The Cuisine Scene
one of the best lunch values in town, try the new Thai Chili restaurant
in Calimesa. Located in the Crown Village Center, they serve a hot
lunch, freshly prepared, for less than ten dollars.
By the time I heard about it, Iíd missed the lunch specials, but I
didnít want to wait to try the food, so Sheila and I went for dinner.
Inside, Aranya Charapinyo, one of the owners, greeted us and led us to
one of several booths by the window. A soothing floor fountain stood in
the corner, and coordinating table linens covered the tables and booths.
The petite Aranya also answers to Alice or Elise, which she laughs and
says either is the Americanized version of her name. Although she
struggles with her English, sheís determined to learn and I think sheís
done very well, especially since sheís only been in the States about
two years. She, in partnerships with her niece, Patt, opened Thai Chili
November 30, and Aranya serves as hostess, server, busperson and cook.
Iím sure sheís also chief bottle washer as well.
Aside from the appetizers, I had no clue what to order, so Aranya
suggested a few dishes. She first brought an appetizer plate of egg
rolls, fried shrimp, calamari, crab lagoon and vegetable tempura. The
crab lagoon, I discovered, is a wonton with cream cheese and crab. Real
crab, Aranya proudly told me. And they prepare their own egg rolls as
well as homemade batter for the appetizers. Not only did we enjoy the
seafood, but the vegetables, including zucchini, onion rings and yams,
were crunchy and delicious. While they have fifteen different appetizer
choices, ours was $8.95. Next time I plan to try their 4 piece crispy
chicken wings served with sweet and sour sauce for $5.95.
For dinner, I chose Chow Mein, and Aranya suggested we also try their
Yellow Curry over rice. The dish is a little spicy, but she assured us
it didnít have the heat of their spicier dishes, marked with red
checks. They have over twenty main dishes, from Roast Duck to Orange
Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Snow Pea Shrimp, and include steamed jasmine
rice. All of the dishes are served with your choice of chicken, beef,
pork, tofu or vegetarian for $6.95. If you prefer shrimp, duck,
calamari or a combination, itís $8.95.
The orangey-red curry arrived in a bowl with shrimp, potatoes, onions,
and carrots, and we ladled the coconut milk-based soup over the rice.
Spicy, rich, it had just enough bite to offset the milk.
Some of their noodle dishes are dry and others are soups, and some are
your choice. Tom Kha Pla is a shrimp or chicken noodle soup. Their Egg
Noodle and BBQ pork can be either. Another dish is Gai Kua, stir-fried
chicken with flat rice noodles, garlic, green onion, and bean sprouts,
and they have at least ten other choices. I selected the Chicken Chow
Aranya said they use breast meat from chickens, and for chicken, beef,
pork, tofu or vegetarian noodle dishes, itís $5.95. BBQ pork or duck is
$6.95, and a little more if you prefer seafood.
We also tried the crab fried rice, and again, the prices range from
$5.95 to $8.95, depending on your choice of meat. All of the dishes are
large enough to share.
Their seafood selections include Steamed Mussels with lemon glass and
basil leaves, Kung or Pla Sam Rote, which is fried shrimp or sole
fillet with sweet and sour sauce, and several salmon, catfish, sea
bass, and scallop dishes, ranging from $7.95 to $13.95.
For dessert, Aranya suggested we try the Fried Banana with Coconut
Flakes. When it arrived, I was surprised, as I couldnít imagine fried
banana, but the sections were crispy and the coconut and banana flavors
melded beautifully without being overly sweet. That dish is $3.95.
They have several other desserts including regular and green tea ice
cream. I still havenít tried the green tea ice cream. But maybe, like
sushi, Iíll eventually cave.
Sushi is another Thai Chili feature. Hand made, Aranya said. I still
back away when someone mentions raw fish, but Sean, my new
eleven-year-old grandson, loves sushi and keeps urging me to try it. He
thinks Iíd like the California roll made from shrimp, avocado, fish
roe, cucumbers and carrot. Perhaps one day Iíll hijack him and try
some. Surely, if an eleven-year-old boy, who loves hot dogs and Western
burgers piled high with bacon, thinks sushi is good, then I could at
least try it. If I donít like it, I can always pawn it off on him, even
if I have to resort to ice cream as bribery. That kid even likes green
tea ice cream.
In the meantime, I went back the next day for one of Aranyaís lunch
specials. And I was wowed. Monday through Friday, from 11am to 3pm,
they offer fifteen different lunch selections and theyíre all priced
the same. If you choose chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetarian, itís
$5.95, and only a dollar more for shrimp.
They offer Chow Mein, Beef or Chicken Broccoli, BBQ chicken, Teriyaki
Chicken and several other choices, all served with the soup of the day,
your choice of steamed Jasmine or fried rice, and salad. Everythingís
prepared fresh that morning.
I ordered the Beef Broccoli and while waiting, Aranya served the salad
and a cup of their chicken soup. With a light tomato base, the soup had
chunks of chicken, carrot slivers and chopped green onion. Their house
salad dressing is homemade honey-mustard. Usually I find honey-mustard
a little too sweet, but theirs was very light in texture. But what I
found impressive was the main course. Strips of lean beef with slices
of carrot, broccoli tips, mushrooms and onions in a light brown sauce
and a scoop of rice. It looked delicious and I found it hard to believe
it was only six dollars. The beef tasted like beef, and wasnít tough or
stringy. Aranya says they buy top sirloin or London broil from local
markets and prepare it in-house.
Even though I didnít think I could hold dessert, she wanted me to try a
different dessert, Thai Roti, a pan-fried crepe in butter, topped with
a sauce of Thai milk and sugar and served warm. Oh, my job is sooo
tough, but I managed to sample a few bites. Round like a small pizza,
the Roti was perfect comfort food for a rainy day.
1007 Calimesa Blvd #A
Calimesa, CA 92320
Open 7 days until 9pm