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Utah Diners Guide

E-Cafe Review

Review by Dan Purdon

During one of our frequent visits to Shoga in Orem, we noticed that the restaurant right next to it had turned from a frozen yogurt place to something called the E-Cafe.  Upon further investigation, it turned out that E-Cafe is a casual Asian restaurant focusing on the most popular dishes from Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and other Oriental cooking.  Who woulda thought??  We got the chance to visit them last week.

The first thing we laid eyes on was a prominent menu of about two dozen different Boba Drink flavors – evidently a specialty of E-Cafe.  But on that day, we had no eyes for drinks; it was all about the food!

In spite of its relatively small size, the food menu spanned an impressive number of different culinary regions.  They had some Japanese favorites like Chicken Katsu and steamed Edamame, Vietnamese entrees such as grilled pork and Pork Cha Gio, and plenty of Thai favorites like Pad Thai, Satay, and four different curries.  We decided to try a selection of Japanese and Vietnamese items.

Everything at the E-Cafe seemed to be geared for diners on the go.  Both of our entrees were served in lidded plastic trays that could easily be stacked and carted back to the office.  Our appetizers came out in Styrofoam clam-shells, and our utensils came inside to-go packs.  They are definitely targeting the quick lunch hour crowd.

I popped open my chicken katsu to see golden-brown slices of breaded chicken doused in the familiar dark brown katsu sauce.  It was served with a mound of white rice.  The chicken was hot, tender, and made extra-flavorful by the savory-sweet sauce.

My wife had the Vietnamese grilled pork, which had thin slices of pork doused in an Asian-style BBQ sauce.  I liked the sauce’s unexpected zip of chile, which complimented the familiar sweet n’ savory teriyaki-style flavor nicely.

To round out the meal, we also got a couple of items from the “Asian Tapas” menu.  Namely, a big clam-shell full of Edamame and some Vietnamese egg rolls.  If you’ve never tried Edamame, you’re missing out!  It’s a simple, inexpensive, and yet surprisingly tasty appetizer that you’ll find on just about any Japanese menu.  It’s also a fun way to eat your vegetables – popping out the soybeans one by one from the pod into your mouth and then discarding the husk.  At E-Cafe they’re the cheapest thing on the menu, and yet they’re surprisingly fulfilling.  The Vietnamese egg rolls came out filled with ground pork and veggies and complimented by the trademark thin fish-sauce for dipping.  (Don’t let the name “fish sauce” scare you – it actually gives the rolls a nice fresh-tasting tang.)

In conclusion, I’d recommend E-Cafe for anyone that wants to shake up their lunch hour with an interesting mix of Asian specialties without having to wait for a full-service restaurant. Next time, I have to try their Bobas!

Pricing: Approximately $10 per person (entree + appetizer or boba tea)

E-Cafe: 376 E University Parkway, Orem

Spicy Thai Review

Review by Dan Purdon

I’ve noticed something over the last few weeks – we have a lot of Thai restaurants to choose from around here!  And none of them (that I know of) are incorporated, either, they are all independently run local joints. I don’t know if that’s especially peculiar to our area or if it’s nationwide, but either way, I have absolutely no problem with that!

Recently we decided to revisit Spicy Thai, a family-run Thai restaurant on University Avenue close to the Riverwoods.  I had been there once years ago just after they opened, but hadn’t found the chance to drop in again until just last week.

It was Saturday afternoon, and we walked into the small plaza restaurant to find only one other table occupied.  (However this was to change rapidly afterward – by the time we left, there was only one table left un-occupied!)  It was richly decorated inside, with various framed pictures, Thai figures and dolls, and even a baby elephant statue standing in the middle of the dining room.  We sat at a booth already knowing what we would order – the lunch specials are a very quick sell!  On Saturdays you can choose from Green Curry and Pad Gaprow (veggie meat stirfry) as your entree, plus your choice of two different soups and either egg rolls or fresh rolls, all for the very fair price of $5.99.

