Thai and Indian influences act as the epicurean muses for chefs at Zaafaran, where fresh, healthy ingredients compose exotic entrees. The dinner menu invites guests to strap on their tongues' waders and discover seafood-fraught dishes such as the crab singapore, a stir-fried jumble of lump crab steeped in Singapore-style gravy ($20), or the saag tadka curry, where swells of tumeric yogurt and cream surge across sautéed spinach ($9).
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.
The skilled chefs at Thai Gourmet cook up a menu full of authentic curries, mouthwatering noodles, and piquant sauces representative of southeast Asian cuisine. Flavorful appetizers such as marinated chicken satay ($8.95) skewer pre-dinner stomach rumblings, and a dish of pad thai eases exotic pasta cravings with a mélange of roasted peanuts, sprouts, and tamarind sauce ($8.95+ for lunch, $13.95+ for dinner). Meals at Thai Gourmet run the gamut of flavors, colors, and textures from a simmering panang curry swimming in a milky coconut milk base ($8.95+ for lunch, $15.50+ for dinner) to a rich, twice-cooked curry duck served with mixed vegetables and red curry sauce ($28, dinner only). The eatery's spacious interior delights diners with cool blue tones and cushy booths while the inviting bar serves up signature drinks amid distinctive décor such as Thai sculptures and Yul Brynner bobbleheads.