I would like to begin this restaurant review by saying I felt extremely safe and relaxed after meeting with Chef Opart Udomsatapol – known to all as Chef “O” at his Ka-Prow Pan-Asian Bistro. There is no question that this owner/chef has gone to every level possible to accommodate his clients and to provide an environment with well-trained employees and strong kitchen practices to handle his many varied customers.
Chef “O” specializes in Thai cooking, using very fresh and high quality ingredients. The menu is extensive. And it is already well marked with icons relating to the gluten-free items, along with the soy-free and vegetarian items. The term on the menu is “wheat free”, but it is synonymous with gluten free at this restaurant. We went through all of the ingredients, and I found that Chef “O” had a thorough knowledge of them. In each section – including appetizers, soups, Thai salads, curries, rice and noodle dishes, main entrées, and sushi and sashimi – there are options for the celiac or gluten sensitive eater.
Virtually all of the meat, poultry, and seafood items arrive at the restaurant fresh and raw. This covers everything from beef, chicken, and pork to duck, shrimp, crab, scallops, and more. No marinades or spices are added until they are put on in the restaurant. Only two sushi/sashimi ingredients (eel and crabstick) are pre-packaged elsewhere and are not safe for us.
Chef “O” uses three core sauces for all of his meals – one is for those of us who are sensitive to gluten, one is for the vegetarians, and one is for customers with no special requirements. “Our” sauce incorporates an organic, wheat-free tamari sauce, which is specially ordered and was shown to me. Added to that is sugar and a safe restaurant-made vegetable related stock. You will see many different sauces on the menu, but we carefully went through all of the ones associated with the wheat-free (gluten-free) icon. They include: peanut sauce, curry pastes, brown sauce, spicy brown sauce, and gravy brown sauce. All of these begin with our gluten-free base sauce, to which only peanuts, cornstarch, Thai chilies, cumin, pepper, and garlic powder can be added. Those few spices mentioned last are from Tones, which we have verified in the past as being gluten free. You’ll also see the Ka-Prow leaf mentioned. This is fresh basil right out of the chef’s backyard.
The base for all soups begins with chicken stock from freshly boiled chickens. No powders or other stock bases are used at all. The Thai salads have a dressing made from lime juice and fish sauce, along with the other individual items noted on the menu offerings. All of the curries are safe for us. The pastes Chef “O” uses all have a vegetable base, and we went through all of the ingredients. The colors come from the types of chilies used. The one curry paste exception is not even offered in the section for curries but is applied in one of his entrées (Pad Ped), which does not carry one of our icons.
For the rice and noodle dishes, only canola oil is used along with the three base sauces mentioned above. The noodles are made of either rice or mung beans. All of the sushi and sashimi are safe for celiacs, with the exception of the eel and crabstick types, known as Unagi and Kani. Those come in as separate pre-made items, which Chef “O” does not recommend for us. Please note that the sushi are not marked as wheat free (gluten free) on the menu, but we discussed them at length, and they are safe for us, with the above noted exceptions.
Lunch Specials are comprised of match-ups from these various categories. We can pick from seven different offerings, including Pad Thai, Pad Puk, Ka-Prow Fried Rice, and more. And there are four dishes in the Entrées section that are safe for us. Over-all, I counted two appetizers, three soups, three Thai salads, seven types of curries, three rice dishes, five noodle dishes, and virtually all of the many sushi and sashimi that we can pick from!
You can even end the meal with an egg custard dessert, made with eggs, cow’s milk, coconut milk, sugar, and Kirkland gluten-free vanilla. The other desserts are off limits, however. Also off limits are the “Chef ‘O’ Specials”, which have their own section on the menu. However, if it’s not busy when you visit, he will even try to accommodate you there as well, by changing some of the ingredients. But since the dishes are handmade, and he is the one key person handling the preparation, we need to honor that system.
We talked about the overall kitchen practices, and toured the cooking and storage areas.
All rice, noodles, and flours have their own containers. The three base sauces are well marked.
Rice is cooked in big steamers, and the dessert version of “sticky rice” is never put into those containers. At all times, there is a fryer dedicated to new oil. We would not actually require a fried item unless it were French Fries, a token American menu offering, but they would be cooked in that new oil if ordered. When the sesame chicken dish is made, it is done in advance each week, and stored separately under refrigeration. We also verified that a separate bowl is used for the tempura batter application.
Large woks are used for cooking most of the meals. These are cleaned between orders, and are cleaned exceptionally well if a gluten-free order comes in. Currently, we make up less than 5% of the customer population. Chef “O” said he could easily add another wok, to be dedicated to gluten-free meals, if the numbers of customers increased. All of the curries have a dedicated pan, and are gluten free to begin with. There are no other cooking surfaces in use at this time.
Ka-Prow is special in another way too. Chef “O” has established a multi-page written test, which all employees are required to pass, covering all the variations of the food offerings. These servers know their business – and their kitchen!
Naturally you need to identify yourself as a gluten-free or celiac customer, and then you can sit back and relax. The knowledgeable server should question you twice about your order, then enter the data into their computer system, which also highlights the special requirements of the order on the ticket. This is true for other allergens or special needs people too, whether vegetarian, vegan, or involving an allergy to peanuts or shellfish.
The environment inside is very pleasant, even a bit of a surprise relative to the basic plaza in which it resides. And it’s easier to get to than you might think, since it is right at the intersection of Howard Lane (think Wells Branch Parkway) and I-35. If you’re coming from the south on Mopac, I recommend using Parmer Lane for a short two mile crossover and then driving north up the feeder road briefly. It will be just ahead of you, requiring a simple u-turn.
We’re already planning our next company luncheon there. If you are a Thai food aficionado, this should be the next place you visit. We truly are special here! (JW 10/09)
Ka-Prow Leaf Pan-Asian Bistro