All Thai'd up

January 28, 2004 

Pining for pad Thai in North Raleigh? You're in luck. The number of Thai restaurants north of the Beltline has grown dramatically -- nearly doubled, in fact -- in the last few weeks.

So far, the most talked-about newcomer is Champa Thai & Sushi (806-0078), which opened late last month at Brier Creek Commons. According to the early buzz, you can expect an urban chic atmosphere (is there any other kind for a new Asian restaurant nowadays?), a wait staff that's still in the learning curve and a wait of a half hour or more to be seated.

For many, that's a small price to pay for food prepared by chef Anna Bishop, who had won a loyal following at ShabaShabu before Champa lured her away. Bishop took her recipe file with her, so in addition to traditional Thai dishes you'll find her contemporary riffs on the cuisine. Don't miss her Thai take on rack of lamb if it's available.

Taste of Thai had already been open for two weeks in the old Cooker spot on Falls of the Neuse Road when the lights went on at Champa. But the kitchen was shy a chef or two, so owner Joe Thoopsamoot (who also owns Taste of Thai in Greensboro) opened the restaurant quietly with no promotion.

After a successful recruiting trip to Thailand, Thoopsamoot says the kitchen is now fully staffed and serving a broad menu of traditional fare. He welcomes all comers for lunch and dinner daily.

December also saw the opening of The Bamboo Club in Triangle Town Center. Thai is just one of the cuisines represented on the pan-Asian menu of this Phoenix-based chain. But if you're in the middle of a shopping spree and are suddenly overcome with a yearning for pad Thai, you'll find it here under the heading of noodles, along with chicken chow mein and Korean beef on crispy rice noodles.

These newcomers join established restaurants Thai Garden, Sawasdee (which just reopened after its owners returned from a six-week vacation in Thailand), Lemongrass, Sushi-Thai and La Vie (formerly Que Huong). That brings the number of North Raleigh Thai options to eight, more than any other city in the Triangle. Kinda hard to believe that, just five years ago, Thai Garden was the only one.

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