Yangtse's Taste Of Thai
Thursday, November 19, 1998
Just a few months on the scene in Oldtown Salinas, something different this way comes with Yangste's Taste of Thai. Set behind a foreground of white tablecloths and antique brick walls, an undulating oak bar curves its way up to the exhibition kitchen where wok-shaped saut pans are on view in action. Skillfully tossed over a hot flame, fresh chilies, mint, ginger and garlic waft a steamy, exotic perfume into the air, just a few of the ingredients that chef and owner Yangtse uses to create this Thai-meets-Eurasian style of cooking.
Crafting this array of fusion flavors is a labor of love that took its roots from a variety of influences. Yangtse''s cooking career was preceded by an upbringing in the Southern Province of China, where she went on to teach English literature at Hunan University. Coming to the U.S. in 1989 as part of an international student exchange program, she continued teaching at Lockhaven University in Pennsylvania. Finding herself completely underwhelmed with the quality and type of food that predominated both on and off campus would become the condition that turned her curiosity toward the restaurant industry, changing the course of her career.
Cutting her teeth on various East Coast establishments that didn''t quite come close enough to the fresh, flavorful cuisine that she remembered back home, finally the coin dropped and an ownership opportunity opened up in La Jolla, California. Three years and a marriage later to husband and business partner, Bob Fouts, an invitation to Salinas was accepted and Taste of Thai was the result.
"Thai food is somewhat different from other Asian food," Yangtse explains. "It is unique and exotic while remaining oddly familiar, and boasts a special flavor all its own. Many of the recipes we use have ingredients such as curry paste, coconut milk, lemon and lime juice, or a dash of brandy, lending an appealing, rounded flavor with a long finishing taste that keeps your mouth cool and your tastebuds high. Rice, a much respected food in Thailand, is considered a main staple of every meal, and chilies are considered the guest of honor!" she continues. You need to be very careful when you choose the degree of spices. Otherwise, you might get burned twice!"
Of course, requests for milder versions of authentic, "burn both your socks off" dishes are honored with an as-you-like-it attitude, with a reference key for heat-accompanying appropriate dishes as they are listed on the menu. There''s a well-rounded array of appetizers, (honey-battered coconut shrimp, crab and blue cheese-stuffed wontons, roast duck-filled crepes) soups, (seafood hot and sour, wild mushroom and shrimp) and salads, (grilled chicken with Thai herb vinaigrette, roast beef with jalape¤os, red onions and cucumbers).
Pasta, fried rice and vegetarian choices (clay pot spicy tofu, steamed eggplant with jalape¤os) appear along with curry selections such as the Caribbean chicken done with potatoes, onions and coconut milk in yellow curry sauce, served on a hot sizzle platter. House specialties include an interesting Jasmine rice-smoked salmon, flavored with ginger, garlic, lemon, orange and brandy, or trout, smoked the same way. The Seafood Thaitanic is a boatload of seafood, brought to the table in a fog of aromatic steam, and Grandma''s Secret Duck is also tempting--Grandma spices it up with brandy, ginger and cilantro.
An ample selection of wines, California and otherwise (try the Lychee nut on for size), imported and micro-brewed beers, and desserts make Yangtse''s a lunch or dinner destination that doesn''t leave anything out.
Yangtse''s Taste of Thai
328A Main St., Salinas, 754-2223
Hours: 11am-9pm Sunday-Thursday, 11am-10:30pm Friday and Saturday
Price range: $4.50-13.95