Many Americans may find their experience with so-called “Thai” food to be far from the real thing. They are accustomed to takeout spots with Pad Thai so greasy it can soak up a whole napkin or Crab Rangoon that calls into question seafood altogether. 

At Yasotorn Thai Cuisine, a recent addition to the Main-Dempster Mile, owner and chef Aom Fletcher flips all of this on its head. With its brightly-painted green storefront, decked out patio dining area and a whole grilled fish, Yasotorn allows Evanstonians to expand their understanding (and enjoyment) of this diverse and delicious cuisine.

“Unique, fresh food and a new experience is what we hope [the diners] take away from every visit,” Fletcher said.

George Esteve

A Look at the Menu

Time spent during quarantine in her home province of Yasothon inspired Fletcher to bring a refreshing Thai food experience to the Evanston area.

Fletcher said it was easy coming up with menu offerings. She combined typical American-Thai fare with recipes ingrained from home to create unique renditions of classic dishes.

Host and assistant manager Lou Narcisi said Yasotorn’s take on Thai food leans a little on the spicy side but leaves room for so much more flavor.

“We don’t use nearly as much sugar as the standard American-Thai place,” Narcisi said.

Yasotorn prides itself on accommodating all dietary restrictions. According to Fletcher, nearly ninety-five percent of the menu can be made vegan, gluten free or allergen-friendly. 

George Esteve

She encouraged patrons to take a stab at their vegan “meats,” which include an unorthodox, but surprisingly realistic vegan “shrimp.”

Faux seafood aside, Fletcher made sure to leave something for the meat-lovers! Every noodle dish comes with a choice of beef, chicken or shrimp and carnivorous visitors will be more than happy with Yasotorn’s take on Tiger Cry and Chicken Satay.

Something to Sip 

Our night began with a round of Thai iced coffee. Yasotorn offers a wide variety of Thai iced tea, boba and fruit smoothies, but the afterhours Spoon staff couldn’t resist the caffeine. I was pleasantly surprised by the enjoyable creaminess and chocolatey undertones. Though it was a little on the sweeter side, the delicate texture of the cream made up for any doubts.

Fried Herb Wings

Chicken wings are hard to perfect — whether too greasy, drenched in sauce or just not crisp — but Yasotorn’s incredibly crunchy Fried Herb Wings did not disappoint. The lemongrass incorporated into the marinade brought out a delicate tang reminiscent of a sophisticated lemon pepper wing.

The chicken came with a garnish of fried lemongrass (a new addition for me). It is easy to tell from the level of spice and full-bodied flavor that Fletcher uses fresh chilis in her recipes. Her decadent honey-chili sauce was the perfect balance of sweet, sour and heat.

Cry Tiger

Expertly-marinated beef is the name of the game here. The short cook time and high heat commonly used when cooking flank steak is a daunting task for restaurants, but once again, Yasotorn gets it right. The medium-rare execution elevated notes of lime and fish sauce in the meat while maintaining a desirable texture.

George Esteve

Yasotorn’s Pad Thai

You can’t hit a new Thai place and not try the Pad Thai. Fletcher said Yasotorn incorporates fresh tomatoes into their Pad Thais, an homage to her hometown. The Yasotorn rendition can be made gluten-free, and checks nearly every other dietary restriction, including vegan.

George Esteve

I decided on the vegetarian Pad Thai with vegan “shrimp” on the side. Sweet, nutty and rich in flavor, I enjoyed every bite of my noodles. I expected the tomatoes to water down the dish, but they instead provided a pleasant balance.

Grilled Salt-Rub Whole Tilapia

Dinner was topped off with Yasotorn’s house specialty: the grilled salt-rub whole tilapia served with a side of sticky vermicelli white noodles. A great entree for a group, the salt rub intensified the bright vegetal flavor and flaky texture of the fish without overpowering the dish.

George Esteve

Fletcher said the best way to enjoy the tilapia is in a lettuce wrap with a drizzle of seafood sauce. With complex notes of butter, endive and radish, the tilapia is at the top of my recommendation list.

Is Yasotorn Worth the Trip?

Yasotorn Thai may have just opened this October, but it already has me hooked. The menu welcomes diners with a wide array of delicious flavors and fresh ingredients, and the unique ambience provides more than just a meal. There’s no doubt Yasotorn will have NU students making the trek down (or ordering in!) for the best Thai food around. 

Photos courtesy of Stephanie Shields and Mira Brodsky