Craving coconut curry? You can get your fix at two new area restaurants specializing in Thai cuisine. In Cary, Tom Yum Thai (685 Cary Towne Blvd.; 463-5523; www.carytomyum.com) has opened in Village Square Shopping Center, in the building that was recently vacated by the short-lived Pollo Rico and before that was home for years to Courtney's. Owner Tony Vikitsreth has given the dining room a thorough makeover, with a classic Southeast Asian look. Vikitsreth -- who also owns Sushi-Thai in Raleigh -- has focused the menu at his new restaurant on the single cuisine of his native Thailand.
You'll find all the usual suspects among the extensive offering, including the restaurant's namesake soup, a broad assortment of salads, stir-fries and noodle dishes, and five curries (red, green, yellow, Panang and Massaman). You'll even find a presentation of the green papaya salad, som tam, with its traditional companions, sticky rice and beef jerky, as well as a handful of such specialties as soft-shell crab with curry powder. And yes, there are in fact two teriyaki offerings. Guess Vikitsreth couldn't entirely give up the Japanese fare that has accounted for half of his success at Sushi-Thai.
Evidently, Patti Saysombath-Graham had no such qualms. Like Vikitsreth, Saysombath-Graham built her reputation as the owner of a restaurant specializing in a combined Japanese-Thai menu -- namely, Champa Thai & Sushi in North Raleigh. But you won't find a trace of Japanese cuisine at Champa Thai Café (16 W. Martin St.; 758-8988), which Saysombath-Graham opened two weeks ago in downtown Raleigh with her mother, Sandy Sybongsa.
You won't find a whole lot of Thai fare, either, for that matter. That's because, at least for now, the restaurant is open only Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Accordingly, the offering is pretty much your standard Thai restaurant lunch menu, with two appetizer and six entree offerings: pad Thai, spicy basil chicken, three curry variations, and a noodle bowl. The offering is supplemented by a daily special, ranging from Monday's pineapple fried rice to Friday's cashew nut chicken. I'm thinking I'll stop in on a Thursday, when steamed tilapia with lemon grass and bay leaf is the special.
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On a sad note, the second half of April saw the closing of two excellent restaurants in Raleigh -- but it isn't yet time to mourn their passing, according to their owners. Juan Samper, who owned Tasca Brava in North Raleigh with his wife, Marta Brewer-Samper, hopes to reopen on Glenwood South. And Wen Tao Lu, owner/chef of Red Palace, is scouting locations in Cary. I'll keep you posted.