Open daily until 10 p.m., Thai 55’s servers spoon out authentic Thai flavors from a lengthy menu within a laid-back setting. Ten curry platters corral cravings with custom levels of spiciness and of sassy back talk, and seafood plates blend catfish, mussels, and shrimp with tongue-tickling herbs. On certain nights, the chefs plop tapioca pearls into such smoothie flavors as mango and kiwi. The majority of Thai 55's entrees can quell herbivorous hankerings with vegetables or tofu in place of meat.
To Yes Asia Cafe owners Nancy and Tiger Huynh, their business in America is the end of a long journey that began with their families' attempts to escape to the US from Vietnam. Despite multiple tries each year, Nancy's family was always turned back. "There were scary moments," she writes on the café's website, "and I'm glad it's over." Tiger's family was luckier, drifting into a safe harbor after seven days in a tiny boat.
Today at Yes Asia Cafe, both Huynhs celebrate the cuisine of their childhoods with a menu of traditional pan-Asian and Vietnamese dishes. Like a poorly calibrated compass, banh mi sandwiches fuse East and West, stuffing crusty french bread rolls with fillings such as curry chicken and cured pork. Succulent morsels of barbecue pork and grilled beef mingle with cilantro, mint, pickled veggies, and peanuts in rice and noodle bowls. And an impressive drink menu cleanses palates with jasmine teas and jackfruit smoothies.
At Baisi Thai—whose fusion menu melds Japanese and southeast Asian fare—the staff takes presentation seriously. Sushi chefs decorate rolls such as the Rainbow Dragon, Green Turtle, and Caterpillar to look like their namesakes, with caviar eyes and vegetable horns. Bartenders fill cocktail glasses with neon-green Baistinis and other mixed drinks and, in the kitchen, curried noodles collide with stir-fried veggies and traditional Thai basil. The airy, spacious eatery, located at the Oakbrook Center mall, is striped with translucent space dividers, and avenues of thin, vertical reeds sway between orange columns and UN delegates researching models for international flavor cooperation.
On the Michelin Bib Gourmand list from 2011–2012 for gourmet value, Thai Village excites palates with traditional Asian cuisine, including many vegetarian options. Behind the restaurant’s carved wooden façade is a bright, exposed-brick dining room with a pressed-tin ceiling and walls speckled with ornately framed art. During warm weather, the restaurant’s outdoor patio allows guests to mingle spicy tastes with no-holds-barred staring contests against the sun.