Thursday, July 14, 2011

Em-On's Thai Cafe - Wonderfully Fresh Thai Cuisine in Naples

Em-On Thai Café Is one of the top places for authentic Thai food in SW Florida. It’s been tucked away in the Greentree Shopping Center for some fifteen years, since 1996-you don’t find this treasure by accident. Even during the summer, their 40 or so seats can fill up at 7pm on a weekday, as I saw Wednesday evening.

Step inside, and check out the decorative intricately carved teak log wooden statues and other carvings. There’s some six layers or receding levels of carvings of elephants amidst dense foliage. It’s a surprisingly roomy place, with tables well-spaced apart, and quite a few booths for 2-4 people.
This is a family business, with different relatives pitching in. On our visit, as we entered, a regular told up that while all seats were filled, the single female server handled all without any significant delay. By the time we received our food, there were perhaps 15 people left, and the single server masterfully took care of all in an efficient, friendly manner. Em-On is the Executive Chef and owner, and her finely crafted artistic touches are in all aspects of your dining. Come early, and she’s hand carving the decorative carrots into flowers and other forms.
Em-On has twelve brothers and sisters-ten of them are also restauranteurs, with most still back in Bangkok. She and her grown children and their in-laws tend this restaurant. They also visit Thailand each year, and keep up with traditional and current Thai tastes and trends from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

Have a seat and have a Singha or Chang Thai beer, Corona, Heineken, Miller or O’Douls beer; a good wine; or soft drinks.
If you’ve not had Thai food, a good way to describe it is like very good Chinese food with intense, laser-like flavors, where each fresh ingredient is clearly identified. There are seven regular appetizers. I like to start with the A7-Peek Kai Tod- the $7 order of two huge chicken wings which are deboned, and the tasty meat mixed with clear noodles, chopped onions, yellow curry and garlic, and the delicious mix stuffed back in the wing’s supple skin and all quickly fried. Dip in the Sweet Thai Red Chili Dipping Sauce. A large and delicious portion!
Stuffed Chicken Wings
The $7 A5 Khanon Jeeb is Em-On’s family recipe. The dumplings are stuffed with succulent ground pork, mushrooms, onions and steamed, then served with sweet black soybean sauce. Have a chicken or pork satay marinated with coconut milk and sweet yellow curry sauce, dipped with Em-On’s original peanut sauce. Laarb ($11) is like the Cambodian classic, with choice of ground beef, chicken or pork mixed with onions, scallions, cilantro and a special sauce.

    I love the Tom Yum soup- this $4 small/ $8 large soup has a generous portion of chicken in coconut milk with Thai herbs, mushrooms and cilantro. I also recommend the mild heat of the Tom Yum Gai hot and sour lemongrass broth with mushrooms, cilantro and truly fresh tomato. There's a goodly chicken portion in the soups.
Hot n Sour soup
The Thai Wonton Soup, S3 Kiew-Nam has a couple dumpling-like wontons, vegetables and garlic in a clear broth. 
Wonton Soup
Pad Thai ($13) is a classic main dish, with several shrimps and generous portions of chicken mixed with rice noodles, crushed peanuts, scallions, bean sprouts and egg. It’s a big portion! The presentation is very attractive, served with a decorative freshly carved carrot on a blue and white fish-shaped plate.
Pad Thai
Like Vietnamese Pho? Em-On’s $11 Thai equivalent has a richer broth for this big bowl of rice noodles, topped with your choice of chicken, pork or beef, with cilantro and bean sprouts. The $14 Curry choices include red Gang-dong, Panang, Ma-Sa-Man, or Gang Wiew Wan curries. Stir fries are also $14 and tasty.

Go for some of the House specialty dishes, like HS3-$14 Ka-Prow spicy choice of pork, beef or chicken, sautéed with spicy chili sauce, with fresh basil, onions, peppers and mushrooms. I really like the HS4’s $14 Gai Ma-Mong’s chicken sautéed with peppers, carrots and onions, topped with cashews.
Chicken with Cashews
Other favorites include HS7-Chicken Sizzling Platter, and the HS10 $18.99 Roasted Duck, simmered in a cinnamon sweet black sauce, served on a spinach bed.

Now, take advantage of the $30 Summer Special that feeds two diners, with a bottle of quite good Coastal Vines brand wine (Cabernet, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio). I enjoy the bold tannins and dark berries of the Cabernet with Thai food, (I can also recommend beer, which is not part of the special). The dinner for two has a choice for each diner of a large spring roll, or choice of soup (Won Ton or Yom Yum Hot and Sour soup).

The eight entrees for the special include Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Gang-Dang, and various curries and my Gai Ma-Mong chicken with Cashew Nuts.

If you have room for dessert, get the $4 portion of crisply fried bananas with tasty ice cream, drizzled with a lightly spiced honey sauce.
There’s a reason why Em-On’s has been successful in this location since 1996, filling the dining room in the summer as diners order favorites a la carte, or from the Summer Special. Portions are tasty and generous, with all entrees priced under $19. Come by later at night, as this is where many of the Asian servers and cooks from other Asian restaurants come for their deliciously authentic dinners!

566-1993, 2364 Immokalee Road (Greentree Shopping Center at Airport), Naples, 11 am to 10 pm, closed Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful Thai delicacies & super friendly family-owned establishment. Your visit captures everything perfectly...looking forward to going back soon.:)

Anonymous said...

glad ur back up. Was running out of restaurants to try...