Looking for a night of illusions, a night of delicious interesting food or a night of scandal? Look no further than Rama. Uncharacteristically demure in its façade (this being downtown San Diego’s infamous Gaslamp district with its multitude of dining venues), the illusion is immediately stripped away the second you pass through its door. A long narrow, singularly dark hallway beckons you, and go you must. There is almost a sense of being Alice on her way down the shoot to the incredulous Wonderland world that awaits her. You can’t quite see what’s down the hallway but curiosity (damn that Cheshire Cat) is too much to withhold.
Step into the dining area and let the room take your breath away. Feast upon oversized murals that adorn the walls, telling the tales of lives from faraway lands. High ceilings give you a sense of openness even as the dark room, subtly lit with soft, incandescent lights, brings you into its self-contained embrace. Your eyes immediately are transfixed upon the sheer, veiled booths that surround the room, quietly understated yet divinely grand. It almost feels as if you have walked into a painting and are waiting for the final brush stroke to sit you in your place.
The host parts the shimmering veil to allow you into your booth and lets it fall back, assuring your intimate space. You hear the simple rushing of a delicate waterfall, gently cascading over the wall to the rear, even as your eyes wander to the vines curling over a brick wall to the front. There stands a center-piece bar that accentuates its dark surroundings with spirits galore.
At this point catch your breath and remember why you are here – to enjoy arguably some of the best Thai food in the city. The menu itself is an epic. Over an inch thick and bound by a heavy golden cover, it invites you to look inside. The possibilities are for something unique, foreign and otherworldly are endless. Rama delivers on all counts.
For starters there is much to choose from. You have salads of singular distinction, a favorite is the Banquet Summer (ground pork, mixed with garlic ginger root, chili, onions, scallions, cilantro and peanuts) that enchanted us with its flavor. There are soups, served with your choice of vegetable & tofu, chicken, shrimp, including the delicious Tom Kha (coconut lemon grass soup) which had a silky smooth warm texture. And of course there are appetizers. We had the delectable Satay (marinated chicken and/or beef skewers served with cucumber chutney and peanut sauce) and the Triangle (lightly fried wonton skins stuffed with cheese and crab). Both satiated our desire for distinct flavors and set the tone for the evening’s offerings.
While we spied the “Rice” portion with great interest (who would expect a “Spaghetti and Kee Moa Beef served over small rice noodles” was even a possibility at a Thai restaurant) we opted to go-for-broke and order from their very tantalizing entrée listing. Very quickly our requests for Garlic and Pepper (stir-fried garlic and pepper served with a secret sauce with steamed rice) and Pad Ginger (stir-fried fresh ginger, onions, black mushrooms, black fungus and green onions) arrived for our mutual delight. All of the entrees are served with chicken, pork, beef, vegetables or tofu. You can also have shrimp, squid, roast duck, scallops or a seafood combination, if you like. This is your banquet, so make it what you will.
We enjoyed the Garlic and Pepper Chicken tremendously with its thinly breaded exterior that created a light, crunchy texture. The “secret” sauce was fragrant and blended perfectly with the meal. The serving was so generous that there was plenty to share and take home. Not to be outdone was the satisfying Pad Ginger. Here the meat was cooked to a tender, succulent taste that, mixed with the accompanying vegetables, created quite a culinary masterpiece. Ask for sides of their spicy sauces to accentuate your meal, taking it to yet another flavorful level.
Rama creates a sense of international cuisine and charm, whether through its fine dining or incredible flair of décor. Prices are reasonable, especially for the excellent food and venue and valet parking is offered, which is always a good thing downtown. Enjoy!
The good – An amazing sense of style, uniqueness and truly inspiring food.
The bad – The service was lackluster. We sometimes felt the veils hid us from the servers or perhaps the other way around.
- City: San Diego, CA 92101
- Phone: 619-501-8424
- Name: Rama
- Address: 327 Fourth Ave