Arun’s Thai Restaurant

Exterior

Bar

Interior

Interior

Cocktails

App 1

App 2

App 3

Tuna

Lemon grass soup

Vermicelli

Snapper

Lobster

Scallop

Beef

Dessert 1

Crepe

**** (4 stars)

I’ve had many tasting menus and I’ve had many Thai meals, but I’ve never had a Thai tasting menu, so it what great fun to visit Arun’s, where you get to taste modern variations on many classic dishes.

We began with some of the very thoughtful cocktails, which were a cut above average, even in very cocktail-oriented Chicago.

The twelve-course menu begins with many courses that are just one bite, although it’s often a very large bite. One of my favorites was the first course, a betel leaf with a complex assemblage surmounted by coconut.

Everyone’s favorite course of the meal was the last of the starters, an extraordinarily flavorful lemongrass broth served from a miniature teapot.

Four main courses were served family style. The best of these was the Massaman beef curry. Also good were the lobster and scallop. The only real miss of the evening was the snapper in sweet Thai chili sauce, a fairly conventional Thai dish, and this one wasn’t as crispy or interesting as the traditional version.

We finished with two desserts, both fruit-based, that were a refreshing conclusion.

On the whole, we felt that every single course was beautiful, and quite a few were extremely delicious. A few didn’t quite live up to their exotic appearance but were pleasant nonetheless.

One of us had the wine pairing with the dinner. There were some interesting wines and some good matches, but if you’re knowledgeable about wine I think you will do better ordering off the interesting, extensive and well-priced list. The sommelier was quite personable and informative.

Our waiter was also very friendly, and the many members of the serving staff all took pride in their fine restaurant.

Arun’s Thai Restaurant
4156 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 539-1909
http://www.yelp.com/biz/aruns-thai-restaurant-chicago

Dao Thai

Interior

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

This is a good choice for traditional Thai cuisine, better than the River North options.

The interior is open, and very nicely decorated, with conventional tables and also ones where you can pretend you’re sitting on the floor (although you’re not).

We tried the Vietnamese spring rolls, gyoza, Massaman curry, Pad Thai, and a beef and mushroom dish. All were good.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Dao Thai
230 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 337-0000
https://www.yelp.com/biz/dao-thai-chicago

Star of Siam

*** (3 stars)

This is a satisfactory Thai restaurant. It’s not going to change your life, but if you’re in the area and have a hankering for Thai, it’s a fine choice.

Ironically enough, the best dish we had was the Vietnamese spring rolls. They had a nice combination of basil and mint, and were very fresh. It was nice that they had been cut into bite-sized pieces, and they were served with an excellent sweet and chunky peanut sauce topped with scallions and laced with Sriracha.

Massaman curry was also fine, with a nice coconut base and plenty of whole peanuts. There were lots of shrimp in the version I had, and a few chunks of potato and pineapple. No peppers, but instead cherry tomatoes, which seemed an odd choice.

The beef salad had some great flavors, but the beef was really too tough to be appealing, and almost too tough to eat.

Service was very fast and friendly, and the decor is open and interesting.

Star of Siam
11 E Illinois St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 670-0100
http://www.yelp.com/biz/star-of-siam-chicago

Pop Thai Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This is a nicely decorated space with very friendly service. The food is serviceable Thai. We tried a couple of lunch dishes and an appetizer, and although there were no standouts, everything was fine.

My favorite items were actually the soup and salad that came with the lunch. It was a particularly flavorful version of chicken rice soup, and the salad dressing had a nice mix of peanut and a minty flavor that elevated it above the usual peanut sauce.

I wasn’t a fan of one herb used in the potstickers and spring rolls. It was a flavor not usually encountered in these.

I enjoyed the crispy duck and shrimp lunch special, although the duck was far from crispy. The cocoanut tinged curry was nice.

Fresh Hot Basil was inexplicably missing any basil flavor or leaves; in fact, there was more basil in the duck dish.

If you’re in the area and tired of Vietnamese food and tacos, this is a fine choice for a meal, even if it’s not the best Thai in town.

Pop Thai Restaurant
1227 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 917-6139
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pop-thai-restaurant-orlando

Tabla

o

***** (5 stars)

Years ago we liked to go to Tabla for the amazing food and spectacular desserts. Despite what was at the time a very decrepit building, the food was the draw. But then they changed lunch to a buffet and we stopped going.

I’m pleased to report that full lunch service is back, and the food is better than ever. In addition, the formerly dingy space has now been completely remodeled, and is one of Orlando’s most stylish restaurants.

The three course lunch must be one of the best deals in town. It begins with soup or salad, then your choice of many Indian and a few Thai dishes incorporating the protein of your choice, served on a very attractive platter along with rice, naan bread, and either a samosa or spring roll. Finally there is a choice of desserts.

Our favorites were the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Saag Paneer. The banana roll was a nice way to finish up. It’s a lot of food for a very reasonable price.

Service was friendly and fairly quick, so this will definitely go onto our regular lunch circuit. I’d also like to visit for dinner and further explore the menu. Tabla is back and better than ever!

Tabla
5827 Caravan Ct
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 248-9400
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tabla-orlando-4

Zab Thai

*** (3 stars)

OK, this is not a great Thai restaurant, but I had a much better experience than most of these other reviews.

