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.
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.
Thai Vilage entices taste buds with classic ingredients including basil, peanuts, and plum sauce, infusing them into an array of authentic Thai dishes. The seasoned crab meat and cream cheese of crab rangoons ($6.95) pave the way for a classic pad thai entree, which peppers fried rice noodles with eggs, bean sprouts, and magical tamarind incantations ($9.95). Patrons warm their hands over the pineapple, walnuts, and sweet chili sauce of the Blazing salmon ($14.95), and forks battle over the spicy mongolian beef resting on a bed of crispy rice noodles ($9.95). Guests are invited to open their own libations without the burden of a corkage fee, or sample authentic liquid flavors with thai iced coffee or tea ($2.50).
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.
The Thai Medallion team doesn’t mess around when it comes to Thai cuisine. In fact, at Thai Medallion, diners can enjoy a range of traditional Thai-style dishes made from the owner's mother's own recipes. And to make the experience even more authentic, chefs blast curry dishes with handmade curry powder and grow pad thai noodles in the kitchens built-in greenhouse.