As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.
Tara Thai's sociable staff presents lightly prepared dishes boasting potent aromas that tantalize patrons' olfactory glands with authentic Thai flavors. After practicing chew-and-swallow combinations on an appetizer of peanut-topped fried tofu accompanied by sweet and sour sauce ($4.95–$5.95), mouths can attack entrees including honey-roasted duck ($13.95) and red curry made with chicken, beef, pork ($7.95+), or shrimp ($9.95+). Taste buds can canoodle with noodle arrangements such as pad woon sen, cellophane noodles fried and stirred with shrimp, pork, hu-nu mushrooms, scallions, and egg ($10.95), and a peanut-topped masterpiece known only as pad thai, which can be prepared without egg for vegans or empathetic Humpty Dumpties ($7.95–$9.95). Other vegetarian options include gang jae, mixed veggies and tofu cooked in a traditional green curry ($7.95–$9.50), and veggie fried rice ($7.95–$9.50).
The menu at ThaiDeelish Restaurant may not have chapters or a plot, but it has the heft and scope to rival many a novel. The pages overflow with the ingredients that give character to traditional Thai dishes: basil, pineapple, chili paste, and coconut. Most of the dishes move diners to bring out their Magic 8 Balls in order to decide among chicken, beef, pork, or vegetables and tofu, flavored with sauces of garlic and oyster or roasted chili. Predecided pairings include crispy pork with basil as well as honey-roasted duck with sautéed broccoli.
As diners sink their pitchforks into steaming jasmine rice or tangles of noodles, they can soak in the dining room’s atmosphere, made cheery by sunflower-yellow walls decorated with snapshots of flowers and temples .
Spices has clean, modern lines and an open sushi bar where diners can enjoy a visual feast while feasting. Chef Jessie Yan's menu features contemporary and home-style Asian recipes. Start with Sichuan Dragon Dumplings (chicken, watercress, and shiitake mushrooms, $6) before launching an all-out consumption attack on an unsuspecting specialty maki Dancing Eel roll (barbecue eel, crabstick, masago, avocado, and cucumber, $11) or the green curry (chicken, beef, or pork swimming in rich, creamy coconut curry with eggplant and basil, served in a brass wok; lunch $11, dinner $13). For large appetites, the big duck roasted and served with pancakes, cucumbers, scallions, and plum sauce (half duck $15, whole $30) is capable of occupying most unused stomach storage, while a zesty grilled dish such as the Vietnamese grilled shrimp, served with a Vietnamese spring roll, lettuce, cucumber, mint, and roasted peanuts over vermicelli (lunch $12, dinner $14) gently tucks hunger under a culinary blanket.
At Burapa Thai's two locations in Arlington and Leesburg, the dishes on the menu tantalize with a fragrant cocktail of spices. The aromas of marinated beef mingle with those of honey, Thai herbs, and garlic, and crispy duck crackles sharply beneath sauce and basil leaves. Waiters pass through the dining room toting plates that highlight seafood and shrimp as well as lard na, a type of wide rice noodle. With steam from curries melding coconut, shrimp, and eggplant, chefs behind Burapa's sushi bar roll up eel and salmon held together by seaweed like Robinson Crusoe’s flat-screen TV. Amid the Arlington location’s booths, abstract tile work, and rich wood paneling, guests admire fresh-cut flowers.