Pho Nhat

The unassuming Tempe Towne Plaza shopping center has long been home to restaurants serving foods from all over the globe. Indian, Somali, pizza — all those cuisines and more are crammed into this strip mall, which is just a block north of the University / Rural light rail station. The Vietnamese food niche here is filled by Pho Nhat, or maybe it’s just Nhat, given that the word “Pho” is part of the restaurant’s name on the menus but not on the outside sign. Let’s just call it (Pho) Nhat and acknowledge that its speciality is indeed pho, the rice noodle soup of Hanoi. Continue reading “Pho Nhat”

Khai Hoan

In diverse communities like Tempe, it’s not uncommon to have restaurants and grocers of entirely different geographic origins coexisting side-by-side in the same shopping center. Khai Hoan, a small Vietnamese restaurant, occupies a small retail plaza with a Mexican carniceria and a Middle Eastern restaurant as its neighbors. The location is on Apache Boulevard between the Dorsey / Apache and McClintock / Apache light rail stations. Although the restaurant is almost exactly halfway between both platforms, the walk is more pleasant from Dorsey. Continue reading “Khai Hoan”

Asian Cafe Express

For the past ten years, the Dobson Road corridor in Mesa and Chandler has been the scene of explosive growth in Asian restaurants and groceries. Most recently, the trend has been toward regional Chinese cooking with the opening of several eateries that specialize in food traditions from corners of China less familiar to American diners. At the same time, several restaurants devoted to Cantonese fare, the style of Chinese food best known in the United States, have closed after decades in central Phoenix, perhaps suggesting that Cantonese food is in decline. Continue reading “Asian Cafe Express”

Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine

After years of delayed hopes, Mesa’s small but charming downtown is beginning to see a wave of new development. Co+Hoots, the Phoenix-based coworking space, is on the way, and one proposal envisions a 15-story tower on a site currently used for parking. Close to all the action sits one long-running Downtown Mesa restaurant, Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine. Nunthaporn’s, which takes it names from founder Nunthaporn Treekamol, is growing as well with the recent addition of a second dining room to complement the restaurant’s original shoebox-style space. Continue reading “Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine”

Tom Yum

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 Rama

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”

Mekong Palace

Mekong Plaza, the shopping center in west Mesa that caters to shoppers of east Asian heritage, as well as the adventurous of all ethnicities, is so many things at once: a collection of restaurants and food vendor talls, a supermarket and specialty food shops, and a place to get one’s hair cut or nails done. It’s no surprise then that one of its namesake tenants, Mekong Palace, is three (or more restaurants) in one. Located at the north end of the building just beyond the food court, Mekong Palace has several distinct ways for customers to approach its mostly Cantonese food. Continue reading “Mekong Palace”

Thai Lotus

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.

Continue reading “Thai Lotus”

China Chili

Third Street may be the Rodney Dangerfield of Central Phoenix. For many drivers, it’s just a less congested alternative to Central Avenue or Seventh Street. Although it passes by elegant historic districts such as Alvarado and Ashland Place, the street itself gets almost “no respect” because relatively few businesses or institutions lie along its length. One exception is China Chili, which despite an official mailing address on Flower Street, faces Third Street. The restaurant’s Midtown location is about a third of a mile east of the Osborn / Central light rail station. Continue reading “China Chili”

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