Royal Orchid reopens in Columbia Heights

Categories: Now Open

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Columbia Heights gets a new Thai dining option
Royal Orchid, which formerly had a location in Roseville in addition to its spot in the skyway of downtown Minneapolis, has reopened on Central Avenue in Columbia Heights after being closed in Roseville for the past year and a half. This is a welcome development for the stretch of Central Avenue that's heavily lined with fast food outlets, but light on fresh and flavorful options. The Hot Dish stopped in to check out the new restaurant.

The space is humble but tidy and cheerful, with ample free street parking available in front of the restaurant, and free ramp parking in the rear. We were the only diners in the restaurant (we arrived between lunch and dinner), so service was fast, friendly, and attentive.

The spring rolls came out promptly--three cone-shaped rice paper hand rolls stuffed with vermicelli noodles, lettuce, carrots, and thin slices of tender, seasoned chicken, with a side of sweet tamarind dipping sauce topped with crushed peanuts. The cone shape made the rolls slightly cumbersome to eat and dip (a little spoon for the sauce would have improved matters), but their flavor was perfect: fresh, light, and sweet.

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The Panang Curry was pleasantly spiced, if a bit thin. The chicken was tender and perfectly done, but the vegetables seemed to have come out of a frozen bag--a smattering of peas, carrots, and green beans that were serviceable without being particularly enjoyable. The portion size was perfect for our taste: generous and satisfying but not indulgent. While many Thai restaurants automatically serve their curries with a side of rice, here it must be ordered in addition to the main dish for an extra dollar.

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The Curry Sauce Noodles (rice noodles cooked in a sweet and spicy curry with bean sprouts and tofu, topped with green onions, cilantro, and peanuts) was an unexpectedly soupy dish, with thin noodles and small cubes of tofu submerged in a bowl of curry broth. It was nicely spicy, with a sinus-clearing kick to each bite, but another side of rice proved necessary to sop up the excessive liquid.

Royal Orchid doesn't yet have a beer and wine license, but they're working on it. As far as Thai restaurants go, it's no match for Sen Yai Sen Lek, two miles down Central Avenue in Minneapolis, but it's a perfectly serviceable alternative to the mediocre Chinese buffets and less-than-mediocre fast food joints that make up the rest of the area's dining options. We welcome them to the neighborhood.

Royal Orchid
4022 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights 55421
763.789.9999
Royal Orchid's Facebook page


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Royal Orchid

4022 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights, MN

Category: Restaurant

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Tony
Tony

I have never cared for Sen Yai Sen Lak, even though I really want to like it (because it's close and something different). I like the Royal Orchid much better. Also, the Curry Sauce Noodles is the best dish I've had anywhere.

TaiFoodFan
TaiFoodFan

I disagree that Royal Orchid can't compete with Sen Yai Sen Lak.  Been to both places and have been eating Thai Food around here for years.  Sen Yai Sen Lak is overpriced and their food is mediocre.  Royal Orchid's food is better and cheaper even with this transition period with their new cook. Who cares if they serve booze.  Best Thai food around here in my opinion is Royal Orchid and Taste of Thai in Fridley.  Sen Yai Sen Lak is not even on my list and I live in walking distance from the place.

RealThaiFoodLover
RealThaiFoodLover

I agree with TaiFoodFan.  You are not a novice diner for sure.  At the Royal Orchid, they do not put vegetable in the Panang Curry if you order the original style.  If you like some vegetables in it, as most American diners do, they offer two kinds of vegetable, one is the mixed vegetable with green bean, pea, diced carrot and corn; and the other kind with the fresh broccoli, pea pod, cabbage, sliced carrot, bell pepper.  You need to know what you are ordering.

As for the Curry Noodle. It is like a bowl of noodle soup but with the curry broth instead of the clear broth.  I found that this is the only place in Minnesota that serve this dish.  The other place is in Chicago, a small family run, real authentic Thai place.  I am originally from Chicago, where there is very large Thai community.  Royal Orchid is the only place I would go to for Thai food.   I don't know how you could compare them to other when you don't know Thai food well.

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