As a cook-turned-sailor stopping at ports of call throughout Asia, Nang Thai was on the lookout for details that defined the cuisines he encountered. And now, as the owner of Asian Grill on Gibson, he’s more than happy to stand by your table and tell you about his various epiphanies. Like that time in Chiang Mai, Thailand, when he first ate beef cooked with pineapple: The way the fruity sweetness interacted with the slices of beef made an impression on him. That’s why it’s on his menu, which is a selection of some of his favorite dishes from the Eastern Hemisphere.
Even before I learned of the secret menu at Budai, I was already recommending the small, Taiwanese-owned eatery for the element of surprise its regular menu brings. The non-secret menu is a long and interesting read, full of familiar and unusual Taiwanese and Chinese dishes. If you ask questions about the food, you might get a history lesson from Elsa Fang, who handles the front of the restaurant while her husband, Hsia, does the cooking. And, if you ask her to, she will translate the secret menu from Chinese. But she will do so selectively.