Many local restaurants yearn for a downtown location that offers high visibility. The owners of City Corner 2 have been there, done that and are perfectly content with the space they occupy in a modest building in an almost industrial area of Plantation Road in Roanoke. The popular Thai food restaurant has a dedicated following.
Owners, Pranom Nguyen and her son Meta Luangprasert, run the restaurant with Nguyen’s husband, Loi. Originally, from Thailand, they have been in the United States for about 20 years. Moving from Thailand, they ended up in Los Angeles and then to Roanoke.
Nguyen says everyone in her family cooks. She wanted to learn more, so she went to school to become educated about food and cooking. After gaining that knowledge, she opened her first restaurant, Krua Lai Mai in Los Angeles and then City Corner in the heart of Downtown Roanoke. After relinquishing ownership of the small lunch spot in downtown, they decided to open City Corner 2 and most of their clientele followed. They have been at the Plantation Road location for about three years, and say it is working well. The standalone restaurant doubled their space and has a parking lot, and they are adamant there will be no expanding!
A baker’s rack filled with condiments, including great sauces, greets you at the door. My husband says the sauces are so good they should be bottled and available for purchase. Our favorite is the black soy sauce and we have been unable to find it anywhere else. Trust me; it has a rich flavor and lots of umami. Other sauces include chili, sweet-and-sour and seafood.
My family and I are no newbies to the Thai food City Corner and now City Corner 2 serves. We knew right away, what we wanted to order for lunch. We started with angel wings as an appetizer, which, according to Nguyen are a customer favorite. The menu describes the dish as “deep fried boneless wings stuffed with ground chicken, bean threads, black mushrooms, cilantro and carrots served with a side of sweet-and-sour sauce.” That is a mouthful! The presentation is very nice — pieces sliced and layered on the plate. The chicken is crisp on the outside and even though the ingredients list seems long, the flavor is very mild. The dish is about the multiple unexpected textures at play. Once you utilize the sweet-and-sour and black soy sauces, it is golden.
We also ordered a couple of items from the Dim Sum menu. What is Dim Sum? Based on a bit of googling, I discovered it is a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions on small plates. (Thanks google!) Our pan-fried crisp dumplings looked like little purses with juicy ground chicken filling the inside. Additionally, the fried shrimp roll is a deep fried wonton wrapped around a shrimp.
I normally order green curry, which is not spicy, but this time I decided on the red. It has a bit of heat, but not overwhelmingly so, due to the sweetness of the coconut milk based broth. The fare is served in a bowl full of vegetables with a side of white rice and two vegetable egg rolls. The consistency is creamy but still a bit broth-like, meaning it is not so rich you cannot finish it. One of my favorite things is the julienned bamboo shoots because of the unusual texture they add. Also included in this flavor and texture filled dish are green beans and tender chicken. A spoonful of the broth with some chicken and bamboo shoots, along with the rice, is the perfect bite.
Every time we eat Thai food, my teenage daughter orders chicken pad Thai, and this time was no exception. Ever informative, Jaylen says the carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts add just the right amount of texture to the plate full of noodles and chicken. A squeeze of lime and some of the black soy sauce add to the tanginess.
My husband Kirk ordered fried pork over rice. The pork comes hot with plenty of rice and hot sauce on the side — hot sauce so spicy you must consume it with caution. Actually, the sweet heat turns into a slow after burn. The pork is boneless and cut into bite-size chunks, the texture is similar to that of teriyaki chicken sticks, crisp on the outside and tender and moist inside. The rice is cooked well and clumps for easy chopstick eating.
Try the Thai tea when you visit. It is sweet iced tea with a creamy orange color reminiscent of dreamsicle. Evaporated milk gives it creaminess. The flavor is very tea forward, probably due to the black tea used in brewing. They also serve green tea, light green in color but just as creamy as the Thai tea. The taste of the green tea was not as tea forward as the Thai tea, and at first, you think the flavor is minty, but there is no mint to be found. The green tea was Kirk’s and Jaylen’s favorite. It reminded them of a green tea Frappuccino from Starbucks, only better.
Make it your business to try City Corner 2. You will enjoy ingredients ordered straight from Thailand, and food cooked fresh that arrives hot. The restaurant is located at 3005 Plantation Road in Roanoke. Dine in or call 540.362.0570 for takeout from 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.