Well--not so fast. We’ve just discovered Satdha, a new Thai restaurant in Santa Monica devoted to plant-based dishes. Chef Gunn Pankum not only masters the cuisine’s complicated spices (she worked for years at Bulan restaurants), she also has a sixth sense for how to substitute veggies and tofu in place of traditional proteins.
Start with the Tod Munn appetizer ($8), crispy “un-fish cakes” made from fried tofu, chickpeas and green beans that are served with a bright-flavored cucumber-peanut dipping sauce. For your entrée, opt for that culinary crucible, the Pad Thai ($9). Here it’s a fresh-tasting mélange of rice noodles, garlic chives, peanuts and pickled carrots, with baked tofu standing in for the usual chicken or shrimp.
Love heat? Order the zesty Catfish Eggplant ($12), in which there’s no catfish at all but battered chunks of eggplant as a stand-in, coated in red curry paste alongside young peppercorns still on their tendrils.
Wash it all down with house-brewed lemongrass lemonade ($3) or, better yet, a glass of organic Cali Zinfandel ($13)--because food this creative deserves a Chai-yo (hurrah).
Satdha, 2218 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-450-6999 or satdhakitchen.com