Every morning, the chefs at D'O Thai Cottage leave plates of Thai food by the front door as an offering to the spirits and an enticement to corporeal beings. Lured in for a meal, one food critic at the San Diego Uptown News found delight in the Crying Tiger's tender slivers of new york strip steak fanned over lettuce and served with a fiery garlic fish sauce—he recommends doling out the sauce in quantities "fierce enough to bring tears to a tiger’s eye."
Elsewhere on the menu, D'O Thai Cottage's chefs express their love of duck with sonnets scrawled in the margins and three different duck recipes: fried and topped in peanut sauce, ladled in a spicy pineapple curry, or sealed in a honey glaze that crisps the skin. Wok chefs fry up Thailand's version of comfort fare, sautéing vegetable stir-fries and rice noodles in thai basil and sweet peanut sauce. Bartenders cool off tongues with cocktails, Asian beer, and wine from Robert Mondavi and Beringer.
Inside the restaurant, fuchsia and tangerine banners hang from white rafters, and hovering cherubim keep their youth by bathing in the steam rising from bowls of curry. The ceiling angles up to a mezzanine, contributing to the airy feel created by the first floor's large mirrors and a row of french doors looking onto the street.
Colossal cuisine portions tip the scales of both locations' menus. The fresh spring rolls ($5.50) burst at their rice-paper seams with vegetables, tofu, and shrimp and come served with a peanut sauce, perfect for dipping and liquid-diet elephants. Poultry patrons can cast a vote for the panang curry chicken ($7.50), which mixes coconut milk with sweet, spicy, and thick curry, adorned with plump bell peppers, sweet pineapple, and affable basil. In the realm of classic tastes, the pad see iew ($7.50) allows noncommittal noodlers the choice of thin rice noodles or flat noodles with a savory synthesis of chicken, broccoli, carrots, egg, and sweet black sauce. The kitchen team can spicy up your dish as sweltering as your devil-may-care tongue can handle, and in emergencies, smoldering stamp-lickers can be extinguished with a tasty Thai iced tea ($1.95).
In World Curry's kitchen, cooks have spent the last 17 years working to perfect their curry dishes. Drawing from a store of ingredients gathered from distant nations, the team develops 13 varieties of curry, including brown curry from Japan and red Mussaman curry from northern Thailand. Patrons can also dip their utensils into the Bali beef brisket or fill water balloons with the Caribbean curry, a vegan treat that combines black beans, corn, tomatoes, and pineapple.
Pots filled with yellow, red, and green curries simmer in Ivory Thai Cuisine’s kitchen, waiting to be ladled into bowls alongside slices of chicken or tofu. The curries, a staple of Thai cuisine, arrive on tables next to plates of veggie pad thai packed with carrots, broccoli, and thin brown noodles, all of which have been doused in a special house sauce.
Hailing from Bangkok, the owners of La Basil Thai Cuisine treat guests to the flavors of their home with authentic recipes that balance fresh herbs and jasmine rice with meats and vegetables. After chopping up fragrant vegetables or preparing a sauce, chefs put together plates such as pad thai or sweet and spicy panang curry loaded with a choice of meat, tofu, vegetables, or seafood. Like the best chefs and the worst traffic directors, the kitchen staff adds their own flair to classic flavors by adding crispy salmon to fried rice or topping roast duck with sweet chili sauce.
At Rama, the scents of ginger, curry, and lemongrass waft from the kitchen. They meander into a sprawling dining space, where warm amber lighting glints off glasses filled with heady cocktails and fine wines. A DJ spins records as diners anticipate a taste of the critically-acclaimed dishes; the restaurant's recipes have earned accolades from Zagat, among others. Noodle dishes, such as pad see ew with egg and chinese broccoli, headline the menu along with complex panang curries, whose nuanced spices flavor tofu and vegetables or meats like roasted duck. Specialties include spicy basil lobster and Shaking Beef, whose cubed rib eye, cherry tomatoes, shallots, and onions are sautéed deep within a fault line.
Servers distribute these dishes in an "architecturally stylish" dining room, as described by Gayot. Inlaid stone and a wall-mounted waterfall give the space an earthy vibe that's complemented by gauzy curtains and hand-painted murals.