Though its food can be fiery, the atmosphere at Mai Thai Restaurant is decidedly cool. Its photographs of serene beaches create a tropical vibe, complemented by sheer curtains billowing between tables and lights twinkling from inside strung netting. Even appetizers of coconut shrimp and crispy calamari transport diners to a scenic shoreline.
Those hoping for something spicy aren't left adrift, however. The staff increases the heat in each dish depending on what number the diner gives them on their spice scale. Those preferring milder fare can ask for a 0-spice plate, while the truly adventurous can select the maximum 4-spice option, or simply ask for their meal served inside a bottle of sriracha sauce. Flavorful curries also follow a spectrum of spiciness, from the sweet Patpong panang to the more intense Bangkok green. And house specialties employ heat in a more literal way?the volcano chicken, for example, arrives sizzling atop a bed of vegetables with plum sauce.
Before emigrating to the US, chef Aomjai Nueakaew perfected her brand of Thai cuisine in Bangkok’s Thai President Hotel. Now, at Jow Nai Fouquet, Nueakaew pays homage to her Southeast-Asian roots with a menu of stir-fries, noodle dishes, and a seafood green curry that Express Milwaukee heralds as “truly exceptional.” Another of the recipes on the menu—an "aromatic rice dish" with "slow-cooked pork and a garlicky secret sauce"—comes from Nueakaew's aunt, who runs a café south of Bangkok, according to [On Milwaukee] (http://www.onmilwaukee.com/dining/articles/jownaifouquet12.html?viewall=1).
Warm, natural-wood tones blend with contemporary design in the restaurant's interior. A bar painted with circuit-like designs serves up Thai beers and mai tais, and angular blue shapes bedeck a polished wood bench.
The Thai Lotus kitchen comes alive at mealtimes, when chefs roll up their sleeves and begin preparing fiery noodles, garlicky stir-fries, and creamy red, green, and yellow curries. The aroma of fresh herbs fills the air as the chefs whip up Thai specialties like volcano chicken and sweet basil duck. The versatile chefs also extend their culinary expertise toward a variety of Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, including tangy orange chicken and simmering pho noodle soups. As the chefs labor in the kitchen, their guests perch on tufted booths, sipping fruity bubble teas and imported beers.
Noodles & Company's cooks unite a diverse menu of Asian, Mediterranean, and American fare with the common thread of the noble noodle. The friendly cooks speedily serve each order, which deliciously bridges the gap between convenience and fine dining with casual fare and a strictly enforced dress code of flip-flops and tuxedos.
While Thai Express satisfies cravings for curry and drunken noodles quickly, they don't sacrifice quality for speed. They craft dishes from traditional recipes and populate their menu with exotic and sweet pineapple curries, pad see eiw with large flat noodles and sweet soy sauce, and healthy mixes of stir fried veggies. All of their plates of authentic Thai food can also be paired with a Thai iced tea or a sweet dessert like mango sticky rice.
Behind a red-brick storefront and striped awning, Viva Le Vine's vintners curate a collection of vintages both affordable and high end, pairing them with cheeses and other finger foods. Wooden racks hoist obsidian bottles of reds and whites, and the wine bar dispenses pours and sampling flights alongside microbrews, seasonal cocktails, and martinis. Cushy, black leather furniture and high-top tables dot the brightly lit interior and an upright piano stands against the wall for impromptu instrumental renditions of Gangsta's Paradise. A painting of colorful donkeys stares down enviously from rich burgundy walls at rich plates of succulent chocolates and naan covered in hearty toppings. The shop hosts live entertainment, numerous tastings, and trivia events throughout the year.