Ai's menus are replete with classic and creative plates. A selection of traditional rolls, such as tuna or salmon ($4 each), will fill the usual sushi strongholds, but for hardened appetite bunkers, call in the game-changing bombs of special rolls such as the rainbow (a California roll topped with assorted sashimi and rainbow caviar, $9.95). There are also hearty chef's specials, including mango passion shrimp (sautéed shrimp and mangos in a special Thai pepper sauce, $13.95), and dinner entrees, including teriyaki beef negimaki (thin-sliced beef and scallions in teriyaki or Asian garlic sauce, $12.95).
Pinang Malaysian Restaurant's behemoth menu packs a smorgasbord of eats that spans from India to Malaysia. The roti-canai starter preps bellies and fanny packs for main courses with a homemade Indian pancake dunked in curry-chicken sauce ($3). Shredded-mango entrees strike a sweet chord alongside the bass notes of tofu ($9), chicken, beef ($12.50 each), shrimp, or fish ($13 each), each steeped in a spicy sauce. Diners can bury forks or priceless family heirlooms in the num-yee duck casserole's savory layers, lined with bean paste, ginger, and scallions ($9.50). Adventurous eaters boldly go mouth first into the chicken or beef peppercorn sizzling platter that defies diners with a fiery brown sauce ($11).
Ayada Thai has certainly done its part to support Elmhurst's reputation for attracting highly regarded Thai restaurants, many of which have sprung up around the Buddhist temple that sits just one block from Ayada. Food critics have praised the eatery's uncompromising nature, as when the New York Times' Ligaya Mishan called the som tum "thrilling" for piling on the red-hot chilies that many Thai restaurants fear will overwhelm non-natives. Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice singles out another highlight: the kang som sour curry, a soupy shrimp curry he calls a "revelation" because of its sour tamarind paste and ability to be read like tea leaves to predict when parking meter rates are going up.
In the 19th century, British rule in the city of Nanking created an influx of travelers from abroad, uniquely altering the local cuisine in the process. The cooks at Nanking continue this hodgepodge culinary philosophy with a menu that seamlessly blends Chinese, Thai, and Indian dishes. Diners can explore a diverse array of lamb, goat, and vegetarian dishes from India or Asian chicken and noodle dishes, garnished with Indian herbs or smothered in Manchurian sauces.
Chao Thai’s narrow storefront gives way to a compact eatery decorated with little beyond a few wall hangings. But those who press past the unassuming facade are rewarded with dishes that don't skimp on the fiery flavors—if they can convince their servers they really do want true "Thai spicy" and not the comparatively mild "American spicy."
Having developed his expertise in Thai gastronomy in Thailand, Colorado, and New York City over the course of more than 20 years, chef Chai Chunton now flaunts his culinary skills in Lotus Thai Restaurant & Bar. Vines of steam rise from time-tested noodle, vegetarian, meat, and seafood dishes, curling toward nostrils with the hot, sour, sweet, and salty notes of the region's cookery. Adorned by a design team from Thailand, the lounge's dining room is laced with leather booths, ornate Eastern flourishes, and antique chopstick sharpeners. Against the sonic backdrop of occasional evening DJ sets, events in a private room launch the sounds of revelry against exposed-brick walls and a collaborative painting by acclaimed artists Pairoj Pichetmetakul and Kittisak Chontong.