Chef/owner Sanith (Opal) Sirichandrha
Image: noelani anderson

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Opal Thai was a food truck on the edge of Haleiwa. The food, like the winter waves, was epic, with a perfect blend of colorful and fresh flavors. Opal was every-busy, thick with the traffic of hungry surfers, tourists and locals, each of whom owner Sanith “Opal” Sirichandrha would greet with a smile and a handshake.

Opal’s food truck had a five-year run, but to accommodate such a following, growth was necessary. So, in October of 2011, Opal moved up to a storefront in the center of town. The place is always hopping, and it’s no wonder since the food remains amazing, the price is right, the atmosphere is open and inviting and Opal’s still treating each customer as if he or she were the first to walk through the door.

My friends and I drop in at 11:30 on a Thursday, with the hunger that follows a two-hour surf session. A lychee iced tea ($1.75) hits the spot as we study the simple menu. The only problem is that it all sounds so good. We order some familiar appetizers, then Opal strolls up, and the gleam in his eye indicates that he’s got a plan for us. I say, “something with crab sounds good,” and my friend chimes in, “I was thinking noodles.”

“Okay,” Opal replies, “I’m gonna make you something awesome. You guys like spice?” My friends and I exchange looks. “We like spice,” I say, “but not too spicy.”

Opal nods, and with a big grin he collects our menus and heads to the kitchen. A neighbor swings through to drop off a fresh bag of limes from her tree. (Opal uses fresh, local produce and no msg.) As the restaurant fills up, I’m struck by how happy all these diners are. Perhaps it has something to do with the surf or the sunny day…or maybe it just has everything to do with the food.

The appetizers answer that question. The chicken sautée ($8.50) is served with a thick peanut sauce and a cold cucumber salad that complements it perfectly. The lettuce cup salad ($8.75) is refreshing and light but filling, with the tofu just slightly crispy yet soft enough to melt in your mouth. We are already stoked, but when Opal’s mystery entrees come out, I’m unable to contain my joy. He’s given us Drunken Noodles with tofu, broccoli and eggplant ($8.95) along with a heaping dish of Singapore style crab meat fried rice ($11.95). The noodles are thick and delicious, steaming with just the right amount of spice. The fried rice is fluffy but rich, with chunky pieces of sweet, fresh crab meat that burst with flavor after we squeeze the lime garnish over it. We polish off each and every dish and laugh with the tables to either side of us, whose plates show that they’ve done exactly the same.

On a return visit, I order my personal favorite from Opal’s food truck days, the summer rolls ($7.25) that hit the spot any time of year. Because fish cake normally isn’t my thing, I was slightly apprehensive about trying it in fritters ($8.25), and was rewarded when the freshly fried cakes came out steaming, full of vegetables, with a cold cucumber salad lending its sweet pickle to their rich, real, uprocessed taste.

If you’re in a curry mood, I recommend the roasted tomato pineapple entrée ($11.95) because it’s unique, refreshing and just plain exciting. The sautéed cashews ($8.95-$9.75) are stir-fried with fresh vegetables and your choice of meat; I had them with shrimp and broccoli, saturated with the delicious sweet, savory and spicy Thai sauce.

Food trucks have their beloved niche in the dining scene, but thank goodness you can now sit down at Opal’s! This is the kind of food that deserves to be enjoyed with leisure, because whether you are alone or with company, you will always be amongst friends at Opal’s–it’s the type of neighborhood, family run place that reminds you what eating good food is all about.