Thai Purple Orchid Cafe & Grocery

Written by Scott Joseph on .

thaipurple fish cakes

I came across another nice little eatery in that unlikely and unassuming strip mall on East Colonial Drive. We've been here before, at Taka Taka, a Venezuelan restaurant. This time it's Thai Purple Orchid Cafe & Grocery, although the grocery part of it is pretty meager — fewer shelves than many people have in their closets.

And there aren't a lot of tables in the cafe part, either. But the owner will greet you graciously and will even serve you the food. I can say for certain, but she may have been back there cooking it, too.

Dinner and a Show: Date Night in Winter Garden

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Thai blossomI’ve got your next date night all planned for you. It’s that classic combination of dinner and a show, and it’s going to take you to the romantically charming Winter Garden.

If you haven’t visited Winter Garden lately you’re missing one of the more happening places in Greater Orlando. The downtown area along Plant Street is so perfectly quaint that you expect the buildings might be Potemkin Village facades propped up by two-by-fours from behind.

But this place is the real thing. And it’s apparently not a big secret, judging from the crowded restaurants and lounges I encountered on a recent Friday evening. Downtown Winter Garden is home, of course, to Flog favorite Chef’s Table at the Edgewater, but other restaurants now line the two or three blocks, making this one of the richer mini restaurant rows in the area.

Spice Thai

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Spice Thai Pad ThaiAccording to Urbanspoon, we now have 54 Thai restaurants in the area. I can’t think of a cuisine that has grown in its representation in the area more than Thai. And a great majority of them are worth trying, too.

One of the few geographical pockets without a Thai restaurant -- or without many nonchain restaurants at all, for that matter -- is the neighborhood near Orlando International Airport. Now Spice Thai is filling that void.

Blue Elephant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Blue elephant lotusI’ve lost track of all the restaurants that have occupied the address at 951 Market Promenade in Lake Mary in just the past nine years. Looking back over my past reviews, I see a Blackfin Seafood Grill, something called Austral, which was a sort of churrascaria, an Italian restaurant called Ultra Luce (as opposed to your everyday type of Luce), and I’m pretty sure there was a Carlos’n Charlie’s in that spot, as well (though perhaps well isn’t the appropriate word).

Now settling in for what I hope will be a good long run is Blue Elephant, a pleasant, not so little Thai restaurant.

Shortly after I was seated I was served a bowl of airy rice crisps with a gooey dipping sauce, sort of a Thai version of chips and salsa, I assumed. Certainly nothing one would fill up on as they were lighter than helium.

Thaitanic Sushi

Written by Scott Joseph on .

thaitanic bentoOver the years I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of talented copy editors who, besides correcting my typos and grammar gaffes, wrote brilliant headlines that captured the essence of my review, usually with a clever turn of a phrase. Every now and then, however, there would be a newbie, and I knew that when the review was for a Thai restaurant, the neophyte would go for a pun, thinking it was fresh and clever, something like “Thai one on here” or “Thai to die for” or something equally as cringeworthy.

But here’s a restaurant whose very name is punnish: Thaitanic Sushi. It seems an ironic choice for one’s business. There was a time when the word titanic simply meant large. That was before the word was forever synonymous with the greatest cruise line disaster in history. That was over a hundred years ago, so maybe it’s time to reclaim the word.

Avenue Thai and Sushi

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Avenue ThaiI popped into the new Thai and sushi place on Park Avenue the other night. Coincidentally, it replaces another Thai and sushi place, but this one looks a bit more encouraging.

Avenue Thai and Sushi replaces Thai Thai V (which also replaced a longtime sushi restaurant -- this address on the lower end of Park Avenue has been home to an Asian restaurant as long as I can remember).

Thai Stop

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Thai_StopI’ve always liked that little district south of downtown Orlando that surrounds the train station. It seems of another time, especially with the 1926 Spanish Mission Revival architecture of the Amtrak station. Situated behind the campus of Orlando Health, the street includes a few small eateries.

