Early each morning, when darkness is still fading from the sky, one of Thai Cuisine Restaurant’s chefs is already wide awake, breathing in the aromas of spices from an asian market. He or she plucks fresh vegetables and traditional ingredients from vendors' stands, selecting flavors for the day’s Thai dishes.
Back at the restaurant, curry sauces as colorful as they are flavorful drench bite-size pieces of meat, seafood, or tofu, which also feature in a variety of soups. Traditional pad thai and lo mein dishes share table space with spicier plates stir-fried with basil leaves, peanut sauce, and bamboo shoots. The accommodating chefs can customize meals according to taste requests, dietary restrictions, or allergies to foods that begin with q.
At Thai Singha, cooks specialize in fusing authentic flavors with meats that aren't typically found in Thai cuisine. Here, cognac-infused red curry coats grilled rack of lamb and housemade curry smothers chunks of alligator. Thai Singha's selection isn't limited to its adventurous signature creations, however. Sweet chili paste spices boneless duck, and cubes of chicken, beef, or pork stud popular dishes such as pad see ewe and drunken noodles. In addition to all these meaty mains, the culinary team also crafts vegetarian versions of pineapple fried rice and lemongrass soup.
Orchard Thai’s menu features well-spiced, authentic Thai dishes. Begin with the Thai summer roll, a montage of lettuce and carrots nestled within vermicelli noodles and served with hoisin sauce and crushed peanuts ($4), or sip your way into satisfaction with the traditional spicy lemongrass soup seasoned with kaffir leaves, lime and chili tamarind oil with chicken, tofu or shrimp ($5). The braised short rib massaman sautés potatoes and bell peppers in a sweet chilli sauce ($25), while the larb chicken lobs minced chicken with spicy red onion, cilantro, scallions, mint and lime into your mouth mitt ($18). Soothe spice-laden palates with Thai iced coffee ($4) or sticky coconut rice crowned with a fleshy slab of mango ($7).
"It took them five years before they would let me handle the fish," says sushi chef Jo Clark about his extensive training. He began his culinary journey at 13 years old and spent a decade in an apprenticeship at the Japanese restaurant Yama. There, he honed an ability to prep rice and sauces, wield a knife, and select sushi-grade fish while shadowing chefs from different regions of Japan. In his spare time, Jo enjoys paddle-surfing and once skillfully maneuvered alongside a lively school of sharks.
At the restaurant, however, he deftly manages cuts of salmon, flounder, hamachi yellowtail, and shellfish to craft more than 40 inventive sushi rolls. He toys with the traditions of sushi, wrapping some rolls with thin slices of European cucumber and creating a sashimi pizza on a tortilla crust. The aromas of ginger, eggplant, and garlic wander from pots of Thai-style dishes in the kitchen and out into dining rooms. Though each location has distinct decor, diners mingle among elements such as exposed-brick bars, hardwood floors, and hanging Japanese paper lanterns in the exciting bright colors of a furious traffic cop viewed through a kaleidoscope.
La Bodeguita de Vero curates a diverse menu of traditional Cuban meals and specialty drinks, served up family style. Stuffed tostones ($7.50) jump-start digestive engines by delivering sizzling jolts of shredded beef, ropa vieja, or beef in salsa criolla. Placate growling stomachs with savory fillets of grilled salmon sidled next to boiled veggies ($13), or tooth-wrestle the fricase de cerdo–tender cuts of pork simmering alongside potatoes in a special Cuban sauce ($13.50). Sandwiches ($6+) volunteer to occupy restless jazz hands with meaty stacks of steak, fish, and chicken. To offset piquant mouthfuls, diners can corral energy-packed gulps of cortadito ($1.50) or a Cuban mango milkshake ($3.50).
Although Thai cuisine typically earns praise for its bold, spicy flavor combinations, the chefs at Red Bamboo Thai Restaurant aim to make their cuisine accessible to all palates, personalizing the level of spice from mild to Thai hot. Using red, green, and yellow curry pastes, the culinarians lend a piquant touch to the fragrant combinations of basil, coconut milk, and scratch-and-sniff bamboo shoots that make up the menu. They also wield sweet and spicy chili sauces to lend dichotomous flavors to entrees such as deep-fried red snapper or prawns.
Although each bite of food features complex combinations of herbs and spices, the dining room embraces a more subdued aesthetic. Earth-toned walls surround the booths and tables, remaining relatively unadorned except for a scattered collection of framed pictures and small tapestries.