Click here to hear ELV expound on the recent proliferation of Thai restaurants around the Valley (V Thai, Basil ‘n Lime (tasty snaps featured above), and Mix Zone Cafe) in the officious, olfactory and oligarchical tones for which he is known….(or keep reading after the jump), and try not to pay too much attention to an editing error about midway through the broadcast commentary wherein we mention the ancestry of Natalie and Mario Araquil (co-owners of MZC) without mentioning them by name.
THAI ME UP THAI ME DOWN
The reasons people like Thai food is because it’s herbal, healthy, spicy, approachable, and reasonably priced. My other pet theories are because it does that sweet/hot thing so well, and because you eat it with a knife and fork.
Regardless of why it’s so popular, Thai restaurants have been popping up all over town, and sweating your way through a meal has never been so much fun.
Two relatively new places: Basil ‘n Lime and V-Thai, both took over existing restaurant spaces. From all appearances and the furniture, Basil ‘n Lime inherited a Mexican place, while V-Thai is located where the old Mayflower used to be. Both serve fresh and lively versions of the standards that made this food such a hit with Americans, and while neither plows any new ground with their curries or soups, they both dress up their presentations in ways that hole-in-the-wall joints don’t.
Be forewarned, however, that they tone the spices way down at these gaijin-friendly places – so ask for a big number on their one to ten scale if you want to get the real enchilada. A simple “5” or medium spicy, wouldn’t offend my Grandma (the late, great Hazel Brennan Schroader) – an Irish lass who thought salt and pepper were pretty exotic
A third new Thai, the Mix Zone Café opened in a small space in the run-down, time-worn shopping center at the corner of West Charleston and Rancho Rd. over a year ago.The owners of the MZC are Daniel Coughlin, a Thai-Irish chef, and Natalie and Mario Araquil (she, of black, Puerto Rican, French-Canadian extraction; he, a Filipino). They also have a Thai-Mexican waitress, and a plain, vanilla (read: Caucasian) one whose lips are so pierced she could pass for a torture victim if she weren’t so cute and chirpy. Together, they’ve created an oasis of Thai tranquility amidst a dessert of dining choices on this stretch of road.
The menu and preparations skew towards the vegetarian. Of course in any Thai restaurant, any curry or noodle dish can be added to with whatever meat or fowl you like, and Coughlin’s food is no exception. But to our taste buds, the non-meat items are where he lavishes the most love.
A recent meal had us inhaling his oddly-named “fish ball special” — deep-fried seafood balls with Sriracha hot sauce, and his pad kee mow “underground” — so named because it’s one of a dozen or so off-the-menu items that Coughlin hopes regulars (and regular-wannabes who go to his Web site) will come to know and order frequently. Both were things of beauty — demonstrating a light hand with the deep fryer and the right tonal balance of sweet, heat and savory.
Coughlin’s family owns The King and I Thai restaurants around the Valley, so he’s got the right pedigree, and his respect and passion for the food of his ancestors (along with a playful, creative streak), and the front of the house ministrations of the Araquil’s, makes the MZC a worthy addition to a neighborhood food scene that, until a year ago, didn’t have one.
BASIL ‘N LIME
3665 South Fort Apache Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89147
4750 West Sahara Ave. Ste. #27
Las Vegas, NV 89102
MIX ZONE CAFE
2202 West Charleston Blvd. Ste. #5
Las Vegas, NV 89102