Of course, we wanted to try everything in the two specials, so that’s what we ordered.  And I must say, there wasn’t a single thing that came out of that kitchen that wasn’t perfectly seasoned and expertly prepared.  The Green Curry nailed the ideal “Thai Curry” flavor right on the head with smooth coconut milk and savory/spicy/fresh broth that just wows your tongue with every bite.  The veggies in both the Pad Gaprow stirfry and the Green Curry were both just perfectly cooked – not raw, not mushy, but just crisp enough to give a little al-dente resistance.

The soups were equally amazing, also embodying various aspects of classic Thai flavors to a “T”.  The Tom Ka Gai was creamy with coconut and savory like a curry, with a little splash of freshness coming from lime and cilantro.  The Tom Yum, on the other hand, is a clear soup that is extremely refreshing and just a bit spicy – it will wake up your entire mouth with a bright and fresh flavor.

Of course, there’s really no way to go wrong between the egg rolls and fresh rolls when it comes to taste.  It just depends on what you’re in the mood for.  (Or what your diet calls for, because the fresh rolls are totally vegetarian and are not deep-fried).

The portions were just right, so both of us were feeling quite satisfied after finishing our specials.  But we were unable to resist the call of the lovely sticky rice with mango, so we just had to get one to split.  I’ll say it again: if you’ve never had the privilege of trying the sticky-sweet coconut cream-drenched wonder that is sticky rice with mango, you owe it to yourself.  Go get some.

If you ever find yourself within range of Spicy Thai at lunch time, definitely give them a try!

Pricing: under $10 for lunch, approx. $10-15 per person for dinner.

Spicy Thai – 3368 N University Avenue, Provo

Station 22 Review

Review by Dan Purdon

Recently I was tipped off to the existence of a brand-new lunch spot on Provo’s Center Street (by two totally separate foodie sources, no less).  It occupies the same spot that the tragically short-lived Angels of Philly did, right next to ComedySportz.  My wife and I decided to check them out with a group of friends for Saturday lunch.

The interior still had the beautiful exposed brick walls, giving a real true-to-downtown feel to the restaurant.  But there was something new hanging there that gave a real “pop” to the interior: about a dozen paintings all done by local artists!  A great way to give exposure to local artists and provide a unique, changing decor for the restaurant.

We walked up to the order counter and looked over the menu.  We found a lot of classic lunch flavors, but they all had a little something unique about them as well.  At the recommendation of the clerk we decided on two of the restaurant’s favorite selections: a French Dip with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese (the cheese being another clerk recommendation), and a Memphis chicken sandwich.  Of course, we also had to opt for an order of fries to split.

After paying at the register we found a table and sat down.  After a minute or two our food started arriving in baskets, nice and hot from the kitchen.  First I sank my teeth into the Memphis chicken sandwich, which looked to be the most unique item on our menu for the day.  It was a crispy-fried chicken breast covered in a tangy-spicy sauce and topped with red cabbage slaw and caramelized onion.  It was just as delicious as it was unique.  It had so many contrasts – sweet and spicy, crispy and soft, hot and cold – and they ALL harmonized together into a wonderful overall savor.

The French Dip didn’t disappoint either – that wonderful trio of roast beef, swiss, and caramelized onion could stand up as a solid sandwich by itself, but the savory jus takes it to a whole different level.  I also noticed that the bread on both sandwiches had a great texture, like they were freshly made by someone who really knows their bread.  And as any sandwich aficionado knows, great bread makes the sandwich.

And finally, if you’ve read my other reviews you probably already know that I am a big fan of a good french fry.  Especially of the extra-crispy or battered variety.  And let me tell you, Station 22 offers up some great fries!  They have that super-crisp outside with the hot and soft inside that I absolutely love.  I could eat them all by themselves and call it a day!  They also came with a great BBQ fry sauce that is a far cry from the plain ol’ ketchup and mayo variety.  Definitely get an order when you go there, and definitely split them with a friend.  (There’s a lot of them!)

Looks like downtown Provo has another serious competitor for the lunch crowd.  As for me, I definitely see myself going there again!

Pricing: approx. $10 per person

Station 22 – 22 W Center St, Provo

FRY SAUCE – a Provo Original

When Stan’s Drive-In  first opened in the early 1950’s it was operated as a franchise of Arctic Circle. Bob Peay was the original owner and operated the restaurant.

