On a sunny Sunday, hungry from yard work and too lazy to grocery shop, the siren call of craft cider and Thai food beckons. A quick bike ride along the river and we’re at the counter of Krob Krua, a new eatery co-located inside Wildcraft Ciderworks in the Whit.
“Krob Krua is a restaurant for the family,” says owner Jeff Hardinger. “My wife [Luck Hardinger] and my wife’s sister [Pat Baker], they crush it.”
Hardinger, who grew up in Eugene, ran a successful Thai restaurant in Manhattan for years. And it’s in that high-volume environment, that Hardinger and family developed most of their Krob Krua recipes to perfection.
I tuck into laab, a light and tasty salad with ground chicken, Thai herbs, red onion, toasted rice-wok fired chili and lime dressing, enjoying the cool, tactile fun of romaine lettuce and cukes for scooping. Man, this is good.
Why is this so good?
“We grind the meat ourselves, fresh,” Hardinger says. “That’s toasted rice powder, made from scratch, chilis that we’re roasting, fresh-squeezed lime juice. They don’t cut any corners.”
There’s a quality and layered richness to the food that’s undeniable. A massaman curry, with different protein options, is enveloped in delectable coconut flavors, scented with cinnamon, star anise and studded with baby potatoes and peanuts. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and savory, with a comforting, umami texture. (Not ashamed to admit that we licked the bowl.)
Chicken and shitake mushroom shu-mai style dumplings are fat and juicy, with a depth of succulent, earthy flavor.
Crispy rice salad, from the northeast of Thailand where Pat Baker and Luck Hardinger are from, features a sour sausage that’s made in-house, with broken-up fried rice cakes. “It’s crunchy, soft, wet and dry,” says Hardinger. “A wonderful blend of textures and flavors. It’s a jewel.”
A repeat Krob Krua foray confirms: The rice salad will knock your socks off.
Another popular item that you likely won’t find on any other local menus is their Ba Mee Moo Dang, a street-food dish from Bangkok: sliced red-roasted pork with fresh wonton noodles, fish sauce and powdered chili. Hardinger says the team’s been making it since their New York days. “I can’t give it up,” Hardinger says. “I want to eat it, too.”
Now that the restaurant’s on its feet with a full kitchen and service area, Hardinger says he ensures that the Krob Krua chefs have the ingredients they need to make magic happen.
“That’s what it takes to bring out the brightness and the beauty of the food.”
Krob Krua is open 11 am to 9 pm Tuesday through Sunday at 254 Lincoln Street, inside Wildcraft Ciderworks. Call 541-636-6267 for delivery.