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.
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.
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.
As hungry customers approach the flat-top grill after which the restaurant is named, they'll find it a sizzling island surrounded by a sea of rice, noodles, fresh vegetables, and colorful sauces. Disenfranchised by the undemocratic menus of all other restaurants, Flat Top diners are empowered with the right to vote for the ingredients of their choice. Start the process by choosing rice or noodles. Then fill your bowl with fresh, seasonal vegetables (such as tomatoes, snap peas, and carrots), mix and match three or four ladles of sauces to create a sweet, spicy Asian-inspired flavor or your own personal concoction. Finally, add a hearty protein (including white fish, chicken, beef sirloin, tofu, or a host of vegetarian and vegan options). Add the finishing touches with clever customizations like hot and sour soup, mu shu wraps, skewered shrimp, or roti prata bread. Lunch bowls are $8.99, and dinner bowls are $12.99. Once your dream dish is assembled, let Flat Top's experienced chefs bring it to life on the grill while you treat your taste buds to an appetizer, such as the kung pao prata ($3.99) or a chilled summer shrimp roll ($5.99). Flat Top rookies needn't fear: Knowledgeable staff are happy to offer advice, popular recipes are perched atop tables, and tips are available on oversized chalkboards around the dining room. For an extra $2 (or $1 at lunch), diners can enjoy unlimited trips through the line, allowing them to try a wide variety of stir-fry combinations.