PaPaYa Thai Restaurant’s chicken mango curry won Best Thai Curry 2009 by Phoenix magazine. It brims with the bold, sweet, and spicy flavors of coconut milk, mango, and red-curry paste, further enhanced by sweet basil, lean chicken, and bell peppers, each shaped like a life-size Stanley Cup. It’s testament to the carefully crafted dishes typical of PaPaYa, which serves traditional dishes that alternate between sweet, sour, and salty flavors and feature no MSG. The barbecue grill adds crispiness to chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and salmon, each plated beside thai sticky rice and sides of sweet chili dip or spicy lime sauce. Most dishes can be made vegetarian on request, and PaPaYa’s attentive waiters encourage patrons to pick their preference of spiciness, ranging from mild and medium to thai hot.
To make Thai Basil’s signature dish, chefs sauté the restaurant’s namesake herb with spicy garlic, bamboo shoots, and a variety of vegetables. Thai basil is also found in a bounty of other plates—grilled eggplant brightens beneath its characteristic tang, spicy fried rice takes on a Thai flavor with the herb, and three curry dishes incorporate it in their stews of coconut milk and spices. Tofu, beef, chicken, and a selection of seafood play central roles in the restaurant's selection of rice, noodle, stir-fry, and grill entrees, each conveniently priced by protein rather than individual dish or the number of letters in its name. Dishes find complement in a wide selection of iced and hot teas and traditional desserts, such as sticky purple rice topped with Thai custard.
Chef and owner Tottie Kaya learned from the best: her mother, who was an acclaimed caterer in Laos. At her namesake restaurant, the culinary Renaissance woman crafts Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese dishes, and finishes meals with handcrafted desserts such as mango with sticky rice.
Thai cuisine incorporates an endless range of tiny chile peppers, coconut milks, basil, and other ingredients. Thai Buffet’s chef and owner Lumjuan (Joanne) Ritdej, originally from Puntangchai, Thailand, draws upon 50 years of experience to bring those building blocks together into brightly hued and adventurous dishes. Lemongrass and other herbs may lend their flavor and color to green curries, while pumpkin contributes a sunset palette to red curries with beef. The buffet sprawls across the dining room during mealtimes, and sandwiches brim with American or Thai ingredients.
At Pink Pepper Thai Cuisine, spice whisperers summon sauces such as thai curry and lemon chili to grace plentiful portions of chicken, beef, and veggies. Twelve appetizers such as baked mussels glazed with spicy cream sauce ($8.95) and marinated Chicken on Sticks ($5.95) set the course for meals to come, like explorers on their way to a legendary city made of foie gras. Wreathed in shredded cabbage, the pattaya chicken ($9.95) swims in an ocean of sweet-and-sour garlic sauce spiked with curry powder, and Arizona fried rice ($10.95) steeps its wok-fried grains and veggies in a thai curry paste before chefs toss in beef, chicken, or pork. Patrons can also sip traditional beverages such as thai iced tea and coffee ($2.95) or head to Pink Pepper’s full bar to show off their good posture by balancing glasses of beer and wine on their perfectly level heads.
If Thai authenticity depends on spiciness, Touch of Thai's chefs might as well be in Bangkok. "Lovers of authentic and hot, hot, hot Thai food will love this place," noted VoicePlaces, which quickly recommended such "tongue-singeing" dishes as chicken with yellow curry and shrimp with red curry. In fact, the chefs set diners' choices of chicken, beef, or seafood ablaze with four types of coconut-milk-infused Thai curries, whose spice levels may be adjusted on request. Meanwhile, a whole section of the menu is reserved for vegetarian cuisine, which provides bursts of protein from crispy tofu stir-fried with fresh chili pepper and green beans that have been hitting the gym.