Kokai Thai Bistro

I’d heard a lot about Kokai Thai Bistro. Lots of people have blogged about it (Chow Down Atlanta, Blissful Glutton, Food Near Snellville, AccessAtlanta) , some have even gushed about it.


When I first saw it open, I had my typical thought – “another mediocre Thai restaurant, that everyone will say is the best Thai they’ve ever had…” – and I chose to ignore it. Then I began hearing mention that it was “authentic” Thai street food and it brought back memories of eating kanom krok (grilled coconut rice cakes) and fried chicken underneath the Taksin bridge – could this really be coming to Atlanta?

Vegetable Spring Rolls

So HX and I decided to give it a try and I have my answer. It is a resounding NO. Maybe my palate is screwed up, maybe my experience in Thailand was freakishly skewed and unusual, maybe I was in the wrong country – but Kokai struck me as: “another mediocre Thai restaurant, that everyone will say is the best Thai they’ve ever had…”. I don’t often do this here, but be forewarned – I’m panning this restaurant. Fortunately, I’m feeling a bit lazy and I wasn’t pissed off by this place – just disappointed – so I won’t be flying off the handle (I’m saving my vitriol for bigger things).

Yen Ta Four

Yen Ta Four

No flashbacks of great memories, no flood of relaxation that you get when you put wonderful food in your mouth, no excitement – just bland, mediocre food – no depth of flavor – nothing. Now admittedly, the presentation was beautiful (yeah, yeah – you eat with your eyes as well as with your mouth – whatever), but that only seemed to heighten the disappointment. The Yen Ta Four (mixed seafood noodle soup) did have a nice mix of large prawns, fish, squid balls, fried tofu, vegetables and wide rice noodles.  Unfortunately, the seafood was overcooked and rubbery (seriously – doesn’t everyone know by now that shrimp can only take a few minutes in hot broth before they are shot? These seemed like they were in the bath from the beginning). The hot pink broth was reminiscent of watered down sweet and sour sauce.

Pad Ka Pao

Pad Ka Pao

Pad Ka Pao (fried chicken with basil) was bland and reminded me of the “pre-mixed” stir fry kits you find in the freezer section at the grocery. Again with the overcooked, rubbery proteins….

Surprisingly, the vegetable spring rolls (HX insisted – typically I avoid these), were surprisingly good – crispy, light and full of flavor.

As always, I welcome counter opinions (though they won’t change mine…). Tell me that I’m wrong – convince me to give it another try. I’d love to find good, authentic Thai street food in Atlanta.

Kokai Thai Bistro
5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd
Norcross, GA 30093-1519



  1. BuHi,

    I reviewed the place, enjoyed the food actually. But I have no basis on which to say it’s authentic or not. It was my father’s generation that was in Thailand, and if I hear their war stories correctly, they were more interested in betting on how quickly the local pet boa constructor would eat its food once a month.

    Bored servicemen have funny ideas of what is amusing.

    More to the point: I’ve had more people respond to my Kokai Thai post than any in a long while (my most popular is about growing Guam boonie peppers, believe it or not). There is something about that place that does bring out readers and responses.

  2. It’s all a matter of taste I guess. I only occasionally post about restaurants I don’t like, but I think it’s only fair. I’ve been told that some of my favorites are terrible as well, so… Toss me a link to your post – I’ll include it in the list with Blissful Glutton and Chow Down. I’ll have to look for the pepper post – when I lived in Grant Park I grew a lot of different peppers in my green house.

  3. Ok, my Kokai Thai article is here, and the boonie pepper article that gets the most hits (it’s a continuing serier of articles, 9 to date) is here.

  4. I love their Shrimp pad thai and Larb Chicken. They are the best in town! The price is very reasonable. The staff are really friendly.

  5. I’ve spent many summers in Bangkok and all over Thailand growing up (a few times as a teenager, I even stayed for a few months with cousins eating every street food imaginable). Too bad you didn’t enjoy your meal at KoKai. Their food isn’t typical of Bangkok but more northern and most people akin Thai food to Bangkok cuisine. Growing up in Atlanta in the 80s I can say there are only a handful of great Thai restaurants in town. These places have retained and still represent the many flavors of Thailand, not just Bangkok.

  6. As I said, I may have hit them on a bad day, I don’t know. Our meal just came off – well, wrong. Admittedly, I’m no expert on Thai cuisine, but I just been consistently disappointed. A Thai friend once suggested Jitlada, which was good – but is no longer here. Thai Coon used to have a “special” (read “real”) Thai menu for Sunday brunch. I haven’t been for a while, so I need to revisit. What to you suggest for good Thai in Atlanta?

  7. I’ve also been pretty disappointed with the Thai food I’ve had in Atlanta. I’ve heard these three are good but I haven’t tried them yet:
    Lime Juice Thai Bistro
    King & I
    Thai Restaurant of Norcross

    Have ever been to any of them? If so what did you think?

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