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.
The delicate silk hangings and handmade wood accents at Bangkok Village effervesce with authentic Thai ambiance alongside an extensive menu of vegetarian and meat dishes. A sautéed slice of spicy chicken, beef, or pork sporting a basil overcoat struts across sweet bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and hot peppers($9.99); cashew chicken shows its sweeter side with peanuts, pineapple, and sweet pepper ($9.99). In the Star Delight, a mélange of snow peas, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and fresh bean sprouts lure herbivores with a homemade sauce and whispered promises of birthday pony rides ($8.99). Lightly seasoned bean-thread noodles wrap around your choice of protein or tofu ($9.99), shrimp ($11.99), or seafood ($11.99) in the Transparent Delight, which features a medley of stir-fried baby corn, bean sprouts, peapods, mushrooms, onions, sweet pepper, and egg.
Considering the diversity of backgrounds that have contributed to Red Chopsticks, it's not surprising that the restaurant has a pan-Asian style. The founders previously conceived Oysy Sushi and Baisi Thai, and Executive Chef Li, a native of Zhengzhou City, left his post at the Zhengzhou International Hotel to man kitchens in St. Louis and Chicago's Chinatown before taking his post at Red Chopsticks.
The menu is predominantly Chinese, as evidenced by entrees such as szechuan pork and kung pao beef. But patrons will also find other Asian specialties, including pad thai noodles that entangle cabbage, chicken, and peanuts, and clear singapore rice noodles colored by bean sprouts and carrots. No matter the dish, Chef Li prepares everything from scratch, including sauces, pastries, and silverware, and uses a fresh assortment of veggies and produce.
There must have been considerable coordination between the head chef and interior decorator at Montri Thai; the walls vary in color from red and green to lemon yellow––a fitting homage to the kitchen's use of red, green, and yellow curries in its traditional Thai recipes. Artistic plating of braided noodles garnished with wisps of green chives parallels the dining room's floral bouquets, and intricate sauce designs succeed in making the plates hungry for themselves. A full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and blue neon lights illuminate the bright ginger and orange notes in beef, chicken, and tofu dishes. An elephant motif drives the sophisticated Eastern vibe home with bronze statues, framed photographs, and loud stomps resonating from the peanut room.
Asian Harbor serves a blend of Japanese and Thai dishes in a sleek, modern dining room. Rich Thai spices turn curries the same deep-orange hue as the walls, which glow with light from hanging cylindrical lamps. A neon-lined sushi bar dishes out more than 20 specialty rolls. And a lengthy list of cooling cocktails, sake, and wine balances hot dishes on the menu such as Spicy Basil, an entree of sautéed meat, snow peas, fresh basil, chili, and bell peppers. Unlike libraries beefing with Confucius, the wok section of the menu includes several Chinese classics, such as general tso's chicken and egg foo yong.