Diana Chauvin, born to a Thai mother and a Cajun father, spent much of her childhood in the kitchen of the family restaurant. The traditional southeastern Asian comfort foods her mother cooked there eventually inspired Diana to pursue a culinary career and open her own restaurant: La Thai Uptown. There, she designed the menu as a sort of edible family tree, conveying her ties to both Thailand and Louisiana. And this approach has garnered plenty of accolades, including Gambit magazine's award for Best Thai Restaurant in 2013 and best restaurant from other publications.
Diana?first runner-up in the 2011 Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off?showcases her ability to lend Thai entrees a Cajun twist by preparing Panko-crusted chilean seabass with jumbo lump crabmeat and a spicy, coconut-tinged green curry. On the other hand, the restaurant's fried duck confit features a finishing touch: a sweet and spicy garlic-chili sauce.
La Thai Uptown's space is as contemporary as its approach to cooking, too. Lengths of fabric dangle above guests' heads, converging into a central, tent-like apex and surrounding a chandelier-like fixture of strung crystals. Similar strands of crystal hang over the long brick bar, which sits opposite the front dining area's collection of tables and human-sized pneumatic tubes to Bangkok.
The chefs at SukhoThai evoke the streets and kitchens of Thailand with balanced dishes that spotlight fresh and exotic ingredients. In addition to bowls of sinuous egg and rice noodles, they craft panang curry filled with strips of pan-fried duck breast, fresh coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves. Waterfall beef mingles with chiles, roasted rice powder, and mint, and the steamed fish of the day swims in garlicky lime or whiskey ginger sauce. SukhoThai also rotates seasonal specials?including a recent collection inspired by Bangkok street food?through their menu on a regular basis.
Sukho's original Marigny location is housed in a vibrant-yellow building bedecked with red and blue trim. The Uptown location resides in a polished warehouse-style space, where exposed-brick walls surround long, buttery banquettes. Beneath a peaked ceiling, glowing paper lanterns hang in a cluster from metal beams.
Thai Pepper spicys up evenings with authentic Thai cuisine served with a plethora of fresh vegetables and herbs, minimal oil, and extra-lean meat. Feasting begins at 5 p.m. with the clanging of the bell pepper, ushering in dinner-menu options such as the papaya salad ($7.25), a dynamic duo of papaya and carrots flying high with lime juice, roasted peanuts, and fresh chili. Rice gangs stick together, staking out their turf on the entrees, all of which can be made-to-order with meat staples such as chicken, pork, or beef ($9.75 each), shrimp or combo entrees ($11.95 each), fish ($12.75), vegetables, or vegetables and tofu ($8.95 each). Cuisine conquerors can wash down hearty meals with imported beers ($3.75), such as the Sapporo from Japan or the Tsingtao from China, or the house wine ($3.25/glass), which comes in chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and white zinfandel incarnations.
Head Chef Cristina Trinh of Sara's Bistro honors the traditions of New Orleans with her menu of seasonal and local products, but not in the way one might think. While the menu does include staples, such as crab salads and pork chops with praline pecan sauce, the chef gets a kick out of throwing in a few twists—dishes like coconut curry tofu with homemade tofu, braised curry-spiced lamb shanks "Osso Bucco", or crawfish spring rolls with sweet chili oyster sauce. It’s this inventiveness that defines Sara’s Bistro, which seeks to honor not only New Orleans’ Creole heritage but also its history as a port city for international travelers and their travel sporks.