With its bright, embroidered curtains and leopard-print upholstery, the restaurant's dining room looks more like a living room.
With its bright, embroidered curtains and leopard-print upholstery, the restaurant's dining room looks more like a living room. Shiny brass bowls, burnished wooden Buddhas, paper umbrellas, bamboo and wicker echo the owner's Thai identity.
These surroundings serve up a feast for the senses before the aromas of pungent Asian spices waft from Atchara Khumsap's kitchen.
Khumsap, 53, learned to cook from her mother at a tender age in rural Thailand. She pounded onions and lemon grass to a paste when she was barely big enough to lift the mortar's heavy pestle. She made spring-roll wrappers and rice noodles by hand over an open fire. She operated a restaurant in Bangkok before leaving Thailand at age 35. After traveling in Europe, she settled in the Rogue Valley in 1995.
Her restaurant, Bangkok's Atchara (formerly known as Bangkok's Benny) has occupied a lime-green building on Talent's East Main Street since 2005. While demolishing the property's existing house to build her restaurant, Khumsap kept cooking in a trailer she had towed to the site after six years of operation on Talent's South Pacific Highway. She served the kind of street food beloved in Asia and large American cities long before food carts were considered credible dining options locally.
Perhaps the most credible Thai fare in the Rogue Valley, Bangkok's is cooked from raw meats and vegetables to order. She formulates her own peanut sauce and curry paste and is choosy about seasonal vegetables, even their size. Khumsap's conscientious cooking means orders take a little longer than at many other, local restaurants, where bulk batches of popular dishes are ready to heat up or finish.
Working largely without support staff, Khumsap recently installed a pass-through counter to the kitchen, where diners can stand and deliver orders while she continues to cook. A sign at the door informs patrons to plan on waiting at least 15 minutes for their food, but the lapse often is longer. About half of Khumsap's business is advance orders for takeout. The spiciness of most items doesn't begin to approach levels in Thailand, but Khumsap welcomes requests to turn up the heat.
Recommended: Pad thai noodles; "gaeng khew wan," green curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, Brussels sprouts and cilantro, served with rice; "tom yum" soup, lemon grass-infused, coconut-milk broth with tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, Brussels sprouts and choice of meat, served with rice; stir-fried vegetables — carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts — with choice of meat.
Alternative diets: Tofu option for nearly all dishes; locally grown vegetables in season and organic greens; unusual clover sprouts top most noodle dishes.
Beverages: Local and other domestic wines by the glass and bottle; domestic and imported, bottled beers; iced and hot teas.
Price range: Appetizers, $7.95; entrees, $10.95 to $16.95.
Extras: Lunch and dinner served from the same menu; personal checks and credit cards accepted; street parking.
Serving: From 12:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Info: 203 E. Main St., Talent; 541-535-8772.