Eating at Arun's is like attending a premiere symphony, with each dish carrying a delicate yet stunning melody. The recently revamped menu offers a prix-fixe Thai sampler to give customers more variety for $85 a head. Pace yourself, as the small portions pour steadily from the kitchen for two to three hours, pending your speed. The Sunday night crowd surprises: a number of young couples in their early thirties in less-than-formal attire. Of course, you also have the usual expense-account-toting businesspeople in their forties. The restaurant is understated in Thai fashion; there's nothing fancy once you leave the gemmed artwork at the entrance. Its clear that the emphasis here is on the culinary creations.
While highlighting the menu enjoyed this week, Arun's knowledgeable waitstaff will warn you to expect alterations by next. They'll ask you about your allergies and spice tolerance, suggest a riesling or a pinot noir and then deliver 13 surprise dishes: four appetizers, seven entrees, and two deserts.
The unique bursts of flavors become progressively more hot as the evening unfolds. Savor the seafood medley appetizer made with shrimp, sauteed scallops and crabmeat noodles wrapped in a quiche-like pastry and decorated with a mushroom and green pea sauce. And get the recipe for the most refreshing lemongrass dressing tossed with mesclun greens and a vegetable pancake. Dessert offerings include a dense rice cake with shaved blue coconut and a mini puffed pastry in a sweet red bean sauce or a silky smooth coconut sorbet atop fresh grapefruit slices and a mint leaf. Owner and head chef Arun Sampanthavivat may be aging, but his culinary mind is one of the sharpest. Bonus: while no menu comes with the meal, they're happy to email you detailed dish descriptions within a week.
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Mara Sands