If you're a Triangle-dwelling Thai food fan, it's likely that you know about Sawasdee Thai Restaurant?it won Indy Week's Best of the Triangle award for Best Thai Cuisine every year from 2007?2011. In 2013, it picked up another honor from the paper: Best Restaurant with Gluten-Free Options. While the Thai chefs at Sawasdee ground the menu in their homeland's culinary traditions?which means the salt comes from fish sauce, the sweetness from palm sugar, and the pucker from tamarind?they're always looking for ways to make them feel fresh and relevant to local diners. That means things such as creating a separate gluten-free menu so no one has to begin their meal simply hunting for a dish that suits their diet. And an extensive vegetarian section leaves out the fish sauce (and egg, if desired), replacing animal products with mixed greens, tofu, and other botanical elements. Naturally, the heat can be adjusted, too, on a scale that starts at "spicy" and tops out at "make-you-cry."
Sawasdee's chefs also give the ingredients themselves extra scrutiny. Even in seasons when fresh herbs are hard to find, they scour suppliers' shelves to make sure they always have authentic seasonings such as galangal and lemongrass on hand. In meat dishes, all-white-meat chicken, large shrimp, beef sirloin, and pork tenderloin bed down on Thai jasmine rice. And at both Sawasdee locations, designers have shown a similar attention to detail in the decor. On Glenwood, a huge compass rose in the ceiling softly lights the dining room's woodwork and trailing succulents and helps curry-intoxicated diners find their way out the door. The location on Capital is less sleek and more cozy, with red walls, traditional carved screens, and even a patio surrounded by dense greenery on all sides.
The multitalented chefs at Café Asia Raleigh draw culinary influences from all over Asia as they devise a menu of cooked entrees and artfully rolled sushi. While sitting in black leather booths or at cherry-wood tables, diners catch whiffs of alluring aromas coming from the kitchen, where culinary wizards conjure up shrimp tempura appetizers, miso soups, and noodle and rice dishes, including lobster pad thai and chicken teriyaki served with steamed vegetables. Flavors from the ocean star in the restaurant’s sushi selection, which includes rainbow rolls with five types of fish and spider rolls with soft-shell crab, avocado, cucumber, and scallions.
Drawing on 25 years working in prominent Thai restaurants, owners Oddy and sister, Kanchana, have lined Thai Cafe's menu with recipes from their home digs of Bangpoo––a village southeast of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. Striving always to balance the four basic Thai tastes of salty, sweet, sour/bitter, and hot, the duo also instills a precise flavor profile through meticulous knife work. Finely cutting ingredients into smaller pieces ensures seasoning coverage, stir-fry crispness, and an ego boost for the self-conscious baby corns.
Butter-hued walls prepare senses for yellow-, red-, and green-curry dishes insulated with tender morsels of chicken and beef. Skilled sushi artists slice sashimi and form hand rolls from yellowtail and tempura shrimp, and chef specialties dispatch from the kitchen with Thai barbecue, crispy catfish, and roasted duck––many of which have been left to marinate or cook overnight. Thai Cafe also conveniently represents each dish's spice level by placing two red peppers beside hot dishes, three beside Thai hot dishes, and an invisible pepper beside secret-recipe dishes for the eatery's magician clientele.
A peek inside Thai Corner Kitchen’s crispy spring rolls reveals an edible tapestry woven from cellophane noodles, cabbage, and mushrooms, all rolled up into thin shells and destined for sweet and sour dipping sauces. The rest of Thai Corner Kitchen’s menu features the same kind of ingenious ingredient mixing, pairing noodles, curry, and rice with Thai herbs and spices and a choice of meat, seafood, or veggies. As diners munch away, natural light streams through dining-room windows and free WiFi sweeps across the room in search of mobile devices to impregnate with its signal.
Though the low-lit amber tones of its dining room create a darkly romantic atmosphere, Singha II Thai Bistro has nothing to hide. In a surprisingly gutsy move, the owners opened a message board on the bistro's website and gave diners free reign to speak their minds. The resulting forum crackles with tips (the chefs keep a stockpile of habanero peppers if you like your curry spicy), recommendations (Mike is a fan of the shrimp with cilantro sauce), and a panoply of plaudits (including "best thai food in nc"). Though the authentic Thai menu features a handful of signature dishes, you probably won't go wrong with the roasted duck basil. The boneless crispy fowl flavored with garlic, chilis, and fresh basil leaves seems to be a real crowd-pleaser.
Each dish at Thai Herb Authentic Thai Cuisine incorporates dozens of fresh ingredients, creating taste profiles that are complex and painstakingly balanced. The chefs adhere to age-old techniques to create such harmonious blends, whether it's by complementing sweet basil with spicy peppers or by brightening the flavors of rich red curry with tropical mango and fresh coconut milk. It takes nearly a full day to craft each curry dish on the menu, meaning that diners should refrain from talking about sports-games outcomes until the chefs can visit their DVRs.