During one winter evening of 1955 two high students, Ron Taylor and Max Peay, developed the original Fry Sauce recipe while working the night shift together.  They liked what they mixed together for themselves and began sharing it with their friends as an alternative to ketchup.

Soon their friends and others were asking for “that good Fry Sauce stuff”.  It wasn’t long before Fry Sauce was the standard sauce being served with all the  French Fries being served.

Later, in 1957, after Stan and Sarah Taylor had purchased the drive-in a sales representative from Arctic Circle asked Stan and Ron if he could take the Fry Sauce recipe to the Arctic Circle headquarters in Salt Lake City to see if they would be interested in using it in their franchise outlets since it was such a big hit.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Malawi’s Pizza Review

Review by Dan Purdon

If you’ve spent any time near the Riverwoods lately, you’ve probably noticed the elephant silhouette on the colorful sign of Malawi’s Pizza.  Perhaps the thought of African-style pizza jumped to your mind, piquing your curiosity.  Perhaps you were intrigued by the slogan emblazoned proudly on the logo: “Pizza with a Purpose”.  Or maybe you marveled at the huge size of the place.  You can put me down for all of the above – suffice it to say, I had to find out what was up with this place.

My wife and I got our chance on a Friday evening.  We walked in through the large double doors not quite sure what to expect.  We were greeted by an impressive wall-to-wall African theme.  And I’m not just talking a few sculptures thrown into an otherwise normal restaurant – I’m talking a vast dining room that was constructed from top to bottom to reflect this unique design.

Ready for our anything, we walked up to a register (one of four that were staggered along a large open kitchen area) and started checking out the menu.  We didn’t find any African food per se, but we did find a respectable variety of pizzas, pastas, and salads.  At the top of the menu, we discovered the reasoning behind the “Pizza with a Purpose” slogan – it seems that for every meal that is purchased at Malawi’s, one meal is donated to orphans and others in need in Malawi, Africa.  We also spotted some television screens that were streaming images from the impoverished country, showing happy children and other beneficiaries of this program.

We felt pretty famished, so we wanted to try a little of everything.  I’m a sucker for sausage and mushroom, so I had to get the pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom pizza when I spotted it on the menu.  My wife got the garlic shrimp pasta dish, and for dessert (at the clerk’s recommendation) we ordered the berries and cream dessert pizza.  We paid, took a number, and displayed it at our chosen table after we sat down.  I was intrigued by the service model – it was like a derivative of “Fast Casual” (e.g. Cafe Rio) in some ways, because you order and pay before sitting down and get your own drinks.  But it also had a finer element to it, because your entrees are brought out fresh from the kitchen by a server.  And on top of this, Malawi’s didn’t hold back on dining utensils – they use heavy ceramic plates, flatware, and formal black cloth napkins.  Most intriguing.

So enough about the service style – what about the food?

One word in particular kept coming to me as I tasted our entrees – fresh.  Just seconds before it hit our table, our pizza had been in the giant wood-burning oven that I could see from our table, and the tender-yet-chewy dough had clearly just been made that day.  It was topped with supple mozzarella, fresh-chopped herbs, and delicious savory meats and mushrooms.

As is our usual tradition, when my wife and I got to the halfway point of our entrees, we switched (it makes it much easier to try a bit of everything as a reviewer!)  The garlic shrimp pasta was coated in a fresh and flavorful yellow tomato sauce.  It looked something like a cream sauce, so at the first bite I was surprised by the bright and festive flavor.  But it was a very good surprise!  I liked the unique bite of the yellow tomato, and the garlic, shrimp, and cheese blended with it very well.  And as an added bonus, at the end of the bowl I didn’t have that brick-in-the-stomach feel that comes from finishing a portion of alfredo-doused pasta.

Lastly we moved on to our luscious-looking berries and cream pizza, which was piled high with every berry you could imagine.  It gleamed a beautiful black and red as we cut into it and sampled our first bites.  The berries were fresh and sweet, and the thin layer of lightly-sweetened cream “sauce” held them in place.  (Mostly).  This dish fit in just right with the theme of the others – it gave a satisfyingly sweet finish without feeling like it would cost a week in the gym to burn it off.

