Thai Basil Signature

With cursive handwriting no longer emphasized in some schools and many documents now signed digitally instead of with pen and ink, it’s easy to wonder if signatures still have the same significance they once had. Even if many people now sign their names with block letters, the concept of a signature still has some prestige. That’s why some credit cards have “signature” in their brand names. In downtown Phoenix, one facet of the Thai Basil group of restaurants incorporates “signature” into its name, resulting in Thai Basil Signature on Adams Street. Continue reading “Thai Basil Signature”

Blue Fin

There’s a section of Phoenix announced on the train as a “cultural district.” Signs on the I-10 off-ramp at 7th Street point to an “arts district” in the same area. For decades, this part of town, also sometimes called the “Midtown Museum District,” has been defined by major cultural institutions such as the Burton Barr Library and the Phoenix Art Museum. The space between these attractions has largely been vacant lots. One exception is Blue Fin, a quick service Japanese restaurant located across the street from the McDowell / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Blue Fin”

Hue Gourmet

There’s one sure way to tell when any nation’s cuisine has become mainstream in the United States: It occurs the moment the cognoscenti start differentiating between the cuisines of the country’s various regions. With Italian food, those distinctions have existed for decades. Popular “red sauce” Italian has its roots in immigrant traditions from Sicily and southern Italy, while northern Italian fans might celebrate risotto and osso bucco. The same has happened more recently with Chinese restaurants branching out beyond familiar Cantonese classics. Continue reading “Hue Gourmet”

PT Pho Express (formerly PT Noodles)

Follow the light rail tracks west along Camelback Road from Central to 19th Avenue, and a rapid transition occurs. Uptown, the area centered around Central and Camelback is predominantly white and a magnet for upscale businesses, both local and national. 19th Avenue is a multi-ethnic corridor with some of the best bargains to be found in local dining. The area in between is transitional, and one restaurant located there, PT Noodles, seems to fit well in that zone with an approach halfway between Americanized familiarity and Vietnamese authenticity.

Continue reading “PT Pho Express (formerly PT Noodles)”

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”

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