Restaurant News & Reviews

Thai Bounty in Morro Bay features fresh flavors

Thai Bounty has room for a handful of diners inside, and there are a few tables outside, but it’s primarily a takeout place.
Thai Bounty has room for a handful of diners inside, and there are a few tables outside, but it’s primarily a takeout place. The Tribune

Thai Bounty’s belief in fresh ingredients starts at home.

Owners Doi and George Milanés launched their Morro Bay eatery at the north end of the Embarcadero in July 2009 in a building that’s shaped like the jutting prow and cabin of a boat. In terms of seating, it’s got just about as much space as a boat, with a few tables outside and barely room for 10 people inside, so plan accordingly.

It’s primarily geared to be a takeout place (cash and checks only), but when you can grab a seat, admire how efficiently Doi and company work the woks, especially when things start getting busy.

“Each dish is cooked in its own wok to keep the flavors separate, and everything is made fresh to order,” said Doi, whose culinary experience includes working at her sister’s Thai restaurant in Baywood, Noi’s Little Takeout. You can enjoy Doi’s approach in classics such as Tom Kha Gai chicken coconut soup, hearty Panang Curry, and refreshing Pad Thai noodles, all of which offer distinct layers of authentic flavor.

Doi’s knack with sauces especially shows up in dishes like crispy calamari with fresh chili lime dipping sauce, Pad See Ew (stir-fried rice noodles with nicely braised Chinese broccoli in a garlic soy sauce), and Tod Kra Tiem, where perfectly steamed vegetables and your choice of protein hit the wok with a well-seasoned garlic-pepper sauce, then are topped with crunchy garlic bits.

One of the more unusual options at Thai Bounty is Kao Soi. While many Thai restaurants focus on food from the southern part of the country, Kao Soi is a traditional recipe from northern Thailand that features egg noodles and chicken in a yellow curry sauce served with onions and topped with cilantro and sweet roasted chili paste.

Thai Bounty prides itself on fresh fish dishes because “most people come to Morro Bay and expect seafood,” George said. Those include everything from the Chu Chu Pla (spicy wok-fried fish with onions and peppers) to something from the daily specials board, like the new Thai Shrimp Salad.

“A lot of the fish I buy is right off the boats, and having Mark (Tognazzini) and the fish market right next door is very helpful,” George said. “I get the whole fish and cut it down myself — when you’re doing that, it’s as fresh as you can get.”

A native of Cuba, George has spent more than 20 years catering that cuisine as a sideline, so don’t be surprised if you see some Cuban-inspired specials sneak into the mix from time to time.

When it comes to sourcing fresh produce for the restaurant, the Milanéses don’t need to look very far.

For several years, their bountiful home garden has been productive enough for a small farm stand on Los Osos Valley Road named Las Terazas.

Now, that garden can serve “as a dedicated source for the restaurant,” said George. “We can grow things like the Chinese broccoli that’s the main staple in a lot of the stir-fries, plus the greens, carrots and mint for the Garden Fresh Spring Rolls, and we’re doing our own sprouting.”

Much of the restaurant’s produce is harvested that morning with the roots still on, and ideally won’t be chopped up until just before it gets served. It would be easier to do it all in advance, but “then it loses its freshness,” said Doi. “You should cut it now, cook it now and eat it now. That’s when the food tastes the best and is the best for you — when it’s right from the wok.”