Having developed his expertise in Thai gastronomy in Thailand, Colorado, and New York City over the course of more than 20 years, chef Chai Chunton now flaunts his culinary skills in Lotus Thai Restaurant & Bar. Vines of steam rise from time-tested noodle, vegetarian, meat, and seafood dishes, curling toward nostrils with the hot, sour, sweet, and salty notes of the region's cookery. Adorned by a design team from Thailand, the lounge's dining room is laced with leather booths, ornate Eastern flourishes, and antique chopstick sharpeners. Against the sonic backdrop of occasional evening DJ sets, events in a private room launch the sounds of revelry against exposed-brick walls and a collaborative painting by acclaimed artists Pairoj Pichetmetakul and Kittisak Chontong.
Cuisine Type: Japanese and Asian fusion
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Number of Tables: 11–25
Parking: Metered street parking
Alcohol: Beer and wine only
Delivery / Take-out Available: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No
Pro Tip: Never try, never know
At ASEA Fusion, the chef and kitchen staff don't craft flavorful fusion cuisine simply to pander to their many customers' cravings. To them, melding culinary traditions is about taking the tastiest delicacies each culture has to offer and elevating them to a gourmet level. That's why their menu boasts a large assortment of Japanese dishes and well as recipes from Southeast Asia. Japan's representation comes in the form of sushi, udon, teriyaki, and yakitori––grilled meats and veggies served on sticks. But diners are also delighted to find Malaysian staples such as shrimp sauteed in a spicy paste, Vietnamese lemongrass chicken, and an assortment of Thai curries.
Formed of exposed brick and flowing fuchsia drapery, the modern, Zagat-rated Beet Thai has garnered a mélange of press for its distinct lunch and dinner dishes, which borrow select flavors from the culinary powerhouses of France and Japan. Steaming starters of crab and shrimp cool in savory chili-peanut & plum dipping sauces, and entrees utilize champagne, bamboo, and mango to ramp up pork chops and crispy duck.
The seasoned kitcheneers at Mango Thai Restaurant dish out a menu of both classic and creative Thai dishes augmented by a selection of beer and wine. Stretch out mouths before the big game with the crispy spring rolls ($3.95) or the peanuty chicken satay ($5.95). Six selections of fried rice, including the green-curry variety, dotted with bell pepper, green beans, and carrots, come with a choice of 10 herbivorous, carnivorous, and vociferous proteins that include seitan, salmon, and crispy duck ($7.50–$9.95). Diners can cast a net over the royal spice red snapper wading in a house-roasted chili sauce ($13) or ingest one of the eatery's copious vegetarian dishes, such as the Bok Choi 101, a classroom of brown sauce where seitan-based vegetarian duck or tofu tidbits learn the basics of the nutritious green ($8.50).
Though its name leaves no question about its place of origin, Born Thai has found a comfortable home in Prospect Heights. The restaurant’s décor reflects the neighborhood’s up-and-coming hipness, with clusters of bare light bulbs that illuminate metallic walls. Far more important than any decorations, however, is the food, which can be described as a modern approach to traditional Thai cuisine. Crispy duck rolls and crab cakes headline the menu of appetizers; both dishes set the stage nicely for main attractions of tofu covered with tamarind and shrimp sautéed in a sweet pumpkin-basil sauce. Adventurous eaters would be wise to listen to Jill Weiskopf, the New York Magazine writer who promises they “will find their nirvana in the fiery drunken noodles.” Rather than carry around a burdensome fire extinguisher, just order a creamy thai iced tea following the meal. And if that’s not enough to cool you down, there’s always a fried banana served with ice cream.
Mee Thai caters to Asian fare aficionados with an extensive menu of authentic Thai cuisine. Proverbially spring into lush feasting with an order of genuinely springy spring rolls, vegetarian rundles served with plum sauce ($5.95), or try a bowl of Tom Kha Gai, a chicken-based concoction that amalgamates coconut milk, red pepper, mushroom, and lime juice for an alluring dish that doubles as a scrumptious soup and an alternative source of fuel ($5.50). Herbivores can satiate their penchant for poultry with the vegetarian duck Pad Si Ew, a traditional flat-noodle dish served with faux fowl and Chinese broccoli, ($8.95), and meat eaters can indulge in the same, but with real duck ($15.95). Mee Thai provides fish-based dishes for seafood savants, such as the Tilapia Lad Prik, a helping of deep fried tilapia baptized in a ginger tamarind sauce ($12.95). Supplement Thai spreads with a warming cup of Hot Pot Tea, which comes in green, jasmine, or ginger flavors ($3).