Five years ago, Tony Chaichana was a dish-washer and busboy at Mint Café on Coventry while studying for his MBA. The young Thailand native wanted to learn the restaurant business from the ground up, so he also volunteered to cook at Mint's sister restaurant, Peppermint Thai in Pepper Pike. Today, he's living his version of the American dream as co-owner and manager of High Thai'd Cafe, in the space formerly occupied by Mint.
"It's pretty unbelievable," Chaichana says, still amazed by his rapid ascent.
At High Thai'd, Chaichana has developed a healthy, vegetarian-friendly menu that emphasizes low-sodium soy sauce, brown and jasmine rice, fresh, locally grown vegetables, and no MSG.
"We try to make people feel good, so we make sure everything is fresh, delicious, and healthy," he says. In addition to High Thai'd's vegetarian specialties, any item on the menu can be prepared for non-carnivores.
The menu is based on the Thai concept of combining flavors — salty, sweet, sour, and spicy — so that a different dimension unfolds with every bite. Tempting starters include soups like Tom Yum Goong (hot and sour soup with shrimp and mushroom) and appetizers like the popular Golden Bag: a deep-fried delight made with ground shrimp and chicken, water chestnuts, mushroom, and onion wrapped with tofu skin and scallion string, and served with plum sauce.
The entrée lineup includes Pad Thai and other flavorful stir-fried noodle dishes like Crazy Noodle (wide rice noodles with shrimp, egg, onion, carrot, broccoli, and basil leaves), and Pad See Ew (stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, shrimp, egg, carrot, and broccoli in house-made sweet soy sauce).
"Signature dishes" include Avocado Curry, Lady in Green (steamed salmon wrapped in Napa cabbage and served over a bed of steamed vegetables), and Coventry Rd. Madness: a toss of sautéed shrimp, scallop, squid, mussel, onion, and green and red pepper in a spicy basil sauce.
Chaichana says the exceptional quality of the High Thai'd experience is the result of the staff's commitment and enthusiasm.
"We don't just do it" he says. "We love to do it."
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