Trying to find a quick bite to eat when you’re not in the mood for anything deep fried or filled with monosodium glutamate is like trying to find an empty highway in Southern California. But, Royal Orchid Thai Restaurant offers some relief.
Conveniently located a few minutes from the University of California, Riverside campus, Royal Orchid Thai is often filled with college students stopping in for quick, cheap lunches in between classes or for some evening downtime with a few friends. Conversely, at the right hour the restaurant can be completely empty, and Royal Orchid is never too busy that you’ll feel rushed to finish your food.
The simple décor creates an unassuming ambience for unwinding after a long day of classes or a quick break for lunch. There’s not much to look at inside save the dishes placed in front of you, and the large windows merely offer views of the adjacent parking lot. Even still, the charm of its utilitarian setting and the relative quiet of the booths make for an idyllic gathering spot.
Royal Orchid Thai also has a fairly large menu. If you’re looking to try something completely different, there’s a good chance this restaurant will have it; and if you’re one for the classics that students love (like Pad Thai), Royal Orchid Thai specializes in them. For starters, an order of Crab Rangoon is enough to feed four starving students. Though it is a bit heavy on the cream cheese, the traces of crab are discernible.
As for the portions at Royal Orchid, they certainly don’t skimp. Soup and curry come steaming hot in impressively large bowls, an automatic appeal to youthful appetites. The Tom Kha, a distinguishable coconut juice based soup, is delicious and recommended with chicken. Most of the dishes come to order with a scale of spiciness based on a five-point system; one being mild and five being extremely (stay away) hot.
But it’s the curry that Royal Orchid is locally famous for. The Kang Karee, a yellow curry made of red peppers, lemon grass and sundry spices, is just right after a long day of study. It comes with potatoes and carrots, plus your choice of meet. All curries are served with rice.
The noodles are also well proportioned and worth a try, with the ubiquitous Pad Thai being an obvious favorite, with lime-splashed Thai rice noodles with crushed peanuts and bean sprouts. The sauce is a wonderful blend, not overly lacquered over the noodles as you can sometimes find, to leave them soggy. Royal’s version is one of the best in the Inland Empire. You can’t go wrong with the Pad See Ew, either, made with broad flat noodles (sen yai) in dark soy sauce, with thin strips of beef or chicken.
Perhaps the greatest thing for a time-savvy student who is under the gun is that you’re food is on the table in about ten minutes, meaning you can be in and out in half an hour. And for those who need food on the fly, there’s always takeout!
Royal Orchid Thai, 9791 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 354-6100. AE, D, MC, V