The world is full of hidden gems, be they late-round draft picks, secret fishing holes or a fantastic restaurant hidden in an unexplored area of the city. As for the last example, I’m referring to a modest little eatery fit snug between a dry cleaner and pet spa deep in an Almaden Valley shopping center.
Thai Love You is owned and operated by executive chef Kunlayakorn “Kat” McCarthy, a Bangkok transplant who relies on four decades’ worth of hand-me-down recipes from her aunt and grandmother. The menu also features a “mixing [of] Asian, American and Mexican styles to create unique dishes for the daring palate.” The restaurant itself is about as cozy as they come, seating only a dozen or so patrons at a time. The interior is the kind of kitschy Thai-inspired décor seen at similar establishments, but the quaint interior gives it a homey feel. The open kitchen sits a mere six feet from the diners, so the clanging of pots, the barking of Kat giving orders to the crew and the sizzling of food can be easily heard. My mother felt it a bit raucous, but for someone who’s fascinated by the restaurant world—ahem—I found it enthralling.
We started our meal with the ubiquitous but on-point Chicken Satay ($8.50) appetizer. The meat was so tender and flavorful it practically melted off the bamboo skewer, and the sweet peanut dipping sauce was divine. My favorite Thai soup, Seafood Tom Kha ($18.99/Large), followed, and it was also heavenly. The spicy, sour coconut milk broth was delectable, and the soup came absolutely loaded with seafood (i.e. prawns, white fish, calamari, mussels and oysters).
I could have stopped there and been satisfied, but we decided to try three of the house specials: Spicy Mango Crab Claws ($16.99), Chili Seafood ($17.99) and Pineapple Curry with Prawns ($14.99). All three dishes were terrific, but I must say the Spicy Mango Crab Claws won hands down. The succulent crab meat blended with the sweet heat from the mangos, jalapeños and chili-garlic sauce to make my taste buds dance. Each bite was better than the last. Tears rolled down my face as I finished, and I’m not sure if it was from the spice or sadness.
Food adventurers are often rewarded by seeking out places in secluded areas, and Thai Love You is evidence of that.
Thai Love You
6055 Meridian Ave, Suite 100, San Jose