When Basil Restaurant opened in 2009, the Columbus Dispatch reported on owner Rhome Ruanphae's inspiration: his mother?s string of successful Thai restaurants?beginning with Thai Village in Chicago?s Wicker Park neighborhood?that she ran with her husband while he was growing up. Rhome borrowed his mother?s culinary mastery for Basil, which teleports taste buds to Thailand with a menu of authentic Southeast Asian cuisine. Chefs gather rice or egg noodles to lay the foundation for many entrees, such as specialty kee mow, a soft or crispy maelstrom of rice noodles with thai basil, tomatoes, and bell peppers. The menu also features a rainbow of curries, soups, salads, and appetizers to keep ravenous diners from eating their napkins.
The seasoned confines of a former antique shop welcome diners to Basil Restaurant, decked out with bare brick and a retro advertisement for ice painted on the back wall. As a glittering chandelier casts light on colorful curries, wine-dark panels of varnished wood gaze at diners from the wall, and exposed lengths of ductwork add a neoindustrial aesthetic without the overkill of steam-powered dessert trays or austere Orwellian maitre d's.
Bold, earthy paintings line the canary-yellow walls of Lemongrass, but they have to contend with the vibrant spreads of sushi and pad thai that top the plates at the pan-Asian bistro. Sushi, sashimi, and nigiri options run the gamut from barbecue eel and asparagus to a specialty Manhattan roll glazed with shrimp caviar. A lighter lunch menu presents smaller portions of the dinner entrees, along with handheld options such as chicken bacon and shrimp-tempura wraps. An extensive wine menu complements the dinner and lunch menus, and the tempting dessert menu catalogs fried plantains and mango sorbet served in a mango rind.
Thai Lagoon’s extensive menu puts traditional and modern Thai dishes, such as pad thai ($10.95) and sautéed shrimp in curry ($13.95), alongside Chinese favorites such as Kung Pao chicken ($9.95) and Szechwan chicken ($9.95). Diners can customize entrees with their choice of chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp and can request vegetarian alternatives. Dive into the aquatic flavors of the pad woon sen talay, a stir-fried seafood selection doused with chu see curry sauce, snow peas, and green peas sautéed in oyster sauce ($13.95). Or sup on chicken paradise, which transports its eater to earthly paradise with cashews, pineapple, onions, mushrooms, and scallions ($13.50).
As weary guests lug their suitcases and collapsible travel saxophones up to the front desk of Best Western hotel, their senses are suddenly awakened to the scents of sizzling garlic, simmering coconut, and fresh basil. The source of the exotic aromas is the onsite Thai Lagoon Bistro—an elegant Thai eatery lauded by reporters from Crave Magazine as a hidden gem. In the restaurant's kitchen, chefs fold fresh seafood, meats, and vegetables into a sweeping variety of authentic Thai favorites and rarities—from the popular pad thai noodles to the lesser-known tiger cry spicy beef. They stir pots of soup peppered with lemongrass and chili before turning their attention to massaman chicken curry, which writers from The Columbus Dispatch praised as being “aromatic with allspice, clove, and cinnamon…” They even extend their culinary expertise to a selection of Chinese classics, including kung pao chicken and orange beef.
Diners await meals at white-cloth tables in the elegant dining room lit with soft candlelight and speckled with tropical plants. In the mornings, the restaurant transforms into a breakfast buffet with American-style dishes, including cereals and pancakes shaped like John Wayne waving the US flag.
The chefs at Blue Elephant Restaurant craft Thai curries, Japanese sushi, and Italian pasta dishes, tying them all together with the common thread of fresh ingredients and careful preparation. They specially order ingredients that are not available locally to ensure that each dish contains the freshest possible items. Basil leaves flavor the Thai-style basil chicken, and cashews add salt and crunch to mango chicken. Within sushi rolls, thinly sliced fish such as tuna and salmon complement the silky texture of cream cheese and avocado.
Prior to establishing the restaurant, the owners committed themselves to observing environmentally responsible building practices. As a result, the entire building is constructed from sustainable and recyclable materials. Energy-efficient light bulbs illuminate the dining room, and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system regulates the temperature. On stormy days, an onsite pond directs raindrops into the soil, preventing them from falling into a gutter or discarded chip bag.
Tan Thai serves up savory noodle dishes, authentic Thai entrees, and sweet curries in a relaxing, casual atmosphere. The menu showcases a smorgasbord of seafood specialties, including spicy salmon with basil and red curry ($14.95), as well as hot and spicy scallops, piled atop a mound of bamboo shoots, baby corn, bell peppers, basil, and red-chili sauce ($13.95). Tan Thai allows guests to customize meals with one of six protein choices—tofu, vegetables, pork, chicken, beef, or shrimp—and one of five levels of spiciness, ranging from the relatively mild level one, to the will-testing level five, capable of generating enough mouth heat to melt a harmonica. Personalize a plate of pad thai ($9.95–$11.95) or one of five colorful curries ($10.50–$12.50), such as the green, yellow, and red—inspired by Bangkok traffic patterns. Sip a refreshing thai iced coffee ($2.95) or nibble on a sweet treat of mango sticky rice ($4.95) in Tan Thai's cheery dining room adorned with serene, pale-yellow walls, comfy booth seating, and arched doorways.