Chalerm Thai Bistro’s a hidden treasure in Lakeport. Odds are, if you don’t live in town, you haven’t heard of it. It’s not downtown or next to the freeway. Instead, it resides off Lakeshore Boulevard north of the main business district, sitting next to a closed liquor market. For years, it’s also served as our family’s go-to for quality Thai food.
If you have heard of Chalerm Thai, odds are you’ve visited more than once; the restaurant’s commitment to fresh ingredients prepared well has earned it over two hundred five-star reviews. It’s the kind of place that matter what entrée you order, you can be certain it will taste great.
However, it isn’t just great food that Chalerm offers, although that’s definitely the primary draw. The bistro’s atmosphere makes it a perfect place for a business lunch, romantic dinner, or a place to take friends from out of town. Outside, the building’s framed by Japanese maples, whose delicate leaves currently range from yellow to deep red, reflecting the shift of seasons from the heat of summer to Fall. Step inside; the restaurant beckons. Cloth lanterns dangle from the vaulted, wood-lined ceilings, accenting the warm colors throughout. Framed artwork hangs on the walls, well-spaced and tastefully arranged. Diners rest on cushioned bench seats, sipping on tea as they wait for their meals and chatting with their friends. It’s the kind of restaurant that doesn’t rush the guests, so feel free to sit back, relax, and enjoy a casual, tasty meal.
It’s hard to pick bad food on the menu. Curries, noodle dishes, seafood—it doesn’t matter. Feel free to order what strikes your fancy. Chalerm Thai Bistro always uses fresh ingredients, often with seasonal twists; dishes may have chunks of pumpkin, squash, or fresh tomatoes.
For an appetizer, it’s hard to go wrong with the Spring Rolls. Delicately wrapped in rice paper, the rolls are filled with lettuce, carrot, basil, cucumber, tofu, and shrimp. They focus on the interplay of vegetables, drawing attention to their bright, light flavors. However, they come alive when dipped in the sweet chili sauce, which, with its tangy spice, brings in sweetness and an extra tang.
Chalerm also serves impressive noodle dishes. Their Pad Thai, a staple of any Thai restaurant, isn’t heavy and oily but delicately flavored and perfectly prepared. Often, we order the Pad Si-ew, wide noodles served with meat and broccoli in a dark soy sauce. But today, we got the Rad Na, huge square rice noodles swimming in gravy and combined with broccoli, carrots, beef, and mushrooms. It’s a hearty, winter dish, one that warms up the body on a cool, wet day. Be sure to order it spicy; the heat brings out the flavor. Each bite brings a bit of the chewiness of the noodles and crunch of the carrots. As with all Chalerm Thai Bistro’s food, it’s well-balanced and goes down quickly. Another tip: Order a side of rice—you’ll need it to soak up the rest of the gravy.
Their Pad Ped Salmon, one of the chef’s specialties, is spectacular. Resting in a red curry sauce, the salmon delicately holds the flavor, so tender it falls apart on the fork. Combine the fish with the soft, sweet eggplant, fresh basil, and raw onion, and it’s a cornucopia of flavors. The only way to eat this dish, in my opinion, is to get a bit of everything in each bite; the soft textures of salmon and eggplant contrast with the bright notes of basil and crunch of onion. If you’re able, make sure to fit a bit of rice on your fork as well. The light, starchy notes of the rice complete and smooth the flavors.
But it doesn’t really matter what you order. Every item on the menu is high-quality, well-crafted, and designed to be enjoyed. It’s worth the time to take a friend or loved one for a long lunch—they have several lunch specials. Or, if you’re looking for a place for a casually-paced dinner, you won’t be disappointed.
Chalerm Thai Bistro
1841 N High St, Lakeport, CA 95453
Hours: 11:30-9:00 seven days a week