Back in the 1960s and ’70s, an unimpressive cinder block building on South Market Street was a liquor store. Later on it became, variously, Asian markets, Chef Paul Trout’s Experience, and now Kanya Garden. Located virtually across the street from Racha Noodle, Kanya Garden had to offer up value and food to distract customers from the already-established local favorite.
Femme de Joie remembers her first visit about six months after their opening. What she thought would be a dish of curried fish turned out to be a entire overcooked and very mushy fish with cilantro-laced sauce glopped on top. It was grim. She was sure Kanya Garden was doomed. But nearly three years later it’s going strong, so she stopped by again to give it another chance, and is glad she did.
The long dining room is lined with booths on either side and a few cafeteria-style tables in the center. Enter through a door from the south parking lot, or through the front door facing South Market Street. Service is generally friendly and efficient.
Fried sweet potatoes served as an appetizer were nicely crunchy and nongreasy but not very flavorful. Cucumber salad on the side, on the other hand, had fresh crisp dice of cucumbers in a sweet-spicy vinegar sauce. The salad overwhelmed the sweet potatoes; for M. de Joie’s taste, they could have skipped the potatoes altogether and just served a larger dish of salad.
Tom Yum soup (Thai Spicy and Sour Chicken Soup) might be too much heat unless you’re already a fan of Chinese hot and sour soup. This was unabashedly hot but exotic and luscious, filled with sliced field mushrooms, straw mushrooms, and generous amount of white chicken meat in a very flavorful lime-scented chicken broth.
As M. de Joie was slurping up her soup, an odd thing happened. The side door opened and a young Japanese man came in to solicit funds for tsunami victims. He hit up every table, got nothing, and went out the front door. About 1 minute later the front door opened and a different Japanese youth comes in for the same purpose. A disembodied voice from the back called out, “He already was here and left.” Obviously the staff knew the young men; this seemed to not be the first time this had happened, but what a way to make you feel greedy and selfish when all you want is to have some lunch.
Fresh spring rolls were colorfully stuffed with rice noodles, Thai basil, shredded carrots, cilantro and shrimp and served with a bowl of sweet Thai chili sauce. Though they looked very appealing, the shrimp was without any taste or texture and was lost among the rest of the filling.
Kanya Garden serves a great lunch deal – a different curry every day with salad, rice, and an eggroll for $6.99. After tasting a couple of curries, M. de Joie would like this to be served to her in heaven, please.
There wasn’t a surplus of chicken in the red chicken curry. No matter: the curry sauce itself was delicious enough to drink as a soup. It was filled out with loads of bamboo shoots, red bell peppers and had a moderate heat. An eggroll on the side was crisp and crunchy with a curried vegetable and pork filling. That ubiquitous leaf salad with sweet yellow dressing, common to so many Asian restaurants, was served beforehand – not breaking any new ground there, but pleasant enough.
Kanya Garden also offers pho, that comforting and warming dish of beef, noodles, and fragrant herbs in a star anise-flavored broth, and theirs is one of the better versions offered locally. The first bite of steak in this serving was still a bit rare, indicating it was prepared to order with boiling broth poured over razor-thin slices of beef.
The only disappointment at Kanya Garden was the Thai iced coffee. Toothachingly sweet and cloying, it did tame the heat of the curry but contained far too much sweetened condensed milk.
Kanya Garden has proved they can compete with Racha Noodle across the street. While they offer many of the same dishes, Kanya focuses on curry and they may have the edge there. They also accept debit and credit cards (Racha is cash only). M. de Joie isn’t going to choose a favorite here, but she is craving another bowl of Kanya Garden’s curry.
Kanya Garden Thai Cuisine, 2825 South Market Street, Redding, CA. 530-246-3830. Open daily at 11 am; last orders taken at 7:45 PM. Lunch specials. Parking on site. Credit and debit cards. Vegetarian and vegan options. No alcohol. Call ahead for larger groups.
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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