I really couldn’t think of something negative to say about Malawi’s even if I tried.  They have all their bases covered!  You can feel good about what you’re eating on every level – not only is it better for you, it also helps others at the same time.  How many places can say that?  Plus, they don’t sacrifice flavor for health, and it all comes in at a price level that won’t break the bank.  If you’ve even been even the least bit curious, act on it!  Go and give them a try.

Pricing: Moderate, approx. $10-20 per person

Malawi’s Pizza4801 N University Ave (Riverwoods Plaza), Provo

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Review

Review by Dan Purdon

I have a couple of friends who say that they simply don’t like barbecue.  Hearing that sentiment from people you care about is certainly a soul-jarring event, like hearing they hate kittens or that they love anything from the Simpsons after season 10.  But somehow, despite this fundamental difference in taste and the way we view the world of cuisine, we have managed to stay amiable to each other.

As for me, NOTHING beats BBQ when it’s done right.  I’m always on the lookout for new places.  That’s why Dickey’s Barbecue Pit caught my eye while I was driving home from work one night.  Both my wife and I had had long days at work, so I was cruising for something tasty to bring home and unwind with.  The Dickey’s sign proudly proclaimed that they did both dine-in and take-out, so I decided to give them a try.

I walked into the restaurant to find an interesting combination of a modern fast-casual restaurant and a rustic BBQ restaurant.  Old-fashioned wrought iron lamps hung from the ceiling, and the whole restaurant was rich with wood tones.  But ahead of me people were lined up at the check-out line, ordering their food and having it assembled as they watched.

I looked over the menu and found all the traditional BBQ favorites, from pulled pork to sausage to roasted chicken breast.  I was feeling particularly famished that night, so I went with “The Rib Plate” and a “2 Meat Plate”.  At the clerk’s recommendation, I ordered beef brisket and the pulled pork as the two meats.

Each of those platters also came with two sides each, so I also ordered up some mac and cheese, baked beans, waffle fries, and fried onion “tanglers”.

After paying the tab, I headed to the condiment bar, where I got samples of all three of their specialty barbecue sauces – sweet, original, and spicy – as well as some honey for the buttered rolls.  As I was packing up my sauces, I also noticed a big barrel full of pickles, apparently there for the taking!  After confirming that they were complimentary, I took two and wrapped them up as well for the trip home.

After laying out everything on the table at home, I realized that this was indeed a lot of food!  If I went through every single item we’d be here for hours, so I’ll just hit on my top favorites from the night.  The pulled pork in particular stood out because of its extreme softness and delicate flavor.  It paired beautifully with any of the BBQ sauces, and I’m sure it would make a great sandwich, too.  The ribs were large and smothered with a smoky-sweet sauce, and practically (sometimes literally) falling off the bone.  And the sides were tasty, too – I especially dug the fried onion tanglers, which were coated in a seasoned cornmeal batter and great for dipping.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Dickey’s BBQ Pit is very widespread in the US, with locations in almost every state.  The whole meal cost just a shade over $20, which for the amount and variety of food is pretty competitive to other BBQ places around here.  All in all, I don’t know if it can beat the charm of local independent hole-in-the-wall BBQ restaurants, but it definitely serves a purpose as a fast option for tasty smoked meats.

Pricing: Moderate – approx. $10 per person

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit: 1385 South State St, Orem

Rice King Noodle Review

Review by Dan Purdon

Recently more and more people are getting turned on to the refreshing flavors of Vietnamese cooking, egged on by the new restaurants popping up around Orem and Provo that offer pho and other Vietnamese fare.

The downtown Chinese restaurant Rice King recently decided to throw its hat in with the Asian noodle boom, creating Rice King Noodle just across the street from the original Rice King on Provo’s Center Street.  My wife and I pulled in on Friday night for a taste.

