Best of 2000: Best-Dressed Thai Experience

Swaddee Restaurant
1001 C Avenue (at Tenth and C), Coronado
(619) 435-8110

The waitresses whisk around in elegant ankle-length pha sin -- scarlet, indigo, blue, green, saffron skirts of cotton or silk laced with threads of gold. They wear traditional tight-neck tunic tops and look like the life-size female statues, standing in the jungle of fans and ferns and palms. What with the Thai classical music -- a mahori ensemble of strings, gongs, and wooden xylophones -- you could believe you're eating lotus buds beside the Chao Phraya River itself. You're in Tasna Pongsuwan's "Swaddee" ("Hello") restaurant, which somehow gets the Siamese atmosphere right, down to the mawn sam liam triangular cushions. Even the tables have crisp linens and fresh purple orchids flown in from Bangkok. So the food, especially the lunch specials, all $6.95, feels cheap for the surroundings. The specials include soup or salad, spring roll, and steamed rice. Dishes include pad prik chicken with soft bamboo shoots and mushrooms; pad prik khing, pork with curry paste and green beans; pad Thai noodles (chicken or vegetarian); green chicken curry; red chicken curry; Drunken Noodles (stir-fry spicy chicken or vegetarian); and pad se ew noodles (beef, chicken, or pork). Nonspecials and evening prices are higher, and it's worth a little extra ($9.95) to have a coal-fired flaming boat of tom yung khung (hot prawn soup) to wake you up with a bang.

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