LOFT Thai Eatery

5324 75 St.


Mon. to Fri. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sat. 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $30; loaded, $50

Food:  4.5 of 5 Suns

Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns

Service: 4 of 5 Suns

The food is beautiful.

The space is not.

LOFT Thai Eatery chef Shon Vichitvorakul is producing the best Thai “fusion” dishes this city has seen since The King & I Thai Restaurant was one of Edmonton’s Top 10 restaurants.

The young Thai, trained in Australia and five-star hotels in Thailand, is producing green curry and pesto pastas, duck leg with fragrant Thai curries and cooked fruit, delicious home-made coconut-infused peanut sauces and dozens of other original Thai-based creations.

The LOFT’s rama salad is a mix of soft and crunch.

Plus, it should be added, conventional dishes for the meat ‘n’ potatoes crowd.

Sadly, the venue does not do the food justice. In a retail/restaurant enclave anchored by a BMO bank at the corner of 75th Street and Roper Road, it has fast-food tables and chairs, harsh lighting, a lousy ventilation system and can’t be seen from the streets.

Some decoration has been added around the kitchen portal, otherwise the walls of the small (24 seat) restaurant are a blank white. Fortunately, the restaurant is very clean.

My heart sank when I walked through the door, smelling the oil in the air.  But we were warmly greeted and the menu (as had originally attracted me) was intriguing: Deciding between the more adventuresome entrees — the duck confit curry, a massaman (Thai curry) short ribs, or the seafood tom khlong cioppino (Italian-Thai fusion seafood chowder) — was delightfully difficult!

As the dishes arrived, my heart soared. The freshness! The colours! The presentations! The unique flavours!  Plus the value proposition was significant – a good 20% less costly than Thai eateries not approaching this quality.

The rama salad had the crisp of cooled deep-fried tofu cubes, veggie chips and carrot strands all balanced against the gentle softness of a half boiled-egg. The coconut-sweetened peanut sauce (thoughtfully served on the side) provided an overall flavour punch.

The salad was a fine start, built upon by LOFT’s chicken satay – not drenched meat on a stick but a healthy helping of delicately flavoured and chopped chicken breasts, with flatbread scoops and a full bowl of another peanut sauce variation for dipping.

It was in the “classic a la carte” section where the fusion got really interesting.  Chef Shon started with traditional Italian – garganelli pasta (similar to penne) mixed with broccoli and chicken, sauced with a mix of home-made pesto and coconut-flavoured green Thai curry, topped with crunchy carrot strips. The flavour profile had obviously taken much experimentation to reach such a satin smoothness with such pleasing mouth feel. Plus the dish arrived straight from the oven, satisfyingly hot.

The duck leg, as mentioned, was hot, moist and fragrant, a true tribute to the chef’s cooking skills. In lesser hands, confit duck leg (cured, then cooked in its own fat) can be easily over-cooked, winding up tough and  stringy.  This meat was perfect and made all the more memorable by two ying/yang sauces, a yellow curry with cooked lychee fruit on one side of the plate, and a soft beet crème on the other. The fruit curry with duck was truly a new culinary adventure … happening in a room more appropriate to tacos and fries.

What I also appreciated about LOFT Thai Eatery was an understanding of customer preference. A lunch menu is much simplified.  The dinner menu is well-thought-out, offering a range from standards like spring rolls and chicken wings, through basic Thai dishes, to Chef Shon’s new and exciting Thai fusion creations. There’s something for everybody.

Owner/manager Tony Jay is fully aware of LOFT’s physical short-comings.  My hope is to see it move in a year or two to a more pleasant, more visible, sit-down location.

In the meantime, go for the food and the service.  Never have I eaten what amounted to a high-end gourmet five-course dinner for which the total bill, for three people, came to $77.  Chef Vichitvorakul is one of the best chefs in town, period.