The first thing I realized as we walked through the doors was that Rice King Noodle was in the former location of Stumpy’s.  The trees and stars remained painted on the walls, but there was a noticeable lack of raccoons since my last visit.  We took a seat at a booth and our server brought out a simple double-sided menu to look over.  Of course, we had to try a bowl of pho here, which is a traditional Vietnamese noodle and broth dish.  Then at the server’s recommendation we also ordered the “#6”, a vermicelli noodle and barbecued beef dish.  We also opted to try some fresh spring rolls.

The spring rolls came out stuffed with shrimp, chicken, vegetables and vermicelli noodles, plus a bowl of plum dipping sauce with peanuts.  The fresh spring rolls are not deep fried – in fact they are not cooked at all with the exception of the meats inside – so it is a nice healthy way to start off the meal.  You’ll find that it sets the tone well for the the other entrees, with fresh ingredients and flavorful sauces.

Next I tried my vermicelli noodle and beef dish.  It came out with a sweet and tangy sauce, and the server advised me to simply pour it over the entire bowl of beef, noodles, and vegetables and mix it all up before eating.  He also gave me a bottle of spicy chili sauce so I could turn up the heat, should I feel so inclined.  (I did.)  The beef was remarkable, with a deep savory-sweet flavor that really stood out.  After it was all mixed together I ended up getting bits of cucumber, bean sprout, noodles, beef, and sauce in every bite, and it formed a wonderful harmony of flavors.  I can see why this is their most popular dish!

I tried the sliced beef pho next.  For those of you who haven’t tried it, it combines some of the best elements of ramen noodles (flavorful broth and noodles) and Thai-esque flavorings (lime, bean spouts, Thai basil).  The bean sprouts, lime and basil come out on the side, so you can add your preferred amount to the broth.  When you add all three, you get refreshing flavors that add up to a big bowl of happiness.  The fresh crisp veggies combine with the hot broth and soft noodles to make a pleasing variety of tastes and textures.  And if you want to change it up even more, there is spicy chili sauce and sweet plum sauce available at each table.

A word to the wise – the bowls of Pho are big!  Plenty big enough to share between two, if you have an appetizer or two handy.

We both walked out satisfied.  Rice King Noodle had nailed down the flavors of Vietnamese cooking nicely while still keeping the price respectable – somewhere around $7-8 per entree.  If you like the original Rice King, pop in and give the new branch a try!

Pricing – Inexpensive under $10 per person

Rice King Noodle – 225 W Center St, Provo

Marley’s Gourmet Sliders Review

Review by Dan Purdon

A few days ago my wife and I found ourselves near the Riverwoods at dinner time.  If you haven’t been that way in a while, you’ll likely be surprised at the huge changes that have taken place.  For one, it has been totally reconstructed into a pedestrian-centric shopping gallery reminiscent of the Gateway in Salt Lake.  Today you’ll see plenty of families and couples strolling down the middle of cobblestone paths that used to be asphalt roads, now adorned with thousands of festive lights and multiple stone fire pillars to warm your hands by.  The other big thing you’ll notice there is plenty of new faces in the restaurant lineup – one of which is a new location for Marley’s Gourmet Sliders!  Now you don’t have to head all the way up to the Timpanogos Harley Dealership to get yourself a tasty mini-burger fix.

But don’t let the image of a pint-sized burger make you think you’ll walk away hungry.  The whole point of sliders (other than being so darn cute) is that you don’t have to eat just one.  Go crazy!  If you can’t decide between two or three different kinds, try one of each!  In fact, with so many tasty options on the menu, picking even your top three will be trickier than you might think.

I decided to go with (appropriately enough) the “First-timer” combo, which mercifully assists indecisive persons like myself by giving them two of the most popular items – a tasty smoked bacon slider and an order of chicken tenders – plus your choice of side.  For my side, I had to go with shoestring fries.  My wife picked a regular burger slider and a pastrami slider, plus a side of onion rings.  If you’re really hungry, you could get a three slider combo… or try feeding the whole family with a full “brick” of 12 sliders!

We filled our drinks and took a seat at a tall bar table, where I examined the dozens of antique bottle caps that were displayed under the transparent tabletop.  It was a great fit with the store’s atmosphere as a whole, which had a mix of classic Americana and heavy industrial feel to it.

