Root Table is a "dream come true" for Kalan Intawong, the owner and head chef who opened the restaurant three years ago on Market Street in Ballard. The space, previously occupied by Floating Leaves Tea, is only a short walk from his sustainable furniture store and cafe Enlighten, which easily spills the same décor sensibilities to Root Table.
"I hate to see a perfect cut," says Intawong. "I want something that has story in itself."
And his restaurant definitely has that: It looks like a tree house plucked from Salvador Dali's imagination the way the recycled woods seem frozen in a slightly droopy and waxy fashion. It's bizarrely beautiful.The food, while less intriguing, is still light and satisfying. The Thai inspiration is readily apparent and there is good reason: his grandparents have owned a restaurant in Thailand for over 50 years. At Root Table, Intawong primarily uses ingredients from Southeast Asia including Indonesian curry, Burmese curry and Malaysian curry.
So what dish would he recommend? "I would recommend the Ménage-a-Thai because you can choose your own protein--beef, chicken, tofu--and it comes with three different curries," says Intawong.
Green Curry Pumpkin Soup
Before that, I recommend ordering the stuffed white button mushrooms with curried corn, peas, and carrots ($5). These bite-size appetizers are delicious in their simplicity, the tender texture of the mushrooms balance well against the creamy dollop of curry sauce. For a more traditional starter, you can also order a basket of seasoned root fries and a side of homemade spicy ketchup ($5).
The Green Curry Pumpkin soup with sweet basil, carrot, pepper and tomato is as reliably good as the other dishes ($11). You can choose between chicken, beef, or tofu and it's served with a hefty side serving of jasmine rice. The vegetables are cut in long, thin slices and accompanied by large chunks of protein floating in a light yet savory coconut milk and curry. The slightly spicy undercurrent gives the soup a bit of a kick while really drawing out the flavors.
At Root Table, no dish costs more than $13 and the service is delightfully unobtrusive. The portion sizes are decent and there is a smattering of options for meat and non-meat eaters alike. Intawong's dream restaurant is a welcome niche addition to the neighborhood. Just make sure to watch where you place your water glass, the grooves in the table are a spill waiting to happen.
Root Table, 2213 NW Market St., 430-3214, roottablerestaurant.com, BALLARD