The Roanoke Times

Quick review: Red Jasmine Thursday, July 05, 2007
By Wade Anderson | Special to The Roanoke Times

Thai food in Vinton? As of April, that question can now be answered enthusiastically and affirmatively with the opening of Red Jasmine Thai Cuisine at the former Cafe Succotash location in downtown Vinton. I recently ate there with some friends (one of whom actually lived in Thailand for a year) and came away impressed with the freshness, presentation and variety of the offerings.

Red Jasmine's decor is colorful and clean with a distinctly Asian flair including orange walls, bamboo tables and ornamental elephants on display.

We started with two appetizers: chicken satay and Thai dumplings (both $5.95). For those not entirely acquainted with Thai cuisine, I urge you to consider that chicken satay is simply marinated chicken grilled on skewers served with peanut sauce. Any cuisine that serves meat on a stick passes muster in my book. The steamed dumplings filled with herbed shrimp, pork and water chestnuts were, like the satay, delicious.

Determined to break free from my comfort zone, I opted for a dish called Thai Honey instead of my usual Pad Thai, a dish typically consisting of stir-fried rice noodles with red pepper, egg, bean sprouts, assorted vegetables, ground peanuts and a choice of meat. The Thai Honey included a tasty blend of shrimp and scallops stir-fried with asparagus, red pepper, acorn squash, string beans and onions; it was extremely fresh with crisp vegetables and a moderately spicy house sauce. Like most entrees, this dish was accompanied by jasmine rice and contained more shrimp and scallops than I expected for the very reasonable price ($12.95).

My dining companion who once lived in Thailand ordered the larb kai ($8.95), a mixture of ground chicken and Thai hot-and-sour sauce with onions, lettuce, lemongrass and scallions. He said that although it tasted good, he had eaten better versions of the dish in other stateside restaurants. He also commented that the menu did not offer some of the more common "everyday" dishes one would expect to find in native Thai cuisine.

Nonetheless, Red Jasmine does offer a large variety of specialty, curry and noodle dishes. The menu includes a meat-and-vegetable section where you can choose beef, pork, chicken, tofu, duck, shrimp or scallops and select the vegetables and accompanying sauce. The duck choice is a standout.

My other friend chose the Thai silk noodles ($9.95) stir-fried with shrimp, squid, mussels, red pepper, bean sprouts, scallion and spicy sauce. He complimented the generous portion of seafood and, like my dish, enjoyed the freshness of the vegetables.

A general note about Thai cuisine -- it can be spicy. The menu indicates spicy dishes by labeling spicy dishes with one, two or three red chilies, and the chef will modify the spice level of any dish upon request.

The service at Red Jasmine was prompt, efficient and attentive as it should be, since we were the only customers in the restaurant except for a couple who arrived as we were leaving. Our waiter attributed the scarcity of diners to the fact they have been open only a short time. The cynic in me might blame the lackluster attendance to the fact that they had not yet gotten their license to sell alcoholic beverages, though they've received it since our visit.

The Roanoker Magazine

EATS: Testing the Thai
From September/October 2007 Issue

He Said

I’ll preface this by saying I’m a complete virgin when it comes to Thai food – not due to fear of the unknown, but rather to a simple lack of opportunity.

Nevertheless, it was still with nightmarish visions involving a bathroom scene ripped straight from the 2004 Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston comedy “Along Came Polly” (those who’ve seen the movie will understand the reference, and the rest can likely guess enough of the details for me to omit them here) that I agreed to accompany Andrea for a lunch visit to Red Jasmine. Happily, my experience was much more pleasant than Stiller’s.
Not knowing much about what to order, I decided the Masaman curry with chicken sounded like a reasonably safe option. I wanted to try curry, and this particular version had only one pepper printed on the menu and used coconut milk in the recipe. I was surprised to find that the dish of carrots, sweet potatoes, pineapples, onions, green peas and peanuts had, not the tongue-scorching spicy bite I was expecting, but rather a nice tropical sweetness, and the peanuts added a salty and mild touch that I enjoyed. Emboldened by this, I also tried Andrea’s mango curry, which I did find to have more of a kick to it than my dish, but nothing any more intimidating than some of my favorite spicy appetizers at the local “el restaurantes.” I also ordered a Thai iced coffee, which I enjoyed, finding it to be much like an iced cappuccino. All in all I enjoyed the experience and hope to try Thai again soon.

She Said

Our lunch at Red Jasmine exceeded my expectations from the appetizer of Thai dumplings to my main dish of mango curry with scallops. The yellow curry dish with chunks of mango, onion pieces, peppers, onions and other well-prepared vegetables popped with flavor. One bite was sweet and spicy with the piquant sauce and a bit of mango, while the next had the soft, mild flavor of the scallops enhanced with some tomato. Like many Thai dishes, there are many different tastes on one plate, and this one was prepared very well.

Since I took two Thai neophytes with me, I expected lots of questions. However, both dining companions selected with little help from me and enjoyed their dishes – Pad Thai with shrimp and Masaman curry with chicken. I know that they loved their food since there wasn’t as much talking as there was eating – until the food was gone anyway. The dining partner that had the Pad Thai practically licked the plate clean.

And if the wonderful food wasn’t enough, the service was quick, attentive but completely unobtrusive. The next time I’m craving Thai, I’m going to revisit Red Jasmine. —AC

Red Jasmine Thai Cuisine. Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. 210 South Pollard Street, Vinton. 345-1165.

Read the complete article in the new Roanoker