Kitchen Doors: Diverse and Delicious

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Posted By on September 5, 2019

By Lisa Mullavey

MALEE’S THAI BISTRO

Scottsdale, maleesonmain.com

For 32 years, Malee’s Thai Bistro on East Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale has been serving up some of the best Thai food in the Valley. From the minute you walk in, an enticing aroma of spices draws you into the inviting space. Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu, making several recommendations and helping us choose the right level of spice for each dish. Eager to try several, we started with the chicken satay appetizer, which is four chicken skewers marinated in coconut milk and grilled with yellow curry and Thai spices served. Next we shared a bowl of tom kha gai, Malee’s famous coconut ginger soup. Made with chili reduction sauce, mushrooms, fresh lemongrass, galangal root (Thai ginger), aromatic kafir lime leaf, cilantro and onion, the result is rich and delicious. For our entrées, we shared the crispy mango fish and green basil curry with shrimp. The perfect balance of sweet and spicy, the mango fish is a fried filet topped with mango, diced onion, ginger, lemongrass and toasted coconut finished with a sweet tamarind sauce. The green basil curry gets its spice from Thai chilis balanced beautifully by the coconut cream. Whether you’re familiar with or new to Thai cuisine, Malee’s is a must-visit.

CUBAN FOODS RESTAURANT & BAKERY

Phoenix, facebook.com/CubanFoods

In 2006, Ana and Manuel Cias-Hernandez came to Arizona from Cuba with the dream of opening a restaurant. After several years of hard work and focus, their dream became a reality when they opened Cuban Foods Bakery & Restaurant. Tuesday through Sunday you’ll find this family hard at work creating traditional Cuban food and delectable pastries for all to enjoy. Whether you drop in for breakfast topped off with a Cuban coffee, pick up lunch or dine in with the family for dinner, the delicious food will have you coming back again and again. Try the traditional sandwich Cubano made with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on house-made Cuban bread or the pollo a la plancha, a chicken breast marinated in garlic and lemon, grilled and topped with grilled onions. I regularly stop in for my favorite sandwich, the pan con bistec, a pressed sandwich made with tender steak topped with garlic sauce, lettuce, tomato and onions on Cuban bread. For dessert, their flan is a customer favorite. In addition to the restaurant, Cuban Food also takes special orders for pastries and cakes.

CAFÉ LALIBELA

Tempe, cafelalibela.com

For more than two decades, Anibal and Salem Beyene have shared the unique flavors and rich customs that are the essence of Ethiopian cuisine from their café in the heart of Tempe. Ethiopian food is very healthy, naturally offering many vegetarian and gluten-free options. The traditional meal is centered on friends and family, served in a communal style meant for enjoying together. In this style, a mix of different foods is arranged on a large round platter called a gabeta. A circle of injera, a spongy flatbread that’s a staple of the Ethiopian diet, is used to scoop up items like stews, curries and vegetables. The best part is that the food is meant to be eaten with your hands — feeding someone a bite is even viewed as a sign of respect and endearment. Dining solo one afternoon, I ordered the doro wat, Lalibela’s spicy chicken stew served with injera. Made with chicken simmered in a chili sauce, spiced clarified butter, onion and spices, the stew was full-flavored with a nice heat that complemented the chicken. Café Lalibela has a small retail market that offers food, spices, jewelry and other items, and you can also find a selection of their food at Whole Foods.

PUERTO RICO LATIN BAR & GRILL (Local First Selection and Featured Restaurant)

Phoenix, facebook.com/PuertoRicoLatinGrill

Puerto Rican Latin Bar & Grill is the spot to visit for authentic Puerto Rican food and tastes of the Caribbean. Vibrant and colorful, the restaurant boasts a floor-to-ceiling mural that showcases Puerto Rico’s many points of interest as well as an array of flags and other unique treasures. After telling our waitress we were unfamiliar with Puerto Rican fare, she helped us select our entrées and sides. We started with the platanos maduros, sweet plantains that are lightly fried, giving them a slightly crispy outer texture with a creamy center. My husband ordered pollo frito, a flavorful fried chicken served with mofongo, a sort of Puerto Rican mashed potato made from mashed green plantains, fresh garlic, olive oils and pork rind. I had chuletas fritas, two wonderfully seasoned and fried pork chops along with arroz con gandules, yellow rice with pigeon peas. Everything was full-flavored and delicious. Owner Wesley Andujar made us feel like family during our visit, taking time to chat about how he came to open his bar and grill seven years ago. Now a local favorite with a strong word of mouth and social media following, Puerto Rico Latin Bar & Grill has become a stopping point for many professional ballplayers visiting Arizona during spring training and the regular season. Though we left full, we took dessert home, choosing their tembleque, a creamy coconut pudding dusted with cinnamon. Overall, a delightful experience!

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