Sometimes, it’s a soup that becomes a cuisine’s calling card. Vietnam is known for pho, Italy for minestrone, and Russia for borscht. Thailand has its own soups, often served in tureens heated by an open flame and infused with fragrance and flavor from ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger, and coconut milk. Tom Yum, a small local chain of Thai restaurants, takes its name from a popular hot-and-sour soup. It might also help just a bit that the name contains the word “yum,” subtly adding a bit of the wordplay so common in Thai restaurant names. Continue reading “Tom Yum”
Thai restaurants seem to come and go at a high frequency in Phoenix, expanding and contracting in loosely affiliated networks with establishments of the same name owned by different family members or business associates. One local veteran, Thai Rama, has varied its suburban locations over the years but has remained a consistent presence at its original address in central Phoenix. Near the Melrose and Grandview neighborhoods, Thai Rama has stood for several decades in a standalone building a few blocks west of the 7th Avenue / Camelback light rail station. Continue reading “Thai Rama”
The brand new 19th Avenue / Dunlap light rail station, the line’s western terminus until track is extended to MetroCenter in the next decade, is easy to identify by its vibrant public art. In a community plaza built right at the corner, distinctive metal structures descend from an overhead canopy and form varied shadows on the surface below. The metal is painted a color that is not quite yellow, not quite orange, but a sort of golden hue in between. The color might be described in terms of turmeric, the popular spice revered not only for its taste but also its healthful properties. Continue reading “Nawaz Indian Cuisine”
After years in the doldrums, Midtown seems to be enjoying a modest resurgence. In the linear business district along Central between McDowell and Indian School, employers such as Banner have occupied vacant space in office buildings, new residential construction is underway, and coworking spaces have set up shop. In fact, the name “Midtown,” long obscure to residents who thought of everything south of Camelback as “Downtown,” has acquired enough cachet to see its borders stretched, with restaurants as far east as 24th Street using “Midtown” in their names. Continue reading “Wild Thaiger”
In many Asian religions and cultures, the lotus flower has long been associated with purity and beauty. Thai Lotus, a restaurant in a former IHOP that shares a parking lot with a bare-bones strip mall, is definitely not going to be confused with a delicate flower in terms of appearance. The converted chain restaurant has been enlivened on the inside with a little bit of southeast Asian decor, but the outside is still a plain design. Nevertheless, the delicacy and complexity of the food, rather than the aesthetics of the space, are what makes Thai Lotus worth a visit.
Sometimes a restaurant is named for something not even on the menu. At Yasda Bento in Downtown Phoenix, there are no lunches served in the traditional Japanese container known as a “bento.” Instead, the quick-service restaurant is all about Asian-inspired meals served mostly in bowls. The “bento” wording is more a nod to the Japanese influence on the menu than the actual vessel used to serve the food. Authenticity of word use aside, Yasda offers a number of items that could go into a bento box and has earned a steady midday clientele over the past decade.
Every February, Downtown Phoenix’s Heritage Square is home to the Arizona Matsuri, a festival of Japanese culture. Of course, that means dozens of vendors selling popular Japanese-influenced foods like teriyaki. When the tents have been folded and the taiko drumming has stopped, the question then becomes where to enjoy teriyaki the rest of the year. One of the best answers is the Blue Fin, a quick service Japanese restaurant located just a mile to the north, across the street from the McDowell / Central light rail station. Continue reading “The Blue Fin”
When Indian food was less common in the United States, the best place to look for it was almost always near a college campus. Delhi Palace, located just a block east of the University / Rural light rail station near Arizona State University in Tempe, was not quite the first Indian restaurant to open in Phoenix. Nevertheless, since its founding in 1989, the restaurant has operated longer in the same location and under the same ownership than any other. These days, Delhi Palace faces a lot more competition — not only in Tempe, but throughout the metro area.
The corner, a simple geometric concept, has always been larger than life in popular culture. In “Down on the Corner,” Creedence Clearwater Revival sang about playing at an intersection for spare change. A few years later, Barbra Streisand compared memories to the “corners of my mind.” On streets throughout the region, so many corners look the same that an irregular one is interesting in itself. In Tempe, the literally off-the-grid intersection of Terrace and Apache is home to Curry Corner, a Pakistani restaurant that incorporates its location into its name.