Our food arrived quickly, looking very neat and compartmentalized in its special serving box.  Every individual item came in its own small open box/tray,  and they all were loaded together into the larger serving box before being brought out to the table.  (I suddenly understood the reasoning behind the full “brick” of 12 sliders – it was exactly how many small slider boxes could fit into the serving box!)

All of the sliders were built with soft rolls that were probably a little over 1/2 the size of typical big burger buns.  My bacon burger packed a huge amount of flavor for its small size – the ground beef was juicy and charbroiled, the bacon was thick-cut and smoky, and the veggies were fresh.  I tried a bit of my wife’s pastrami slider, and it proved to be just as flavorful.

My chicken tenders were fresh and hot from the fryer, coated in crispy breadcrumbs and herbs.  They were a far step above typical “fast food” chicken tenders, boasting a nice mix of flavors even before adding a dipping sauce.

The shoestring fries are something of a specialty at Marley’s, and I can see why.  They are strangely addicting despite their super-thin cut.  They’re perfectly cooked, giving them a crisp outside and tender inside, and they are lightly salted.  I can’t make out any other spices or flavorings they use on them, but for some reason you just can’t stop eating them!  And even if you take them three or four at a time, the box still never seems to run out.  It’s crazy, I tell you!  Try them with their own special fry sauce blend for an awesome treat.

Oh, and I can’t forget the onion rings – they had a great crispy batter that really set them apart.  No bread crumbs to get all over the place, just a nice flavorful shell of seasoned goodness covering a thick-cut onion slice.  Hard to say which one I would recommend more, the fries or the rings… just do what I did and go with a dining buddy!

Pricing: Moderate – approx. $10 per person

Marley’s Gourmet Sliders – Shops at the Riverwoods, Provo

Sweet’s Island Restaurant Review

Review by Dan Purdon

My exposure to Hawaiian food has been pretty limited, especially compared to other regional cuisines.  But it really shouldn’t be.  Famously large portions of slow-cooked meats?  Asian-influenced entrees and sauces?  Refreshing tropical fruit drinks to boot??  I should have been all over this!

Lately I set out to correct this horrible void in my culinary repertoire.  My journey brought me to the doorstep of Sweet’s Island Restaurant, which is located on Columbia Lane in Provo (behind D.I.).  It was just between the lunch and dinner periods, about 3:00, but there were still a few tables lingering inside, chatting over their Otai drinks.

My wife and I approached the order counter, which was complete with a grass-roof overhang, stone wall, and Tiki man sculpture.  You could feel the laid-back island vibe from every inch of the interior.

We must have had the air of dumb-stuck newbies about us, because the girl behind the register asked right away if it was our first time there.  When I confirmed that it was, she smiled and took us through all the popular menu items, and gave us some of her favorites as well.  We decided to try the two special platters to get a nice mix of Sweet’s specialties, along with some Otai tropical drinks, which we were assured were extremely popular there.

After putting in our order, we stayed at the register to chat for a bit with the hostess.  We came to find out that she was the daughter of the restaurant owners, and the rest of her family worked there, too.  We talked about my wife’s time living in Hawaii, and listened to the story of the Sweet’s family’s own journey from Hawaii to the states.  By the time we sat down, our food was already beginning to arrive from the kitchen!

First to meet our gaze was our Otai drinks, which were yellow and slushy and served in thick goblets.  The instant the chilly liquid hit my tongue, I knew why it was so popular!  The tropical-sweet harmony of mango, coconut, and pineapple invoked instant visions of beautiful white-sand beaches… even though I was still sitting in slush-covered Provo.

Our platters came out shortly after.  My mixed plate had BBQ Chicken, Kalbi (Asian-style short ribs), and Beef Teriyaki, and my wife’s Sweet’s plate had Kahlua Pork and BBQ Chicken.  The BBQ chicken was a wonderful de-boned chicken thigh laid flat and grilled, covered in a delicious savory glaze.  The BBQ flavor and tender chicken was definitely a winning combination.  My Kalbi was covered in a savory-spicy sauce that suited it very well, and it came out in a nice big slab – bigger than the plate, in fact!  And the teriyaki beef was thin-sliced and covered with a pleasingly sticky teriyaki and a healthy coat of sesame seeds.

