Last night, I had planned to take Pere and the in laws to dinner at the new Havana Cafe that was supposed to open on April 1. I love their North Scottsdale (Bell Road) location, and was really looking forward to having a nice Cuban restaurant in my own neighborhood. Alas, it wasn't to be. When we arrived, the restaurant was still dark. Signage was up, and the interior looked to be about done, but the application for the liquor license was still hanging above the door. I guess they are waiting for that to come through before they officially open. That left plan B - Yupha's Thai Kitchen in Tempe.
Pere and I have eaten at Yupha's a few times now, and find their food to be pretty good. My favorite Thai in town is Sawadee Thai, followed by Malee's on Main, so Yupha's comes in a strong third.
The first thing that got me excited when we walked in the door was a small sign announcing the availability of mangos and sticky rice for desert. This is one of my favorites, and most of the decent Thai places in town will only serve it when mangos are in season. Even though you can get mangos year round in Phoenix, they are only in season for about four months of the year.
Pere's parents hadn't had much Thai, so were looking for recommendations. Yellow curry is one of my favorites, and even though I always want to try new Thai dishes, I find myself always wanting just one more yellow curry. So, both Pere's dad and I ordered the yellow curry with chicken. He had his medium, I asked for mine Thai hot. In my past experiences with Yupha's, the only problem I had with the food is that it doesn't seem to come consistently spiced. When I asked for Thai hot, it's supposed to be as hot as they can make it. Full on make me sweat like a monkey hot. That's the way I like it, and that's exactly how it comes at both Sawadee and Malee's. My yellow curry came out, and while it was spicy, it was only what I would consider medium hot. I even made a point of telling the waitress that I wanted it so hot it would melt my face. I guess they probably get a lot of people who ask for it really hot, and then end up complaining because they can't take it, so they're overly cautions when someone orders their meal Thai hot. Spiciness issues aside, the flavor of the yellow curry was great. It had a good balance between the sweetness of the coconut milk and the chilis, but without being sickeningly sweet. The potatos were cooked just the way I like them, so that there is still a bit of crunch left in them.
Pere's mom had the Pink Diamonds, lightly battered salmon fingers with green beans, bell peppers and kaffir lime leaves in a panang curry sauce. I didn't try them this time around (Pere had them last time we were there), but her mom seemed to like them.
Pere went with the Himalai, sauteed shrimp and chicken with cashew, celery, mushrooms, scallions, bell peppers and fried tha with a chili paste sauce. I had a few bites and found it to be pretty good, although not something I would likely order as it seemed a bit ordinary compared to many of the other dishes on the menu.
We all left just enough room for desert and decided to split two orders of the mango with sticky rice. The dessert came out well presented with a scoop of the sticky rice in the center of the plate, fanned by slices of fresh mango with what looked like a pansy as garnish. The sticky rice was nice and warm, and the sweetness of the coconut milk combined with the delicate flavor of the rice really popped. A bite of the rice on a piece of the mango really reminded me of why I love this dessert so much.
One of the things I really like about Yupha's is that the owner, Yupha Duquenne, is always out in the dining room talking with patrons. I like when an owner or chef takes the time to talk with you. It's a personal touch that I feel goes a long way, and it's something that sticks in my head when I'm trying to decide where I want to spend my time (and money) eating.