Heng’s Kitchen

Almost every mall food court is guaranteed to have one stall serving Chinese food (or an Americanized approximation of it). Often, it’s an outpost of the big chain that is threatening to sue a local enterprise over its name. Sometimes, it’s an independent operation that is locally owned but still adheres to a menu of American Chinese crowd pleasers like General Tso’s chicken and sweet-and-sour pork, all served from steam trays. When a mall specifically caters to a clientele of east Asian ancestry, though, chances are the food court experience will differ. Continue reading “Heng’s Kitchen”

Basilic

The word “basilic” is French for basil, but it also has a meaning of “kingly” or “royal” in certain contexts. Basilic, a Vietnamese restaurant across from the Phoenix Art Museum, seems to incorporate both senses of the word. Of course, there’s plenty of basil since that herb is often used in the cooking of southeast Asia. The restaurant also has a somewhat more upscale feel compared to most Vietnamese restaurants around town, perhaps leading to a slightly regal vibe. The combination of both meanings results in Vietnamese food adapted for the museum district. Continue reading “Basilic”

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”

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”

Zen Thai Cafe (formerly 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 “Zen Thai Cafe (formerly Tom Yum)”

unPhogettable

In late 2008, an old Target store in west Mesa, approximately a quarter mile from the Sycamore / Main light rail station, was reborn as Mekong Plaza, a shopping center targeting the large southeast Asian community along the Dobson Corridor. In the years since, a lot has changed in the restaurant lineup there. After a few false starts and some turnover in tenants, the food court has settled into a steady, bustling state. There have been at least two iterations each of bakeries, bahn mi shops, and boba tea purveyors within the center’s walls. Continue reading “unPhogettable”

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”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