The Cuisine Scene
Papaya Bay Thai Cuisine
Since moving to California and the Yucaipa area, I’ve explored all the restaurants in the neighborhood.
Or so I thought.
Tucked in the northeast corner
of the Tower Center on County Line Road, an amazing restaurant, Papaya
Bay, has been serving fresh, authentic Thai food for about three years.
I had no idea. I’d seen the sign, but thought it was similar to a fast food place.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Inside the nondescript
storefront, another world exists, one of beauty and serenity. When
Sheila and I visited, the owners had decorated for Christmas and potted
red poinsettias stood in colorful contrast to the carved woodwork.
Water cascaded down a three-tiered petal waterfall. An
intricately-carved wood table stood near the entrance, and inside the
main seating room, painted tablecloths graced the tables.
The owners, Wanlop and
Chontichar Rungsawang, also known as Eddie and Poo to those who, like
me, have difficulty pronouncing their names, greeted Sheila and me and
made us feel special.
(L-R: Eddie, his daughter Chanida, Poo, and their server, Joy)
Since taking over the
restaurant over a year ago from his sister who also owns Papaya Bay in
Redlands, Eddie and Poo have worked to present authentic Thai food with
slight American touches. Quality is of prime importance, and they
prepare all their dishes with fresh vegetables and herbs and pride
themselves on providing health-conscious food with less oil.
Since I’d never tasted Thai
food, I relied on Eddie and Poo to select dishes for Sheila and me. The
first thing Poo suggested was Thai iced tea, and when it arrived, the
colorful tea looked like a rare exotic drink. Served in a tall glass
with ice, the orangey color in the bottom faded into a soft yellow with
white topping. Slightly sweet and creamy with coconut cream and a
special Thai tea, it was so good it could be a dessert drink.
Then the Tom Kah Gai, a soup
dish Poo suggested, arrived. Although I’m not usually impressed with
presentation, the amber-colored soup in a hot pot with a flame flaring
up several inches above the middle chimney looked so picturesque that I
almost hated to serve our helpings. But of course I did, and Sheila and
I had a generous serving in our lotus-shaped bowls. Made with chicken,
coconut milk, mushrooms, lemon juice and other ingredients, the soup
tasted creamy, tangy, and spicy at the same time.
Next, Eddie suggested two
appetizers, Satay and the Appetizer Platter. Satay is either chicken or
tofu on skewers, grilled in coconut milk and Thai herbs, served with
two sauces, peanut and cucumber. We chose the chicken, and Eddie
demonstrated by cutting a piece of the chicken and spooning on a dab of
each sauce. I wouldn’t have thought that peanuts and cucumbers would go
together, but the flavor combination was unique and delicious.
The Appetizer Platter alone
was worth another trip. Shrimp tempura, spring rolls, fried calamari,
vegetable tempura, and Papaya Bay’s special Money Bags. Some of the
tempura vegetables were zucchini, broccoli, and I think I even bit into
a baby corncob. The onion rings were tender and all of the pieces were
crispy without an excess of grease. But the stars of the evening were
the Money Bags, small pastries in bag shapes filled with minced
chicken, corn, crushed peanuts and spices. The tops were tied with
another long, green spice. The gathered tops were crunchy, similar in
taste, I thought, to a wonton.
Then Eddie brought several
more platters, all beautifully arranged and artistically presented with
fruit and vegetables. Sheila and I tried Coco Salmon, a filet cooked
with spicy coconut sauce and vegetables:
Garlic Shrimp, sautéed shrimp in garlic pepper sauce with fried onions, bell peppers and cucumber slices:
Orange Chicken, glazed chicken pieces with real orange juice, and Pineapple Fried Rice.
Over the years I thought I’d
tasted every fried rice available. But Pineapple? Nevertheless, I
trusted Eddie, so I tried the rice. Shrimp and chicken stir-fried with
eggs, curry powder, cashew nuts, raisins and pineapple. What a
combination, and what a delicious, different flavor.
By that time, all Sheila and I
could do was taste each dish, decide our favorites for our next trip,
and thank Eddie and Poo for their wonderful hospitality.
“But you must have dessert,”
Eddie said, and promptly served Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango. Oh, I
didn’t think I could take another bite, but the mango slices arranged
in a pinwheel looked so good that I had to try them. The light, chilled
coolness was perfect after the spicy food.
It’s hard to believe that such
a wonderful place is located in a neighborhood mini-mall, but I’m so
glad it is. Sheila and I are already planning our next trip. Not only
is the food fresh and delicious and the owners and staff courteous and
helpful, but the prices are reasonable.
Their appetizers range from
$5.95 for the Spring Rolls, Vegetable Tempura, and more, to $6.95 for
the Satay and Money Bags. The Appetizer Platter is $9.95 and I plan to
have it again.
Nine different soups are
offered, $4.95 a bowl or $11.95 for the hot pot. If you haven’t ordered
the hot pot at least once, you should try it for the experience.
Salads are $7.95 for the
Papaya, or Som Tum, of shredded green papaya with peanut, tomato and
lemon juice, to $10.95 for their Siam with shrimp, chicken and green
apple, coconut and Thai spices.
Main courses include poultry,
beef, pork, lamb, and seafood. They have so many, some with familiar
names such as Orange Chicken for $8.95, to exotic seafood choices such
as Kang Kour Shrimp, curry cooked in coconut milk with shrimp, ginger,
potatoes, pineapple and cinnamon for $11.95.
Noodles with tofu, chicken,
beef, pork, or seafood is offered as well as several varieties of fried
rice. About twelve vegetarian dishes are on the menu, all ranging
Desserts include some old
favorites such as an Ice Cream Sundae, but they also have Fried Banana
with Ice Cream, and Rambutan Stuffed with Pineapple, a Thai fruit in
syrup over ice for $3.00.
Their lunch specials are
served Monday thru Friday 11am to 3pm for $6.95. Served with soup and
salad and steamed rice, they include Thai BBQ chicken, Chow Mein,
Garlic Pepper, as well as several Thai favorites.
According to their menu, they also do catering and take out.
Wonderful food, gracious hosts, good ambiance, and reasonable prices. What a fantastic discovery.
Papaya Bay is also located in Redlands, Banning, and they’re expanding even further. Watch for the locations.
UPDATE: new name, Chanida, same wonderful owners
Open 7 Days, except for Christmas
Monday-Saturday 11am to 9pm
Sunday 12pm to 9pm
Papaya Bay Thai Cuisine
34664 County Line Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399