The migration of restaurateurs from Thailand to the United States has been a boon to those of us who revel in the flavors of that part of the world.
Their curries are nothing like those of India, which can be heavy with cumin, turmeric and cardamom, or the Caribbean for that matter, where dominant spices include allspice, ginger and clove.
Thai dishes deliver another spectrum of tastes and smells, from the intriguing perfume of kaffir lime leaves, to crisp lemongrass, cilantro and coconut.
Pongsak Thaipreecha, a young man who concludes conversation with clasped hands and a slight, reverent bow, is presenting dishes from his homeland in the cozy confines of his new restaurant, Thai Haven.
The place opened Aug. 29 in the heart of the city’s business district on West Central Avenue. It’s owned and operated by a partnership that includes Thaipreecha, and mentors Santana Sangsurt and Supat Jiamchavee, a married couple formerly connected to Thai House of Orlando, a popular restaurant on East Colonial Drive.
Rounding out the partnership is Jitlada Korsangwichai, who prefers the nickname “Pop,” for reasons that are all too obvious.
All four bring several decades worth of restaurant experience to their tiny dining room decorated in earthy oranges, greens, dark wood and stone. Decorative pendant lamps provide ample light to read from a menu that delivers a solid lineup of Thai standards, including a very good pad Thai, a mound of rice noodles gently coated in a sauce that strikes most of the right notes — sweet, spicy, slightly salty. Missing was a slice of lime and chopped peanuts, which so often accompany the dish, deliciously.
I half expected chopsticks, but a bit of Google research reveals that Thai protocol gives preference to the fork, used merely to push bite-size morsels onto a spoon. You may enjoy mastering this maneuver with a plate of cashew curry, $11, a stir-fry lusty with the crunch of nuts and full of fresh vegetables, served with steamed white rice.
This and other main dishes are tailored to your preference in protein, including tofu, and an ability to withstand chili heat.