Thai Lagoon’s extensive menu puts traditional and modern Thai dishes, such as pad thai ($10.95) and sautéed shrimp in curry ($13.95), alongside Chinese favorites such as Kung Pao chicken ($9.95) and Szechwan chicken ($9.95). Diners can customize entrees with their choice of chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp and can request vegetarian alternatives. Dive into the aquatic flavors of the pad woon sen talay, a stir-fried seafood selection doused with chu see curry sauce, snow peas, and green peas sautéed in oyster sauce ($13.95). Or sup on chicken paradise, which transports its eater to earthly paradise with cashews, pineapple, onions, mushrooms, and scallions ($13.50).
When Basil Restaurant flung upon its doors in 2009, the Columbus Dispatch reported on the owner's inspiration: his mother Judy Ruanphae’s string of successful Thai restaurants—beginning with Thai Village in Chicago’s Wicker Park—that she ran with her husband while her son Rhome was growing up. Rhome borrowed his mother’s culinary mastery for Basil, which teleports taste buds to Thailand with a menu of authentic southeast-Asian cuisine. Chefs gather rice or egg noodles to lay the foundation for many entrees, such as specialty kee mow, a soft or crispy maelstrom of rice noodles with thai basil, tomatoes, and bell peppers. The menu also features a rainbow of curry dishes, soups, done-up salads, and appetizers to keep ravenous diners from eating their napkins.
The seasoned confines of a former antique shop welcome diners to Basil Restaurant, decked out with bare brick and a retro advertisement for ice painted on the back wall. As a glittering chandelier casts light on colorful curries, wine-dark panels of varnished wood gaze at diners from the wall, and exposed lengths of ductwork add a neoindustrial aesthetic without the overkill of steam-powered dessert trays or austere Orwellian maitre d's.
Bold, earthy paintings line the canary-yellow walls of Lemongrass, but they have to contend with the vibrant spreads of sushi and pad thai that top the plates at the pan-Asian bistro. Sushi, sashimi, and nigiri options run the gamut from barbecue eel and asparagus to a specialty Manhattan roll glazed with shrimp caviar. A lighter lunch menu presents smaller portions of the dinner entrees, along with handheld options such as chicken bacon and shrimp-tempura wraps. An extensive wine menu complements the dinner and lunch menus, and the tempting dessert menu catalogs fried plantains and mango sorbet served in a mango rind.
Blue Ginger’s chefs have no shortage of sources when they need inspiration for their next dish. Rather than limit their scope to a single region or country, they scan recipe books from across Asia and pick out their favorites as starting points. Some of the recipes they dig up date back centuries, but they’re more interested in looking toward the future than dwelling on the past.
It’s certainly a bright future they envision—one in which the best elements of various Asian cuisines have joined forces in the same dishes. There are even some influences from outside Asia that make it into the mix, as the duck fajitas and pan-roasted chilean sea bass will attest. This inclusive spirit isn’t just limited to the food. An extensive drink menu features imported beers, martinis blended with sake, and cocktails stirred with miniature world flags.
To keep their lunch and dinner menus fresh, the chefs at Thai Mango Asian Bistro mix up their traditionally prepared Thai dishes with unique and seasonal produce. The chefs augment spicy and sour soups with lemongrass and mushrooms, and their original house soup recipe blends asparagus into a base of crabmeat and egg. Their more complex dishes include stir-fried noodles and creamy curries made heartier by the inclusion of well-seasoned morsels of beef, shrimp, and tofu. The chefs punch up the menu with a selection of spicy dishes such as szechuan chicken, and their bite can be soothed with a cup of jasmine tea or a raw aloe leaf applied to diners’ tongues by candlelight.