Taste of Thailand proves that Thai restaurants have more than just pad thai to offer?a lot more. Chef Farook and his kitchen staff prepare more than 100 dishes, including gingery pan-fried catfish, garlicky tiger shrimp, and grilled chicken with green papaya salad. Other staples include noodle dishes, fried rice, and colorful curries. Complementing the smorgasbord are spring-roll appetizers and soups such as the sour chicken coconut soup with lemongrass, which is served spewing from the vent of a volcano pot.
"No cookbooks. No measuring cups. No measuring spoons. No scales. I know from experience," Be Lam—the executive chef of Saigon Surface—responded when Jane Palmer of the Omaha World-Herald asked if she uses a cookbook. Lam, who runs the restaurant with the help of her daughter and son, Ngoc and Tu Nguyen, told Palmer that she learned her culinary and artistic techniques from a group of elders in her native Saigon. She creates her signature grilled pork dish, for example, not from a written-down formula but from a memorized marinade that developed over years of practice and bestows flavor to the meat over several days.
Though steeped in the food wisdom of several generations, the restaurant's overall vibe is decidedly modern. The Omaha World-Herald, which had already named it one of the Top 8 restaurants in 2011, said that it "mixes the traditional with the technological to great effect. It's a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene." There's an iPad at every table, which guests can use to order a lychee martini from the lime-green-backlit bar or fiddle with when their dates decide to show their ventriloquism skills. The walls, meanwhile, are covered with dark wood paneling, which provides a pleasingly stark contrast to the sleek white booths and tables.
At Sina Way Chinese Cuisine, diners lift the lids of bamboo steamers to find plump dumplings filled with shrimp or bok choy simmered in garlic sauce. Choosing from an extensive list of house specials—including traditional and non-traditional dishes such as lo mein, mongolian beef, and peanut butter chicken—customers can create a family-size dinner with egg rolls and soup to feed their clan or their third and fourth heads. Sina's full bar features a selection of wine, domestic, and imported beers to accompany appetizers and entrees.
A gray-and-yellow 88, which pays homage to Pana 88, is painted on the eatery?s dining-room wall, reaching from floor to ceiling. The eatery?s design?an industrial modern blend?features simple white chairs that sit atop a brushed concrete floor. The minimalist decor allows Pana 88?s menu to shine, with classic teriyaki dishes alongside signature items such as mongolian beef and peanut-butter chicken.
At Taste of Asia, you won't just experience the flavors of Thailand, Vietnam, and China; you'll also get a healthy dose of Asian ambiance. The restaurant's pho soups and pad thai are a cut above the standard, and the same goes for a dining room decorated with red awnings and a large photo mural that depicts a peaceful bamboo forest.