Thai Orchid Cafe Passes the Wok


Lexington, KY – Lexington is fortunate to have many fine examples of a wide range of ethnic cuisine. A prime example of this is Thai Orchid Cafe (www.thaiorchidcafe.net), located at 1030 South Broadway. Just recently, the restaurant officially went through a generational ownership change, or “passing of the wok,” that saw the ownership and operations transfer from founders Kat and Suda Veerasethakul to their daughter, Chef Toa Green.
This family and event epitomizes what is great about restaurant entrepreneurship in Kentucky. It involves success, great food, new and emerging food talent, and another piece of the solid foodservice foundation in the region.
Lets start with Thai cuisine, which has a rich food tradition hundreds of years old and is influenced by more than 40 ethnic groups and varied geography (from the foothills of the Himalayas to rainforests and tropical islands), It embraces the enthusiastic use of fresh herbs, spices and vegetables. Like most Asian cuisines, it’s about flavor – and it’s important to point out that flavor and “spicy” do not necessarily mean “hot.”
It’s about a balance of flavor and incorporates combinations of sweet, sour, savory and other taste sensations. Other influences include the neighboring countries of Laos, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Like many restaurateurs, the original founders of Thai Orchid Cafe, Kat and Suda Veerasethakul, got their earliest food training at home in the kitchen. Later in life, while attending graduate school in central Kentucky, Kat Veerasethakul worked at a Long John Silver’s. They eventually opened their first restaurant, called The Smile of Siam, in Frankfort, Ky., in 1990. They sold that restaurant and subsequently opened Thai Orchid Cafe in 2006.
Their daughter, Toa, learned about food from her parents but did not immediately enter the business full time. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her degree in journalism and public relations in 2004. She also worked for Habitat For Humanity and Seasons Catering, and she ventured overseas to do volunteer work in tsunami-impacted areas such as India and Thailand. It was in India that she met her husband, Mike Green, who was also doing volunteer work.
After returning to Lexington, she become deeply involved in the family business, mastering all facets of it, including the all important role as chef. This year, the Veerasethakuls decided to transition the business to their daughter. In true entrepreneurial fashion, Toa Green decided to maintain the best of the existing business but also update and evolve the concept. They closed the restaurant for a couple of weeks in November to make some decor updates and implement some kitchen changes for greater efficiency, along with some menu changes. Other changes in the works include a new POS (point of sale) system, a new customer loyalty program, enhanced online ordering and a mobile-phone app for ordering. Additionally, the Greens also have a passion for the environment and being responsible community citizens through recycling, composting, and other initiatives.
The updated menu is a delightful array of items that should delight anyone’s taste buds and has both a lunch and dinner version. The appetizers are made from scratch and hold true to traditional preparation techniques. Offerings include lettuce wraps, shrimp pillows, egg rolls, spring rolls and chicken dippers (bite-sized battered chicken bites with dipping sauces). The soup lineup includes a tom yum soup, Thai rice soup and a tom kah soup, which is a creamy coconut soup with lime and cilantro.
Entrees are organized around their signature crispy chicken, house-made curries, seafood, classic Thai dishes and noodles and fried rice. Special dietary needs can be accommodated with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. The crispy chicken entrees are made with chicken tenders hand-dipped in their secret batter and served with steamed rice. A customer can choose from pineapple-tangerine chicken, three-flavor chicken, peanut chicken, sweet-chili chicken and triple-crown chicken, which is a medley sampler platter. Seafood items include coconut-curry shrimp, shrimp hot pot and three seafood variety entrees.
The classics include stir-fry dishes such as pepper and garlic, veggie delight, cashew craze, and ginger and herb. Noodles and fried rice entrees include the well-known pad thai as well as pad see eiw, pad kee maw (drunken noodles), pad woonsen, Thai fried rice and Thai orchid fire. The classics, noodles and fried rice dishes come with chicken, shrimp, beef, veggies and tofu options.
The Thai Orchid Cafe is an opportunity to experience great and unique food at reasonable prices and also support a local independent business. Give it a try.

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