Chef Kowae of Spize Cafe delights diners with a menu brimming with gourmet sandwiches, curry dishes, and exotic salads. A hearty seasonal soup paves the way for more sizable spreads, such as the lemongrass pork loin baguette sandwich ($7.95), or a Spize speciality grilled cumin chicken with curry-peanut dressing served alongside mixed green vegetables ($7.95). Dress up a thai red curry with your choice of chicken, tofu, or shrimp ($7.95–$8.95) for a culinary fashion statement more delicious than a crunchy nougat cummerbund. Although a seemingly tame garden dish, the green papaya salad—topped with jumbo prawns and chili-lime-and-palm-sugar dressing—can be custom seasoned to make the taste buds tingle, burn, or sweat ($8.95). A separate gluten-free menu gives diners a bounty of wheat-free options, and a variety of meatless munchies give vegetarians something to graze upon, such as a vegetarian mint spring roll served with sweet-and-sour dip and roasted peanuts ($5.95).
If you're a Triangle-dwelling Thai food fan, it's likely that you know about Sawasdee Thai Restaurant—it won Indy Week's Best of the Triangle award for Best Thai Cuisine every year from 2007–2011. In 2013, it picked up another honor from the paper: Best Restaurant with Gluten-Free Options. While the Thai chefs at Sawasdee ground the menu in their homeland's culinary traditions—which means the salt comes from fish sauce, the sweetness from palm sugar, and the pucker from tamarind—they're always looking for ways to make them feel fresh and relevant to local diners. That means things such as creating a separate gluten-free menu so no one has to begin their meal simply hunting for a dish that suits their diet. And an extensive vegetarian section leaves out the fish sauce (and egg, if desired), replacing animal products with mixed greens, tofu, and other botanical elements. Naturally, the heat can be adjusted, too, on a scale that starts at "spicy" and tops out at "make-you-cry."
Sawasdee's chefs also give the ingredients themselves extra scrutiny. Even in seasons when fresh herbs are hard to find, they scour suppliers' shelves to make sure they always have authentic seasonings such as galangal and lemongrass on hand. In meat dishes, all-white-meat chicken, large shrimp, beef sirloin, and pork tenderloin bed down on Thai jasmine rice. And at both Sawasdee locations, designers have shown a similar attention to detail in the decor. On Glenwood, a huge compass rose in the ceiling softly lights the dining room's woodwork and trailing succulents and helps curry-intoxicated diners find their way out the door. The location on Capital is less sleek and more cozy, with red walls, traditional carved screens, and even a patio surrounded by dense greenery on all sides.
Archira Thai and Sushi's kitchen staff boasts several Thailand natives, who dedicate their efforts to reflecting the modern, 21st century culinary offerings of Thailand and Southeast Asia. An extensive menu sports classics such as pad thai, where stir fried rice noodles set the stage for an ensemble cast of chicken, bean sprouts, egg, peppered Nathan Lane, and crushed, roasted peanuts ($12). Archira's crispy duckling layers a crispy, honey-roasted bird atop a vegetal bed of bell pepper, onion, carrot, and fresh basil glazed with a sautéed garlic chili sauce ($18). Cast a net around the caterpillar roll—a tightly wrapped union of eel and cucumber with avocado, shrimp, and unagi sauce ($12). The spider roll catches unsuspecting tongues in its web of soft-shell crab and avocado ($11).
Hibachi Sushi's menu teams up traditional Thai dishes, hibachi fare, and sushi hand-rolled to order in a comfortable, casual setting. Guests can kick-start meals with a vegetable spring roll ($1–$1.09) or an order of eight cheese crab wontons ($3.99–$4.99) before continuing culinary journeys with a large hibachi steak and shrimp plate, served with fried rice and sautéed veggies ($8.49–$9.99). A large order of classic chicken pad thai takes taste buds to Thailand ($8.99), and octopus nigiri ($1.99) or dragon rolls stuffed with eel, crab, and cucumber ($8.29) paired with Japanese green ocha tea launch diners on bite-sized ocean odysseys. Today's Groupon is not good for alcohol, and vice versa, as evidenced by the time it woke up in a strange bathtub folded into inappropriate shapes.