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.
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.
TJ Thai and Japanese Steakhouse?s chefs slice and dice fresh ingredients over hibachi grills in dishes pulled from lunch and dinner menus that include more than 15 traditional sushi rolls. Grill masters craft flame-kissed shrimp, new york strip steak, and mahi-mahi dishes as diners look on, supporting main courses with an entourage of veggies and fried rice. Chefs bundle up compact sushi rolls, including spicy crab jalape?o and vegetable tempura, and pack Japanese lunch with california rolls, fried dumplings, and the ghosts of juice boxes past.
Taste buds stand at attention at Lotus Restaurant, eagerly awaiting zesty Chinese and Thai platters summoned to tables or spicy cuisine snagged from the lunch buffet's daily-rotating trove. Morsels of beef, chicken, or pork bask in hearty ladles of pho noodle soup ($7–$9), laced with crushed garlic and cilantro. For slightly spicier sips, guests can net a medley of shrimp, scallops, mussels, squid, and scantily clad ship figureheads in spoonfuls of the tom yum Talay's hot and sour broth ($15). Golden-fried sweet and sour chicken ($9.50) balances savory flavors against tangy pineapples and assorted veggies, and a roster of curry dishes ranges from peppery green ($11) to sweetened mango ($12).
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.
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).