Best Thai’s founder and chef, Booney, possesses Thai cooking skills that are a little bit highbrow, a little bit homegrown. Her first culinary experiences took place in the family kitchen, where her father passed down the recipes and cooking styles he had learned from his own parents. She soon refined those skills in the kitchens of the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel. With this two-pronged approach, she devises menus—which vary by restaurant location—brimming with pad thai, pineapple fried rice, and panang curries swimming with meat and veggies.
Most people don't like to admit when they should adjust their attitudes, but the customers at Blu Ginger Thai Cafe welcome "attitude adjustors" with open mouths. These appetizer dishes hope to change a group's day for the better through the likes marinated chicken-satay skewers or a tower of fish patties served with sweet-tangy sauce. This playfulness with names and Thai flavors extends to the rest of the menu, which includes "curious curries" and "slurpers:" over-sized soups such as Cinnamon Bull beef noodle. Other dishes highlight the restaurant's eponymous ingredient. Take the Ginger Bell for example, for which chefs stir fry the root with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and carrots.
Whether it's roasted duck or basil fried rice, the chefs can prep the dish to one of four spice levels, from mild to very hot. The only other question is where to devour these Thai flavors?perhaps out on the patio or beneath hanging lamps at a casual table for two, the perfect place to take a full-length mirror for a date.
On any given day, Piman Asian Bistro?s chefs cook piles upon piles of noodles for the eatery?s Asian dishes. They add a helping of spice for drunken noodles, pan-fry noodles and veggies, and pair pad thai with crushed peanuts. They also craft a number of noodle-free meals in the kitchen, including beef and salmon flavored with oyster sauce, green curry, or a teriyaki glaze.
Beyond the twinkling string lights that frame Thai Jasmine's front windows, traditional tapestries dollop the cream walls as framed artwork of bronze elephants stares down at cozy booths. But decorative flourishes take a back seat when waiters begin to drop off steaming noodle and rice dishes?all available vegetarian or vegetarian-repellant by request. Alongside steaming crocks of hot and sour soup lay morsels of flame-kissed chicken, beef, and shrimp amped up with coconut milk, sweet-and-sour sauce, or several varieties of curry. After polishing off the last Thai-style chicken wing, patrons can retreat to the gated outdoor patio for a banana sundae with fried ice cream.
With green curries, vibrant orange shrimp, and a rainbow of veggies, Sawadika—the Thai word for “hello”—introduces eyes and mouths to the beauty and flavor of traditional Thai cuisine. Past polished wooden booths and earth-toned walls that alternate between a laddered wood pattern and a sea of pinks and creams, past paintings of sailboats and gardens, past a granite-topped bar with wine glasses dangling above, the chefs combine their spices and herbs like artists, dappling plate canvases with a menu of curries, noodle bowls, and seafood. They sauté salmon and catfish in coconut milk and curry, and they stir-fry meats in housemade sauces such as fragrant lemongrass and tangy sesame, creating balanced meals and edible portraits of their customers dressed in royal costumes. They also celebrate the sweeter side of Thai cuisine with desserts such as mango sticky rice and coconut ice cream.
For Shelly Nan, the decision of whom to put in the kitchen of her new restaurant, Bambu Asian Cuisine, was a simple one—her mother. Together, the pair has created a home-like ambiance that draws patrons and wayward teddy bears almost as much as the food. Dallas Observer food critic Hanna Raskin gushed that the “warmhearted owners and servers will explain everything to you (including, by your second visit, your own likes and dislikes).” Nan had connections to the defunct Sushi Rock, and some of its Japanese-style dishes made it to Bambu. However, the heart of Bambu’s menu is Esan-style cuisine, regional specialties from the northeastern part of Thailand. Some dishes spell out their affiliation—as with the Esan waterfall beef salad tossed with cilantro, fresh mint, scallions, red onion, and crushed, toasted rice—while others sneak it in. Dallas Morning News columnist Leslie Brenner said the Esan dishes “set [her] heart aflutter,” particularly the crying tiger beef with sticky rice, whose grains can be balled up and used to pick up both the beef slices and citrus-chili sauce. Like Raskin, Brenner also became quite attached to chef Bounmee Nanthaphak, admitting that “if someone condemned me to a desert island with only three ingredients, I’d ask if we could make it two ingredients and include Bounmee Nanthaphak to cook them.”