Ever been surfing and had a hankering for good Thai food? If you happen to be surfing on Oahu’s world-famous North Shore, you’re in luck. Head to Opal Thai in Haleiwa for some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to Thailand.
This local favorite has been featured on the Food Network twice, with good reason. Eating at Opal’s is an adventure. First, drive past the two or three other Thai places along Kam Highway. I don’t know why sleeping little Haleiwa has this many restaurants featuring Southeast Asian cuisine. Maybe it’s the connection between sunny North Shore and the fabled beaches of Thailand. Or maybe they’re trying to cash in on Opal’s fame.
After pulling into the parking lot in front of Longs Drugs. If you’re thirsty for something malted, pop into the drug store and get some beer because Opal Thai doesn’t serve alcohol. But they’ll be happy to keep it cold for you in the kitchen. They also don’t take credit cards, so bring cash.
The first thing that strikes you about the restaurant is the size. It’s small, maybe 10 tables. Eating here is a very cozy affair. The next thing you’ll notice is the owner/chef, Opel himself. He comes out to greet each table.
The first time we ate at Opal’s, I thought that I knew Thai food. He quickly dispelled that notion. “Really,” he said with an arched brow. “Name five Thai dishes.”
As I sputtered on my response, he came to my rescue. “Never mind,” he said. Spreading out his hand, he ticked off the questions. After asking which spices we liked (cilantro, onion, garlic) and which proteins (beef, chicken, pork, tofu, shrimp), he disappeared into the kitchen and dishes started appearing on our table. I couldn’t tell you what all of them were. I only know that they were delicious.
Some people don’t like this routine where the chef orders for you. If that’s you, then don’t come. I’ve never heard of someone ordering off the menu, which Opel takes out of your hands with a smile as he comes out to shake your hand.
But if you want a very satisfying meal and a good time, drive up to the North Shore. You won’t be disappointed. And take pictures of your food. Because when you come back six months later, Opel will remember you but he may not remember what he cooked for you last time. Judging from the line stretching out the door, I can’t really fault him for that.
Do you have a favorite Thai spot or a favorite North Shore spot? Let us know.