Sweet basil, chili sauces, and ginger cast their scents throughout the dining room at Thai Palms, providing an olfactory glimpse of the intricately spiced menu. The curries range from mild yellow broth to spicy green varieties. Bamboo-skewered morsels of chicken, beef, and prawns line the grill tops, and rolls of fried rice paper surround cores of herb-accessorized proteins.
Owners Tom and Alin Prom source fruits and vegetables for their Thai and Laotian dishes from farmers' markets and harvest fresh lemongrass and galangal from the Alin's sister's local garden. The fresh ingredients come together in elaborate salads, curries, and meat dishes with the option of vegetarian substitutions. After flavor, presentation is paramount: papaya salad piles upward in a delicate tower, and pineapple fried rice arrives in a hollowed pineapple or in the midst of a pineapple bush. Floral arrangements, Southeast Asian artwork, and golden tablecloths complement the colors of vibrant lunch and dinner entrees.
Serving up eclectic Thai cuisine, The Orchid boasts an extensive menu of modern and traditional culinary creations. Stop in to sample scrumptious noodle and rice dishes made with a choice of tofu, chicken, beef, or shrimp, such as the kai kua with noodles, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, lettuce, and scallions ($8–$10). Or, nosh on panang curry ($10–$12)—a spicy red-curry coconut sauce with bell peppers and kaffir lime leaves—and titillate the exotic taste buds of a temerarious tongue. Diners can commence conversations about the artistic merits of Oreos: The Movie with a duck roll, an appetizer of roasted bird meat, cucumber, carrots, and green onions swathed in a flour tortilla and served with hoisin sauce. Kick back amid the relaxing, contemporary décor, enjoy a drink at the self-serve wine bar, order up some deliciously raw fish at the sushi bar, and entertain friends with a slew of teary-eyed, wasabi-related dares.
At first glance, the menu of Restaurant Open might appear simple and static with a selection of sandwiches and burgers. This, however, is only half of the story. Each day, the restaurant's chefs post daily specials, and here is where the restaurant shines. Not only do they "freestyle" improvised, off-the-menu dishes after conversing with patrons, but they also mingle in nearby markets and chat up vendors, looking for interesting ingredients to convert into the specials for that day's morning and afternoon. A quick browse through a photostream shows off delectable selections. Tri-tip filets sizzle on a grill, ready to be cut and put into tortas, sandwiches, or the mouths of passersby. Noodles swirl with veggies and sesame oil to be converted into lo mein, while fresh cuts of fish and whole lobsters rest on ice. Other specials—detailed on the restaurant's whiteboard—include meatball sandwiches and honey batter-dipped corn dogs.
Though passed down through several generations, the family recipes that serve as the basis of Thai Chefs Restaurant’s menu retain the delicate balance of sweetness and spice that characterizes Thai cuisine. Other influences that span Southeast Asia also show up across the menu, whether in colorful curries or stir-fried noodle and rice dishes that blend vegetables with your choice of chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. When they aren’t dousing short ribs in their house-made barbecue sauce, the restaurant’s chefs craft vegetarian entrees around strips of silky tofu or marinated animal crackers.
The casual dining room seemingly draws its inspiration from the profusion of steamy curries on its tables. Swathes of pale yellow and bright red enshroud the walls, which play host to stenciled artworks depicting tropical-island motifs. Helical sculptures dangle from the ceiling’s tiles, turning in the breeze that passes through the restaurant every time the door opens or the dragon napping in the air ducts sneezes.