When Gene Kobboon arrived in the United States in 1985, he initially sought a career as a commercial artist and took odd jobs in kitchens around Austin to help pay his way through school. He quickly realized he loved his work more than his classes, and switched his focus to becoming a chef. He then opened Thai Passion, combining his love of cooking with his artistic eye.
From his artfully plated Thai dishes to his handmade carvings that deck the walls, Mr. Kobboon's ample artistic talent flourishes throughout the restaurant. Each morning, he arrives at the restaurant with a bundle of fresh orchids and adorns each table with one of the delicate blooms. Golden lighting keeps the restaurant as warm and inviting as its cuisine's spicy aromas, which waft from the kitchen until 3 a.m. catering to late-night partiers and those trying to stay awake late enough to tuck in the moon.
A mouthwatering aroma wafts from Thai Cuisine’s kitchen as chefs douse veggies, pineapple slices, and catfish nuggets in creamy curries. Fresh from the stove, oyster sauce glazes stir-fried beef, mushrooms, and broccoli. Colorful décor complements the menu’s bold flavors: Waiters shepherd brigades of noodle and rice dishes to tables swathed in blue, pink, and yellow, or to buffet tables set against crimson walls. TVs and wide windows occupy eyes during meals, and free Wi-Fi helps mobile devices distract hands from sculpting wrist pillows out of soft tofu.
Satay's cooks fuse a variety of Asian cuisines, serving Thai specialties alongside sushi and fried rice. Patrons are encouraged to partake in the restaurant's BYOB policy, which stands for "bring your owl's binky," lest it disturb other customers with its endless hooting.
From the elegant and elephant-arted confines of their new Southaven restaurant, Bangkok Alley’s Thara and Dottie Burana keep the fresh fish swimming into their lunch and dinner dishes, where they morph into schools of sushi and Thai concoctions both creative and traditional. Starters such as the shrimp hompa—which envelops its shrimp with golden-fried panko and sweet-and-sour sauce ($6)—irrigate parched mouth-deserts to create an inviting climate for the seafood keow han, a mélange of shrimp, scallops, and the fish of the day served in green curry with basil sauce ($20). Otherwise, silence the howls of were-stomachs with heartier fare such as a grilled strip steak and panang sauce served with grilled asparagus and squash ($20), or a panang curry underscored with a coconut base and garnished with chopped Kaffir lime leaf (up to $14 with choice of protein).
Banh mi is the quintessential Vietnamese handheld: layers of meat, crispy cucumbers, jalapeños, Vietnamese mayo, and shredded pickled carrots tucked into a sliced baguette with just a sprinkling of cilantro. This sandwich is one of the specialties at Mekong River Restaurant, where the chefs craft a menu full of authentic Vietnamese and Thai flavors. They toss bean sprouts and peanuts into bowls heaping with pad thai noodles, and stir-fry chicken with Thai chilis, jalapeños, and basil. Vietnamese soups combine noodles and bites of brisket, tripe, and shrimp. Even the desserts offer diners the flavors of Asia, with bowls of fried bananas, sticky rice, and Thai custard.
An extensive menu of authentic Thai cuisine bursts in a frenzy of sour, sweet, and salty flavors at Thai Thai Café. Muffle tummy rumbles with appetizers ranging from a pair of soft spring rolls stuffed with shrimp or tofu ($3.95) to a 12-pack of warm boiled shrimp ($3.95). Thai Thai's entrees ($7.95 for most) enable guests to marry meat with merry noodles and veggies. Options include pairings such as garlic pork, teriyaki chicken, and stir-fried bamboo shoots, with most dishes available with vegan equivalents thanks to tofu, soy-based sauces, and the blessing of an ordained celery stalk. To turn any gathering into a chat worth talking about, simply extend a request for a tall, refreshing, and invigorating glass of thai iced tea or iced coffee ($1.95).