You can taste the foods of the Garden of Eden at Lynn's Thai Restaurant in Cotati.
Far-fetched? Not if you go along with pediatrician Stephen Oppenheimer's carefully researched book, "Eden in the East," in which he claims that the Garden of Eden in Genesis refers not to Mesopotamia but rather to Southeast Asia.
If you head east from the Middle East, the landscape is pretty much desert until you come to the lush, well-watered, tropical paradise that is Thailand. There, myriad delicious fruits grow wild: durian, rambutan, mangosteen, longan, lychee, papaya, guava, coconut, orange, banana and many more. Exotic spices like nutmeg and mace grow there, too, and rice is abundant where water is plentiful.
And there is something paradisical about Thai food, from the beautiful presentations and carved fruits and vegetables to the complex flavors of curries and the scrupulous freshness its cooks insist upon.
One more thing: Thai people are known for their friendliness, generosity and sweet demeanor, which you will experience first hand at Lynn's when you meet Ding Chanvalichol, the woman who took over the restaurant from her Aunt Lynn and dispenses good vibes along with Thai cooking.
Chanvalichol will make sure you do not leave hungry, even at lunch. If you order the Spicy Chicken Vermicelli ($8.95 2? stars) for your mid-day meal, you get a large plate of very thin rice noodles, chicken, cabbage, mushrooms, red bell peppers and scallions. You can order any dish at three levels of spiciness: mild, medium, and hot. Since the dish was already called "spicy," I didn't specify a level of heat, and it was mild. If you like it hot, ask for the Sriracha tray, and you can bounce it up to any level you like. This lunchtime treat comes with your choice of a soup or simple lettuce salad. In addition, you may get a small plate of minty fresh rolls with a sweet-and-sour lime dipping sauce.
The restaurant is clean, bright and cheery, with glass tabletops and plenty of faux flowers. A large tropical fish tank dominates the back of the room, a grand lure to attract the youngsters as they watch the neon-colored fish dart about. Serene Thai music plays softly. Picture windows look out on the Apple Valley Plaza. The walls display photos from Thailand, and the front door is flanked by two carved bull-elephant heads.
The wine list is small. There's a Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc for $19 at the low end and a DeLoach Pinot Noir for $26 as the most expensive bottle, plus selections from Valley of the Moon and Murphy-Goode wineries. But of course a cold, crisp beer really goes better with Thai food, and you can choose among Heineken from Holland, Singha from Thailand, Tsingtao from China and Sapporo from Japan.
At a second visit, dinner started with a surprisingly pretty plate of eight pieces of Crab Roll ($9.25, 3 stars), listed on the menu under the heading, "Rolls of Paradise." Fresh crabmeat, noodles, sprouts, carrots, cilantro and long, slender enoki mushrooms are rolled in a translucent rice wrapper and served with a lime-chili sauce. It was as fun to look at as to eat.
Then came the Chicken Satay ($7.95 2? stars), five thin bamboo skewers plunged through fat slabs of chicken breast and grilled, the meat to be eaten with the thick peanut sauce provided. A sweet, fresh cucumber salad accompanied the satay. The only quibble with this tasty appetizer was a slight dryness in the meat.