Aree Thai on Kingsway has been around since at least 2010. I got some really good takeout from them about 4 years ago and was impressed enough to bring a whole group to try dinner. Unfortunately that dinner experience kinda sucked…small portions, slow service, underwhelming flavours. We didn’t go back…until now. We quite enjoyed it!
We were tipped off by fellow food appreciator Emm that Aree Thai (named after owner “Aree”) was having a customer appreciation day/birthday dinner that was gonna be a FREE BUFFET! I totally trust Emm’s opinion. Emm has been going to Aree for a while now, and admits that while the service is indeed slow and sometimes dysfunctional, the cooking is great and it’s hard not to be charmed by Aree’s infectious smile and energy. She throws this free buffet on her birthday every year, as a refreshingly honest expression of her love of cooking. This event is not advertised or marketed. Only word-of-mouth for customers 🙂
Before Aree Thai, this space on Kingsway between Knight and Fraser had been a bit of a restaurant black hole, with Japanese and Vietnamese (?) restaurants occupying this space before Aree moved in.
Interior looks brighter and cleaner than we remember from 4 years ago. They used to have those Japanese restaurant-style booths where you have to take off your shoes, but looks like they tore all that out. Much more pleasant to be in now.
I know what you’re thinking…salad rolls aren’t Thai! Well, chill the fuck out. This is a FREE buffet. The salad rolls were fresh-tasting and came with a sweet nutty sauce. Note: not everything in this buffet is on their regular menu. Their menu is available on their website if you want to do some research before trying it out.
The deep fried wontons weren’t greasy or burnt! Reminded me of my mom’s cooking when we were kids. Deep fried wontons were one of my favourite treats. Sometimes I’d bring them to school for potluck and they’d be the first thing to go. Even in a classroom full of white kids 😛
Aree didn’t hold back the spice on the pork salad. The deep fried chicken with lemongrass was great too. I wish I ate more of it 🙂
Closeup of the pork salad. Typical Thai flavours of salty, sweet, spicy and sour. Fresh and lively.
Pretty good Thai fried rice, which tasted great with…
…basil beef with green beans. This one was quite spicy too, and had my scalp sweating within the first couple bites. I did seconds of this dish ^_^’
Salmon curry and veggie green curry.
Vermicelli noodles for pouring your curry onto.
Wicca’s plate. It didn’t feel like a restaurant buffet. It felt more like warm-hearted home cooking. The flavours hit all of Wicca’s southeast-Asian buttons.
My sensible plate. I tried not to have my food all touching each other but it was hard 😛 (Take a deep breath, man…)
I went back for more basil beef with green beans (new batch had baby corn in it!) and wish I could’ve eaten more of that fried chicken with lemongrass.
The style of Thai food at Aree is quite different from my Thai favourite Longtail Kitchen. As good as Longtail is, that doesn’t negate the desire for a place like Aree. The food is different enough that we’d come here again. Think of Longtail Kitchen as being street-style Thai while Aree is more homestyle…or at least homey tasting.
Free drinks too! I didn’t try the punch. The “roselle juice” is also known as sorrel/hibiscus/jamaica (pronounced ya-my-ka). It was a bit too sweet for us :/
But this drink was our favourite! What’s bael? This Wikipedia post sheds some light on it.
Slice of that weird dried bael fruit. Refreshing and slightly medicinal with a hint of sweetness. Reminded us of some Chinese medicial soup stuff, lodged into distant memory but never forgotten.
Tons of people brought flowers for Aree.
This wasn’t some bullshit media preview or PR event for bloggers. This was just some Thai lady who’s scraping by but still wanted to celebrate her birthday by showing her appreciation to her customers by offering a free buffet with great food. Name ONE event that you’ve been to that’s like this. Put it in the comments below. You can even stick in a fake name and email address. I’m just curious to see if anybody in Vancouver has done anything like this before.
Despite the fact that this was a free event, we were impressed enough with the food that we would come here again the next time we have a craving for Thai food a little closer to home.