The ingredients used in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine are vastly different, as are the methods of preparation. At Zhuang's Garden, they come together in surprising ways. Eight crackling hibachi-grill tables and a sushi bar represent Japan, and Chinese décor and the aromas of lo mein hint at the traditions of that nation. Glasses of wine clink together above plates of Thai food at the BYOB eatery, where the dishes include curry that is the brilliant yellow of turmeric or a banana salesman’s business card.
Voted the Best Ethnic Restaurant by Berks County Living in 2009, Thai Cuisine packs Southeast Asian flavor into each lunch and dinner dish. This laid-back eatery specializes in quality, vegetable-filled entrees such as the shrimp curry in red coconut cream sauce ($16.95) as well as lighter salads ($7.95–$8.95), and traditional, flat and tasty pad thai noodles ($15.95 with chicken). Each meat-centric dish can be made vegetarian-friendly, and diners can specify the spiciness of their order, selecting from mild, medium, hot, or hotter than the surface of the moon. The eatery also maintains a friendly BYOB policy, making its dining quarters a prime spot for group get-togethers.
"I really love Thai food," says Jazmine Thai co-owner Josh Morton. "I love how it reflects all the taste buds, all the sensations, from sweet to sour, to spicy to salty." He shares this passion with his partner and executive chef Somsak Kechat, who artfully prepares and plates a wide range of dishes from Thailand's vast culinary treasure trove. With a Kechat does everything from sculpt fried rice into a heart to serve the shrimp-chicken-veggie dish inside a masterfully carved pineapple. He also prepares dishes such as the Spicy Sea of Love—a blend of seafood and green peppercorns—and the Evil Jungle Princess, a red curry he sautées with shrimp, chicken, and veggies. Meanwhile, a bartender compliments these interestingly named meals with a lineup of refreshing libations that includes wine, sake, and the My Thai cocktail, a tropical blend of fruit juices, liquors, and giggle zest.
Thai Spice's plenteous noodle and curry dishes infuse rich flavors from traditional Thai recipes. Dress up perpetually bald tongues with the spicy basil noodle, a wide-noodle dish laced with string beans, mushrooms, and chili peppers ($10.95–$13.95). Alternatively, bored forks can search for the seafood-combo treasure at the bottom of the Emerald Sea platter ($17.95), or sample the bamboo shoots swimming in coconut, carrots, sweet peppers, and broccoli in the kang ped curry ($12.95–$14.95).
To create Pad Thai Restaurant's namesake dish, chefs stir-fry thin rice noodles, shrimp, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts into a house sauce, the recipe of which is a closely guarded secret. It's one of more than 100 authentic Thai items that the culinary team creates using ingredients and herbs predominantly imported from Thailand. Along with coconut, ubiquitous bean sprouts and crushed peanuts fill the authentic thai pancake. Pineapple curry coats succulent cuts of duck, and a housemade sweet and sour sauce balances sesame-covered chicken. Glasses of thai iced tea or iced coffee wash down meals, but the BYOB restaurant also allows diners to supply their own drinks, rather than sip from a straw that connects to an opened soda in their car.
At Rice King Asian Cuisine, the staff doesn't force their diners to pick a favorite between Chinese, Japanese, or Thai fare. Instead they bring all dishes under one roof, creating a lengthy menu of spicy seafood, seasoned vegetables, garlic noodles, and aromatic rice. They introduce western concepts to some of the dishes in items such as bourbon chicken, cheesesteak roll, and bacon fried rice.