 

Add to them now Thai Stop, a corner cafe opened recently by Moo Napasorn, original owner of Napasorn Thai on Pine Street in downtown Orlando. Currently open only for lunch, Thai Stop is a welcome addition to the street with authentic tastes of Thailand.

Thai Cuisine Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Thai_Cuisine_RestaurantI was chatting with someone the other day about Thai restaurants and how they’ve changed over the years, mainly for the better. There was a time when Orlando had precious few Thai restaurants. Today, they are arguably the most prevalent of all Asian cuisines. Of course, with a greater inventory comes a leveling phenomenon, the tendancy for some of those restaurants to be the middle ground known as average.

As we chatted, the thought of a little place on Edgewater Drive, just north of Lee Road, occurred to both of us. It was about as tiny as a restaurant could be, and really just a few tables set up within a market that specialized in Asian food products. We agreed that it was one of the early favorite Thais, and one with an overly simplistic name. So simplistic that we couldn’t remember what it was. Thai Restaurant, or something like that, I said.

As happenstance would have it, that same day I found myself not far that area and I decided to stop in for lunch. Actually, its name is Thai Cuisine Restaurant, and when I walked in I was surprised at how big it had gotten. The market is gone, and the restaurant has expanded to a space nearby. When I mentioned to the young man who was showing me to my table that I hadn’t been in since they had expanded, he just looked at me and said, as expressionlessly as possible, “You haven’t been here in a long time.”

True that.

Maybe it was the relative uniqueness of those early days, or the thrill of finding good food in an odd location. But the restaurant doesn’t seem to have the same high quality. My lunch was good, but it wasn’t drive-to-the-other-side-of-town-to-get-it good.

I started with the tom kha with chicken, which featured pungent kiffir lime leaves and galangal in a rich coconut-flavored broth. For my entree I had the panang with beef, a just-spicy-enough curry with bell peppers and carrots and a touch of coconut milk. It was served with fluffy jasmine rice. (Brown rice is available for an additional $1.)

The soup and entree combo at lunch was $11.95, which seemed a bit dear, but maybe I’m still thinking in 2001 terms. Also, there wasn’t much warmth from the serving staff. All very perfunctory.

So now Thai Cuisine Restaurant truly is as generic as its name.

Thai Cuisine Restaurant is at 5325 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to thaicuisineorlando.com. The phone number is 407-292-9474.

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Naradeva Thai Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

I was happy to see a new Thai restaurant set up shop in Millenia Plaza. That corner of town could use some cuisinal diversity, and it was also nice to see an independent restaurant among all the brand names. Naradeva Thai

Naradeva_Thai
Thai style barbecue pork at Naradeva includes a braised egg.
Restaurant says on its menu that it strives to keep its food “genuine and consistent with the original recipes.”

I did enjoy seeing the array of entrees that seemed different from what it offered in other area Thai restaurants, and I focused mainly on the section of the menu with the heading Typical Entrees. I was intrigued by the Thai red b.b.q. pork with sesame gravy, especially because the description said it was served with a braised egg. Braised egg -- how exotic.

Thai Thai V

Written by Scott Joseph on .

The Thai Thai group -- the people who brought you Thai Thais I through IV -- now brings you Thai Thai V, to a Park

TTV
Masaman curry at Thai Thai V in Winter Park.
Avenue address, no less.

My only previous experience with the Thai Thais was the one in Cape Canaveral -- I can’t recall if it’s Thai Thai II or Thai Thai III. All I know is that the more you say the various names and numbers the sillier you feel.

The meal I had at the Cape Canaveral TT was good. But keep in mind that when we’re talking about Cape Canaveral restaurants we’re looking at a relatively smaller survey of choices. That’s part of the reason I feel I can recommend the Thai Thai (pick a number) in Canaveral. But here, especially on Park Avenue, there are many choice, including, for Thai, the estimable Orchid. The meal I had recently at Thai Thai V was thoroughly ho-hum. Not a thing about it that would make me want to go back.