New restaurant: Opal Thai ditches the truck

Photos by Martha Cheng

You can take the guy out of the truck, but you can't take the truck out of the guy, I say to Opel Sirichandhra when he comes out of the kitchen to take our orders. About a month ago, he sold his popular food truck, Opal Thai Food, and moved into a space in Haleiwa Town Center, under the same name (and yes, his name is spelled Opel, but his business is Opal Thai). No longer a two-person operation (he and his wife ran the truck), he has extra help in the kitchen and in the front. Still, it's like he can't let go of the customer interaction inherent to the food truck business. As the restaurant begins to fill up, he keeps coming out of the kitchen to take orders, deliver plates, talk to customers.

So maybe because Opel still has his hands in everything, nothing has changed: the food is still excellent and the service personable. And as with the truck, Opel insists you let him order for you, asking only for your spice preference and favorite Thai dishes as a guide. So we ended up with tom yum, the Thai hot and sour soup (a touch too sweet, my only complaint of the meal); larb, a tangy, minced pork salad with ground, toasted rice; fried firm tofu with garlic sauce and topped with fried basil leaves (my favorite dish); crab stir-fried noodles; duck curry; sauteed eggplant, each dish a blend of salty, sweet, hot, sour that makes Thai food so appealing. While many of the same dishes from the truck remain on the menu, all our dishes were new menu items. The total for four was $70.

For as long as I've been going to Opel's truck (three years or so), Opel has been talking about his own restaurant. It has finally happened, but he looks exhausted because of it. I can only hope it doesn't wear him out; I want to keep eating here for years to come.

66-460 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, 381-8091