Kafé Yen – Thai-Centric Asian Fusion in Pacific Beach

December 15, 2010

A stone’s throw from Crystal Pier, Kafé Yen is a cozy Asian retreat that offers colorful culinary mainstays of Southeast Asia and specializes in authentic Thai cuisine. The motto boasts “Love you can taste”, an adage that holds true from the first sip of lemon, cucumber and mint-infused ice water, to the final bite of the famed fried banana dessert. Upon entering the quaint eatery, the warm ambiance of Kafé Yen makes the commotion of Garnet Avenue a distant memory.

Decorated harmoniously with Thai art, the earth-tone interior is subtly lit and romantic, with calming background music and a pink rose atop each table. Since Kafé Yen does not serve alcohol, the attentive servers suggest a pot of one of many flavorful teas ($3.25). The ginger peach tea is delicate, fruity and aromatic, with spicy undertones.

There are an abundance of dishes whose presentation, freshness, and precise ratio of innovation to tradition makes the place exceptional among San Diego’s Thai restaurants. In the tom ka soup, woody, ginger-flavored galanga, stiff and aromatic kaffir lime leaves and tenderized lemongrass team to create a fragrant framework for coconut milk broth, a substantial serving of fresh vegetables and your choice of chicken, shrimp or extra vegetables ($5.95). The roti pancakes are thin and crisp, served with a sweet and refreshing cucumber salad as well as a side of the house peanut sauce. The Massaman Curry Chicken house special is a generous portion of braised chicken strips in a rich, nutty and spicy curry sauce, and is served with a side of cucumber salad, roti and jasmine rice ($15.95). The Lotus of the Sea, one of the priciest dishes on the menu at a whopping $17.95, is a steamed-cabbage “lotus” filled with an assortment of seafood including scallops, shrimp, squid, mussels and fish baked in a red curry with coconut milk and kaffir leaves, which create a complex, layered, taste-sensation.

The fried rice, noodle dishes, and entrées each are made with the diner’s choice of vegetables or meat (chicken, beef, pork, duck, bbq pork, shrimp, salmon, or seafood combo), and range in price from $9.95 to $14.95. The drunken noodles is a well-done classic that combines wide rice noodles with a spicy brown sauce, robust Thai basil, mixed vegetables and a garnish of carrots, cabbage and cilantro.

Desserts at Kafé Yen go above and beyond conventional. While offering the more conventional Thai desserts, like mango sticky rice and green tea ice cream, the diverse selection goes on to include the combo banana ($7.95), which is an absolutely delightful combination of fried banana, flavorful vanilla ice cream and a topping of coconut flakes, peanuts, caramel and butterscotch.

This restaurant is truly a family-run operation. Brother and sister Off and Pasara Thamphan both cook and manage. Hailing from Bangkok, they both learned their skills from their mother, who frequently sends ingredients from Thailand and flies in to serve as executive chef when the kids need a vacation. The family plans to open restaurants next year in Manila, Philippines, and will also launch a line of more than forty sauces to be sold internationally.

Come by this top level Asian Fusion/Thai restaurant and take a delectable vacation overseas without leaving Pacific Beach. Parking is ample and readily available in the Urban Outfitters/Blockbuster lot across the street. And if you don't feel like leaving home, Kafé Yen delivers to Pacific Beach and Bird Rock.

4516 Mission Boulevard at Mission & Garnet
(858) 373-3936

Mon. - Thurs. Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Fri. Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.; Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Sat. 12 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Sun. 12 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

* Vegetarian Friendly
*Serves Wine and Beer

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