Lynn Luang lives in West Linn, where she owns Thai Linn restaurant in Central Village, but she earned her chops in Los Angeles restaurant scene, where she says she was exposed to a melting pot of people and cuisines.
Similar diversity is reflected on Thai Linns menu. Luang, who is from a Chinese family but was born in Thailand, borrowed some recipes from her business partner, known as Big Mama, who made her name with popular restaurants like Thai Talay in L.A. And while Thai Linn offers many popular Thai standards, such as drunken noodles, wide rice noodles stir-fried with chile peppers and basil, and roasted duck curry, the dishes all feature Luangs unique spin.
Ive been in the business for 20 years so I kind of know what people like and what they dont like, she said. What they hate? Grease. What they love? Spice and lots of flavor.
The range of influences on Thai Linns menu makes sense, considering that Thai cuisine, although typically spoken of as a single genre, actually reflects food from multiple regions of Thailand and in the case of Thai Linn, Luangs own personal experiences and background.
For example, som tum, a salad made of shredded green papaya, tomatoes, long beans and carrots tossed with lime juice and peanuts, is most common in eastern Thailand, Luang said.
Larb, a dish made of minced chicken, red and green onions, mint and rice in a spicy lime dressing, is also representative of the east.
On the other hand, kao soi, a mix of crispy and soft egg noodles coated with a curry-coconut-milk sauce, reflects food in northern Thailand, while curry dishes are common throughout the entire country, she said.
Luangs family recipes have also influenced her menu.
My mom is Chinese, and she always made ginger fish for us when I was little, Luang said. Thai Linns ginger fish, halibut loaded with ginger, sauteed vegetables and a gravy-like sauce, is her tribute to the beloved dish.
She also infuses ginger into the brown rice customers can order on the side, although Thai Linns brown rice is actually red, a variety of rice that Luang feels is even more healthful. Ginger also has health benefits, she added: Its good for the body.
Another surprise on Thai Linns menu is the chocolate cake. Luang admits its a departure from the typical Thai menu, but she couldnt resist indulging customers in her aunts homemade chocolate cake slathered in frosting. CrÃ¨me brulee, though not on the regular menu, is a frequent special also not typically found at Thai restaurants.
Luang said she caters to customers tastes and takes inspiration from them. For example, a regular might tell her about a dish enjoyed elsewhere, and shell try to come up with something similar. She offers a rotating list of specials that varies depending on which ingredients are the freshest.
And while a lot of Thai restaurants might cut coconut milk with dairy products because theyre cheaper, she said, she refuses to sacrifice any of the quality or flavor. As a result, Thai Linns curries are made entirely with coconut milk, making them dairy-free. Most of the dishes can be adjusted to meet customers dietary preferences and restrictions.
The restaurant is celebrating its one-year anniversary this fall. And though the past year has been busy for Luang she trains her chefs and fills in as a server while managing as well she believes thats what it takes to treat customers to food thats of the highest quality.
They have to come in an try it, she said.
Thai Linn now offers live music on weekend evenings.
Performances take place at about 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.