Although crisp tablecloths and wood-paneled walls lend Royal Thai Cuisine's dining room a formal air, an attentive waitstaff and old-style Thai recipes help to keep the atmosphere homey. As guests peruse the menu of fragrant curries, stir-fried chicken, and roasted fish, servers patiently answer questions about specific dishes' ingredients and spice levels, which can be made mild or fiery. For added visual flair, some entrees arrive in a hollowed-out half-pineapple or the arms of a cardboard cutout of Cary Grant.
Shades of crimson and golden lighting embrace patrons as they enter Simply Thai, where the aromas of curry and spiced stir-fry enchant the senses. Crispy duck bathes in piquant sauces, and seafood specials populate plates with shrimp, scallops, and mussels in rich pools of curry. Meat-eschewers can find solace in a lengthy list of vegetarian specials, curries, and noodle dishes.
While using forks to spear thin-sliced beef or twirl flat rice noodles, patrons can sit back into curvy, cushioned backboards and admire a mandala-esque bronze disk mounted onto a colorful wall. A Buddha motif interweaves the restaurant's décor, with golden Buddha heads watching over diners from a wall and a larger lounging statue dreaming of nirvana and its close cousin, Marshmallow Fluff.
Som Bao Cafe is a family business that's run by the seven grown children of Somdee and Bao Phoutasen, who lent their names to the eatery's moniker and their passion for food to the kitchen. On any given day, guests may meet siblings Bo, Fonsi, or Kelly as they drop off plates of coconut-infused curry or steaming pad thai. Kam or Pennee may appear at the register, and Monk or Susan might share the spicy details of their favorite rice or noodle dish in exchange for a winning lotto ticket.
Whether quenching a TV fix at the black lacquered bar or noshing on a veggie stir-fry at a casual table in the dining room, each patron plays a role in making this family's American dream come true, even without disturbing the sleeping genies hiding in every soy-sauce bottle.
Located in the heart of downtown Norfolk, Tokyo Fresh Asian Bistro & Bar populates its lengthy menu with modern and traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine. Amid modern decor that features an indoor fountain and a long, snaking bar, chefs dish out two-piece sushi orders such as smoked salmon, white tuna, and octopus. They also whip up specialties, including honey-walnut shrimp and the Seafood Festival in a Nest—lobster tail, scallops, and shrimp served in a nest of smashed potatoes.