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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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Cozy & Convivial Thai 1st Bistro Pleases Palates with Fresh, Authentic Cuisine By Amy Rogers Photos by Ray Sepesy THE TRIP FROM CAMBODIA to the Carolinas is nearly 10,000 miles, literally from the opposite side of the world. That was the first life- changing voyage that Rick Taing made, more than 30 years ago. The next excursion was a different sort for Taing and his wife, Anna. It was the journey of accomplishment for the successful restaurateurs who are now well established in the metropolitan Charlotte area. The Taing family are the proprietors of Thai 1st Bistro in Blakeney, a cozy and convivial restaurant serving fresh, traditional cuisine in the 300-acre planned development. "We love this area," says Rick. "My family has been in the restaurant business since the 1980s, and all of my life has been in restaurants and hospitality." Although relatives originally settled in and a view into the kitchen, which is open to the dining room. Orders move quickly from the service window to the table. Just a few minutes after ordering, a plate arrives with triangular, golden-fried wontons, filled with marinated ground chicken and served with a pungent dipping sauce. Anna Taing makes the around Rock Hill, Rick was intrigued by the growth potential of the surrounding region. He chuckles when he thinks back a couple of decades, when Chili's was one of the first pioneers in the Blakeney area. The Tiangs opened their restaurant three years ago, and have been serving authentic Thai cuisine to an expanding market ever since. Anna Taing makes the traditional recipes she learned to prepare from her grandparents. "I like to create new dishes to try, too," she says. The rectangular layout of the restaurant provides guests with traditional recipes she learned to prepare from her grandparents. Timid diners often shy away from curry dishes, worrying the food will be too hot. That's a misconception, say the Taings. Not only are there numerous variations of the red, green and yellow curry sauces, the chef can adjust the level of heat — which is only one component of the flavor that includes coriander, lemongrass, turmeric, cumin and other spices. To demonstrate, Anna Taing presents her Bangkok Shrimp Curry topped with crispy fried carrots cut into long shreds. Served with traditional jasmine rice, it's delightful with just the right amount of warmth. Menu items at Thai 1st have names, not numbers. That's deliberate. It's much more adventurous and satisfying than simply ordering "Number 7." Despite the polished service and eagerness to please, servers don't encourage menu substitutions. Thai sauces and seasonings can be highly nuanced. "When you change the meat, you change the entire flavor," Rick explains. That's not to say the kitchen won't happily Thai 1st Bistro whets appetites with crispy wontons filled with marinated ground chicken, served with a pungent dipping sauce. WINTER 2012-2013 BALLANTYNE MAGAZINE 61

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