit some of everything into your stomach on one visit!
Surely, I’ve had some of these dishes better elsewhere, but nothing compares to the variety, overall quality, and value that is showcased by this vegan Thai buffet. I could see big eaters enjoying a very lengthy lunch visit, which for anyone, is well worth the $7.99 price tag. Was this buffet of deliciousness a lucky dream? Could I be tempted by a menu entrée, such as the Drunken Mushrooms or Avocado Curry? Will simply have to return and find out.
*With the obvious non-vegan exception of the Peppermint Patty stocked charity candy machine in the entrance.