At Thai Sweet Basil, chefs shun frozen produce and MSG, instead championing fresh, all-natural ingredients for their menu of traditional Thai cuisine. They simmer five varieties of curries, serving them with fragrant mounds of jasmine rice, and fry up classic noodle dishes, such as pad thai and sweet-basil fried rice. They also plate delicacies such as soft-shell crab with green curry and snapper marinated in tamarind. All the recipes and cooking techniques that they use were developed over the centuries in the Thai royal palace. Servers weave between sunny walls and maroon booths bordering a dining room speckled with emerald fronds, exotic artwork, and linens as white and untarnished as a snowman's criminal record.
Thai cuisine doesn't favor any one portion of the tongue. By drawing on a full range of herbs and spices it strives to activate all five of the palate's taste senses in every meal. The result: colorful dishes such as tom yum goong, a spicy sour soup prepared with chili and lemongrass, and phad se-ew, a sweet and savory rice dish with a choice of meat glazed in soy sauce. Thai Thani, which is celebrating its 10th year in Tampa, embraces this wholeheartedly and adds its own creations to the Thai canon. The house specialty Thai Thani angel wings, for instance, stuff boneless chicken with pork, water chestnuts, clear noodles, mushrooms, and garlic.
The restaurant doesn't only embrace Thai culinary philosophy, either. It also transports its diners to a little slice of Thailand by filling its dining room with imported antiques and statues, hand-carved tables and tropical plants, and stamping the passport of everyone who enters.
As diners enter Joto Thai-Sushi, their attention is drawn to the newly redecorated, amber-toned dining room. In the kitchen, chefs cut, roll, and transform fresh fish into more than 50 kinds of sashimi and maki, such as the spider roll—packed with deep-fried soft-shell crab—and the fried-fish Tampa roll, appeal to sushi-eaters not ready to go raw, while more traditional options, such as fresh salmon or sweet-shrimp sashimi, slake cravings for fish in its purest form. Groups can order an assortment of rolls and sashimi, typically served on a large wooden boat for the table to share, or settle into a table and enjoy fresh-grilled salmon teriyaki, shrimp tempura, or udon soup. In addition to the sushi and Japanese offerings, diners can also enjoy expertly prepared Thai classics such as Pad Thai and a variety of Thai curries. For dessert, the chefs perform the seemingly impossible and deep-fry ice cream.
A collage of dark woods, gilded statues, and vibrant textiles greets the eye at Rouen Thai, perfumed by a spiced aroma that floats out from the kitchen. As patrons settle into high-backed booths or around sunken tables with traditional floor-cushion seating, they can prime their palates with sips of thai sweet iced tea with a touch of cream. The menu includes familiar noodle dishes such as pad see ew as well as frog legs, squid, and sea scallops in numerous sauces. Racks of lamb, grilled and topped with basil leaves, form a counterpoint to the vegetarian menu’s siam tofu with thai chili sauce. The chefs also serve a substantial list of macrobiotic dishes, many of which come with sautéed shrimp, a mélange of veggies, and rice that's naturally tan.
Tokyo Bay Mang Sushi and Japanese Steakhouse spans a spectrum of cooking ideologies, simultaneously folding fresh, raw fish into sushi rolls, searing hibachi items in a scorching blaze, and rounding out the menu with pan-Asian entrees and Thai dishes. Chefs fire up three front-and-center teppanyaki tables, where flaming plumes obscure steak, shrimp, and scallops. The King lobster sushi roll sports dual tempura and fried lobster tails swept up in the flavors of faux crab, asparagus, avocado, and eel sauce. Basil sprinkles thai curries and piping-hot seafood, served behind a façade that mimics the tiered roofs in Thailand that protect possessions from pad thai monsoons.
A combination of savory, sweet, and spicy aromas greets diners when they enter The Queen and I Restaurant, serving as an aromatic prelude to the menu's extensive selection of fragrantly seasoned cuisine. The cooks can stir-fry chicken, pork, or scallops and moonlight-ripened vegetables in a number of sauces, imbuing their entrees with flavors of ginger, basil, or fiery chili paste.
Featuring taupe-hued walls and white tablecloths, the dining room has walls with framed artwork and a painted mural of Thai statues that lend a more authentic trans-Pacific feel than a flipbook made entirely of travel brochures.