It’s true that the server was completely untrained, and had no concept of when to turn in orders for food or to clear plates. So appetizer, soup and main course arrived spaced out by about 90 seconds each. And then plates started disappearing even while we were still eating off of them. So… 0 for service.

On the other hand, I’ve never been to such a beautifully decorated restaurant. With stone statuary on the walls, teak dividers, and elegant hanging lamps it’s really quite nice. If they turned off the glaring overhead lighting and completely went with the theme it would be one of the best decorated restaurants in Central Florida. So 5 for decor.

As for the food, it was okay. The sashimi was fine; a generous portion, fairly fresh tasting, excellent quality salmon. The Tom Yum soup was tasty, with crispy fresh vegetables added at the last minute. And the Pad Thai was good if not great, not as complex or citrusy as I like, but at least takeout quality. I really had to restrain myself at dessert time from ordering the yummy-sounding “Black glutinous rice pudding with young coconut flesh.” “Glutinous” and “flesh” are not things I look for in a dessert. Anyway… let’s say 3 for food.

That averages out to a solid 3 star rating. It’s a bit sad because that might make it the highest rated restaurant in Clermont, but that’s another story.

Zab Thai
1660 E Hwy 50
Clermont, FL 34711
(352) 242-1314
http://www.yelp.com/biz/zab-thai-clermont-2

Kabooki Sushi – An Extravaganza

***** (5 stars)

We returned to our favorite sushi place (in the world) for an extravaganza, taking advantage of Dani being in town, and a visit from our friend Pamela from Australia. Truly, there is no better sushi in the world, and no more creative sushi chef than Chef Henry. Every visit offers new and spectacular selections, and this trip was no exception. Each course was accompanied by matching wine.

The kitchen

The kitchen

Tom yum soup with coconut broth, lime and head-on shrimp

Tom yum soup with coconut broth, lime and head-on shrimp

Kanpachi tartare

Kanpachi tartare

Our favorite, maguro truffle

Our favorite, maguro truffle

Sashimi patter featuring whole branzino with a ponzu-based sauce

Sashimi patter featuring whole branzino with a ponzu-based sauce

Kobe beef nigiri with black truffle

Kobe beef nigiri with black truffle

Pork belly with mushrooms

Pork belly with mushrooms

Chef Henry flames the lobster

Chef Henry flames the lobster

Lobster

Lobster

Three layer flan, molten chocolate cake, bread pudding, cappuccino creme brûlée

Three layer flan, molten chocolate cake, bread pudding, cappuccino creme brûlée

What an amazing meal! We’re ready to go back!

 

Kabooki Sushi
3122 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 228-3839
http://www.yelp.com/biz/kabooki-sushi-orlando

Kabooki Sushi, Simply the Best

IMG_5348

maguro truffle

***** (5 stars)

I’ve previously reviewed Kabooki Sushi here, but we continue to return regularly, and the food has advanced from fantastic to mind-blowing, so it deserves another mention (my first repeat review, after more than 400).

As I said previously, we’ve had sushi at some of the top restaurants all over the world, and I’ve never had a meal as good as the ones I consistently get from Chef Henry Moso at Kabooki Sushi.

We always have the omakase, where you put yourself in the chef’s hands. But we ask him to add extra courses, and to pair it with wines. We usually have about seven courses, and it costs around $125, about double what the original omakase ran. To put this in perspective, I’ve paid more than that for a single course at some high end sushi restaurants, and not gotten as good food!

Similarly, the wine pairing at $30 is cheaper than a single glass of wine at those restaurants (Nobu, I’m looking at you).

The really amazing thing is that in a dozen visits, Chef Henry has never repeated himself, except for one dish, the Maguro Truffle, that we always request. So that’s something like 100 unique dishes!

Not only is each a work of art, but the combination of flavors is so perfect (salty, sweet, umami, citrus, fatty, acidic, rich, light — often all combined in one bite) that it defies description.

And sushi isn’t an easy food to pair with wine. Yet the matches are always perfect, and usually include minor grigio, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet and sparkling wine.

On our latest visit I showed Chef Henry a picture of a dish we had earlier in the week at Morimoto in New York. Two hours later, at the conclusion of our meal, Chef Henry, inspired by the idea, presented us with this:

IMG_5353

otoro tartare with assorted condiments and seaweed chips

If a chef can come up with that on the spur of the moment, imagine what other treasures are in store for us in the future!

Here are some other things we had in that same meal at Kabooki:

IMG_5342

giant clam, seaweed and pickled cucumber

IMG_5343

compressed watermelon, tuna, ouzu sorbet

IMG_5344

hamachi with house-made kimchi

IMG_5351

locally caught grilled cobia

IMG_5350

three types of fish rolled in rice paper, with apple sails, cucumber sorbet

IMG_5345

grilled hamachi collar

If you can only dine at one restaurant in Orlando, it should be Kabooki Sushi.

Kabooki Sushi
3122 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 228-3839
http://www.yelp.com/biz/kabooki-sushi-orlando

 

 

Thai Square

*** (3 stars)

Conveniently located adjacent to Windsor Castle, this Thai restaurant features attractive decor in its various interconnected dining rooms. The curry was the best thing we tried. The “Golden Sack” and rib appetizers were unremarkable, as was the duck entree. Service was pleasant but not particularly attentive.

Thai Square
29 Thames Street
Windsor, SL4 1PR
+44 1753 868900
http://www.yelp.com/biz/thai-square-windsor