Patrons of Poulsbo’s Kachai Thai Kitchen will be glad that chef/owner Binh Tu Tran never made it to medical school.
That’s where he was headed in 1992, when he took time out to help his parents open Bainbridge Island’s popular Sawatdy Thai restaurant. Ten years later, he was still there and had a new career, fostered by a love of food and the creative fusion of flavors instilled by his mother.
His parents, San and Lani Tran, and their nine children came to Bainbridge Island in the early 80’s from a refugee camp in Thailand amid fears of a communist takeover of the country. All the children have worked at Sawatdy, which continues to be a local favorite, and one of the nine siblings runs Sawan Thai Kitchen, which is also on Bainbridge.
Before branching out on his own, Binh Tu Tran learned from other northwest chefs, including John Howie at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar in Bellevue.
At Kachai Thai, Tran puts his own stamp on the family’s restaurant legacy, thoughtfully combining traditional Thai and Vietnamese flavors with fresh Northwest ingredients, including mussels, calamari and wild-caught salmon.
The menu includes traditional noodle and curry dishes, with interesting additions, such as crab-fried rice and country-style pad Thai with Chinese sausages, chicken, prawns and squid. There’s also grilled boar collar rubbed with garlic, cilantro roots, pepper and dried chili and a roasted half-chicken marinated in lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro. The restaurant’s signature appetizer is chicken lettuce wraps with crispy noodles.
Kachai Thai’s open kitchen and sleek, minimalist décor give it an upscale feel. Sauces, curry pastes and spice mixes are all made in-house and vegetarian options are available for many dishes. Dinner entrees range from $11 to $15. Lunch entrees are $11 and come with soup or salad.
Address: 19980 10th Ave. NE, Suite 10
Hours: 11-9 daily