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 “Zen Thai Cafe (formerly 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”
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”
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.
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”