I also stole a bite of my wife’s Kahlua pork, which was fall-apart soft and full of the pork’s natural flavor.  By the time we were halfway through our plates, it was very clear that neither of us would be leaving hungry!  Not only did we have our full platters of meat on shredded cabbage beds, we also had sides of white rice and (in my case) spiced pineapple chunks.  I highly recommend trying the pineapple.  It’s coated with just enough spicy chile to give the yellow flesh a slightly pink hue, which gives you a delightful kick in addition to the tangy sweetness.  It was my first time trying pineapple this way, and I loved the spicy twist.

We finished full and very satisfied – and not just from the food alone.  We very much enjoyed the Island atmosphere and the great kindness of the workers here.  And everything was under $10 per person to boot.  Rest assured, we’ll definitely find ourselves back here again!

Pricing: Inexpensive – under $10 per person

Sweet’s Island Restaurant: 711 Columbia Lane, Provo

Thai Bombay Review

Review by Dan Purdon

Thai food’s popularity has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few years, evidenced by new restaurants opening all over the valley.  Thai Bombay is one such place that just opened north of Macey’s in Orem.  But they can’t truly be called “new”, because it is run by the same people who used to run Thai Chili Gardens!  So it’s safe to say that this is pretty familiar territory for them.  Having had a good experience last time I ate at Thai Chili Gardens, I was eager to see what they had in store for the new restaurant.  I met my good friend (and fellow Thai-enthusiast) there last Friday for lunch.

I pulled up to the plaza storefront to see a long vinyl banner proclaiming that I was in the right place.  (Also clear evidence of the restaurant’s newness – I don’t think they have been there more than a week or two).  I met my friend and we walked in to find an interior adorned with Thai paintings and Oriental decorations.  The hostess (who would also be our waitress) seated us in one of the open booths.  From her easy laughter and light, friendly temperament, I could tell that she was going to be a fun server.

I started with one of my favorites: Thai iced tea.  For anyone who can’t handle straight-up unsweetened tea, this is a great way to enjoy tea’s complex depth together with a nice sweet-and-creamy side that makes it enjoyable for anyone.  My dining companion was just such a person – not a fan of straight tea, but definitely a fan of this!

For entrees, we started with pineapple curry.  (It just doesn’t seem right to go to a Thai place and not get at least one curry dish).  We also ordered a spicy beef and peppers dish from the entree menu at the waitress’ recommendation.

Before our entrees came out, we were treated to a complimentary dish of coconut soup.  It was deliciously complex – the light, tropical sweetness of coconut milk combined with distinct savory notes from the broth and a refreshing splash of citrus, all resulting in a truly mouth-pleasing harmony.  It also had just a little touch of afterburn to it to let your taste buds know they’re alive.  A perfect way to start the meal.

Then came our main entrees.  The pineapple curry had the trademark tropical-savory flavor of all Thai curries, with the tropical-sweetness kicked up a notch by the pineapple.  We ordered chicken in the curry, which was a good move.  It mixed well with the pineapple, coconut, and curry flavors, with all the flavors smoothly blending into one refreshing bowl of tastiness.

Our spicy beef was thinly sliced and sauteed with bell peppers, garlic and onion in a spicy red sauce to make a savory treat with a real kick to it – just the way I like it.  If you’re a little afraid of spice but still curious about this dish, that’s just all the more reason to have a creamy beverage at the ready – it really helps to take the edge off the fiery chili sauce.

And for something else that will really help to quench any fires left over from the entrees, you really should try a nice dish of coconut sticky rice (with mango, of course).  Sweet-and-creamy coconut milk is liberally doused over traditional sticky rice to make a tropical-sweet dessert that is really simple yet really hard to top.  Throw on a few slices of fresh mango, and you may as well be on a tropical island somewhere.  If you are a fan of any or all of these flavors and yet have never tried mango coconut sticky rice, you owe it to yourself! Thai Bombay did a great job on it, so get out there and try some today.

Pricing: Moderate, $10-20 per person (including dessert, drinks, etc.)

Thai Bombay – 934 N State St, Orem (Just past Macey’s)