Ballantyne Magazine covers news, events, real estate, restaurants, shopping, health, schools and business in the upscale Ballantyne Area of Charlotte, NC.
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FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS CHARLOTTE HAS BEEN HOME FOR STEVEN AND AMPHAY PHILAVANE, but the restaurant world is still relatively new to the couple who came to the U.S. from Laos. After many years in traditional business careers, they were ready for a change — and a challenge — so they opened Bahn Thai in Toringdon about three years ago. Amphay Philavane, who goes by "Amp," says it took a while to find the ideal location, "where people don't like to cook." That's a wise insight about the modern lifestyle that makes it simpler for busy residents and commuters to pick up a meal than prepare one of their own. Having offices and hotels nearby guarantees a steady stream of patrons to the sleekly appointed restaurant. "Bahn" means house or home, and Bahn Thai offers a good selection of traditional Asian dishes. These include sushi, stir-fry combinations and curries not only from the family's homeland but from neighboring countries as well. Ginger and its root relative galangal are mainstays of the cuisine, along with tamarind pulp from pods that grow on trees in the tropics. Flavor Fest Tom yum is the Thai soup of tomatoes and sliced mushrooms that's pungent but not overly spicy. The som tum salad of shredded green papaya, peanuts, chili peppers, carrots, tomatoes and green beans topped with shrimp is authentically Laotian. With a dressing that's a mixture of traditional fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar, the salad has a complex, sweet and tangy flavor. Bahn Thai's signature dish is Volcano Fish. It's a filet of red snapper that's deep fried and served in a colorful presentation with ripe mangoes and broccoli in a sweet-and- sour sauce. The restaurant's crispy duck entree is seasoned and then battered, fried and served with cilantro, mild red onions and a juicy tamarind sauce. The Ballantyne Sushi Roll boasts a creative combination of shrimp, crab, masago (red caviar), scallions, cream cheese, smoked salmon and avocado. Coconut milk adds mildness to curries, such as the red curry dish known as gaeng dang, flavored with basil leaves. Like many menu choices, gaeng dang is easily adaptable for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. The level of "heat" each diner prefers is always a matter of personal preference, but energetic servers wear T-shirts that playfully proclaim "Spice Up Your Life at Bahn Thai." Finger Lickin' Dessert For dessert, mango with sweet rice is a rich treat infused with coconut milk. Aficionados know it's 'Spice Up Your Life' Laotian Couple Serves Up Asian Array at Bahn Thai By Amy Rogers | Photos by Ray Sepesy Many menu choices are easily adaptable for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Steven and Amphay Philavane opened Bahn Thai about three years ago. A Thai soup favorite is tom yum, which is pungent but not overly spicy. BALLANTYNE MAGAZINE 51 FALL 2016