For Shelly Nan, the decision of whom to put in the kitchen of her new restaurant, Bambu Asian Cuisine, was a simple one—her mother. Together, the pair has created a home-like ambiance that draws patrons and wayward teddy bears almost as much as the food. Dallas Observer food critic Hanna Raskin gushed that the “warmhearted owners and servers will explain everything to you (including, by your second visit, your own likes and dislikes).” Nan had connections to the defunct Sushi Rock, and some of its Japanese-style dishes made it to Bambu. However, the heart of Bambu’s menu is Esan-style cuisine, regional specialties from the northeastern part of Thailand. Some dishes spell out their affiliation—as with the Esan waterfall beef salad tossed with cilantro, fresh mint, scallions, red onion, and crushed, toasted rice—while others sneak it in. Dallas Morning News columnist Leslie Brenner said the Esan dishes “set [her] heart aflutter,” particularly the crying tiger beef with sticky rice, whose grains can be balled up and used to pick up both the beef slices and citrus-chili sauce. Like Raskin, Brenner also became quite attached to chef Bounmee Nanthaphak, admitting that “if someone condemned me to a desert island with only three ingredients, I’d ask if we could make it two ingredients and include Bounmee Nanthaphak to cook them.”
With green curries, vibrant orange shrimp, and a rainbow of veggies, Sawadika—the Thai word for “hello”—introduces eyes and mouths to the beauty and flavor of traditional Thai cuisine. Past polished wooden booths and earth-toned walls that alternate between a laddered wood pattern and a sea of pinks and creams, past paintings of sailboats and gardens, past a granite-topped bar with wine glasses dangling above, the chefs combine their spices and herbs like artists, dappling plate canvases with a menu of curries, noodle bowls, and seafood. They sauté salmon and catfish in coconut milk and curry, and they stir-fry meats in housemade sauces such as fragrant lemongrass and tangy sesame, creating balanced meals and edible portraits of their customers dressed in royal costumes. They also celebrate the sweeter side of Thai cuisine with desserts such as mango sticky rice and coconut ice cream.
Asian Mint is a fusion restaurant in every sense of the word. The menu looks to many points east for its selection of sushi, Thai, and Chinese dishes, but also encompasses Western flavors with Italian illy coffee and specialty desserts. The cooks also mind their diner's dietary needs—the shrimp and chicken pad thai, for example, comes in four styles: traditional, woon sen (with low-carb clear noodles), no sen (noodle-free), or crispy (scattered with wonton strips). Other house specialties include grilled salmon curry, garlic quail, and cashew-chicken stir-fry. For dessert, Asian Mint’s signature green-tea ice-cream cake reigns as the most popular choice. But no matter which dish entices you, rest assured it was crafted responsibly—Asian Mint enlists eco-friendly practices, such as packing food in biodegradable containers, recycling used frying oil, and using heaters that run on sriracha.
The diverse flavors of India and Pakistan come together in a culinary fusion that can be sampled at Shamiyana. That's because at lunch time, chefs whip up their favorite spicy dishes to fill out their daily lunch buffet or weekend dinner buffet. They use both spicy, sweet, and creamy flavors, which have all the necessary ingredients to satiate cravings or create a chart-topping pop group.
Not every restaurant is inaugurated by the mayor. But in June 1999, Scott Wheeler used his mayoral gravitas to help celebrate the opening of Thai Orchid Restaurant. The eatery's auspicious beginnings accurately reflect its involvement in the community. Today, Thai Orchid Restaurant not only serves the neighborhood with a menu of Thai-style basil duck, sautéed beef in oyster sauce, and chicken with cashew nuts, it is also a member of the Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce.