The Cuisine Scene
Brenda Hill

Thai Chili
Calimesa, CA

For one of the best lunch values in town, try the new Thai Chili restaurant in Calimesa. Located in the Crown Village Center, they serve a hot lunch, freshly prepared, for less than ten dollars.

By the time I heard about it, I’d missed the lunch specials, but I didn’t want to wait to try the food, so Sheila and I went for dinner. Inside, Aranya Charapinyo, one of the owners, greeted us and led us to one of several booths by the window. A soothing floor fountain stood in the corner, and coordinating table linens covered the tables and booths.

The petite Aranya also answers to Alice or Elise, which she laughs and says either is the Americanized version of her name. Although she struggles with her English, she’s determined to learn and I think she’s done very well, especially since she’s only been in the States about two years. She, in partnerships with her niece, Patt, opened Thai Chili November 30, and Aranya serves as hostess, server, busperson and cook. I’m sure she’s also chief bottle washer as well.

Aside from the appetizers, I had no clue what to order, so Aranya suggested a few dishes. She first brought an appetizer plate of egg rolls, fried shrimp, calamari, crab lagoon and vegetable tempura. The crab lagoon, I discovered, is a wonton with cream cheese and crab. Real crab, Aranya proudly told me. And they prepare their own egg rolls as well as homemade batter for the appetizers. Not only did we enjoy the seafood, but the vegetables, including zucchini, onion rings and yams, were crunchy and delicious. While they have fifteen different appetizer choices, ours was $8.95. Next time I plan to try their 4 piece crispy chicken wings served with sweet and sour sauce for $5.95.  

For dinner, I chose Chow Mein, and Aranya suggested we also try their Yellow Curry over rice. The dish is a little spicy, but she assured us it didn’t have the heat of their spicier dishes, marked with red checks. They have over twenty main dishes, from Roast Duck to Orange Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Snow Pea Shrimp, and include steamed jasmine rice. All of the dishes are served with your choice of chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetarian for $6.95. If you prefer shrimp, duck, calamari or a combination, it’s $8.95.

The orangey-red curry arrived in a bowl with shrimp, potatoes, onions, and carrots, and we ladled the coconut milk-based soup over the rice. Spicy, rich, it had just enough bite to offset the milk.

Some of their noodle dishes are dry and others are soups, and some are your choice. Tom Kha Pla is a shrimp or chicken noodle soup. Their Egg Noodle and BBQ pork can be either. Another dish is Gai Kua, stir-fried chicken with flat rice noodles, garlic, green onion, and bean sprouts, and they have at least ten other choices. I selected the Chicken Chow Mein.

Aranya said they use breast meat from chickens, and for chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetarian noodle dishes, it’s $5.95. BBQ pork or duck is $6.95, and a little more if you prefer seafood.

We also tried the crab fried rice, and again, the prices range from $5.95 to $8.95, depending on your choice of meat. All of the dishes are large enough to share.

Their seafood selections include Steamed Mussels with lemon glass and basil leaves, Kung or Pla Sam Rote, which is fried shrimp or sole fillet with sweet and sour sauce, and several salmon, catfish, sea bass, and scallop dishes, ranging from $7.95 to $13.95. 

For dessert, Aranya suggested we try the Fried Banana with Coconut Flakes. When it arrived, I was surprised, as I couldn’t imagine fried banana, but the sections were crispy and the coconut and banana flavors melded beautifully without being overly sweet. That dish is $3.95.

They have several other desserts including regular and green tea ice cream. I still haven’t tried the green tea ice cream. But maybe, like sushi, I’ll eventually cave.

Sushi is another Thai Chili feature. Hand made, Aranya said. I still back away when someone mentions raw fish, but Sean, my new eleven-year-old grandson, loves sushi and keeps urging me to try it. He thinks I’d like the California roll made from shrimp, avocado, fish roe, cucumbers and carrot. Perhaps one day I’ll hijack him and try some. Surely, if an eleven-year-old boy, who loves hot dogs and Western burgers piled high with bacon, thinks sushi is good, then I could at least try it. If I don’t like it, I can always pawn it off on him, even if I have to resort to ice cream as bribery. That kid even likes green tea ice cream. 

In the meantime, I went back the next day for one of Aranya’s lunch specials. And I was wowed. Monday through Friday, from 11am to 3pm, they offer fifteen different lunch selections and they’re all priced the same. If you choose chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetarian, it’s $5.95, and only a dollar more for shrimp.

They offer Chow Mein, Beef or Chicken Broccoli, BBQ chicken, Teriyaki Chicken and several other choices, all served with the soup of the day, your choice of steamed Jasmine or fried rice, and salad. Everything’s prepared fresh that morning.

I ordered the Beef Broccoli and while waiting, Aranya served the salad and a cup of their chicken soup. With a light tomato base, the soup had chunks of chicken, carrot slivers and chopped green onion. Their house salad dressing is homemade honey-mustard. Usually I find honey-mustard a little too sweet, but theirs was very light in texture. But what I found impressive was the main course. Strips of lean beef with slices of carrot, broccoli tips, mushrooms and onions in a light brown sauce and a scoop of rice. It looked delicious and I found it hard to believe it was only six dollars. The beef tasted like beef, and wasn’t tough or stringy. Aranya says they buy top sirloin or London broil from local markets and prepare it in-house. 

Even though I didn’t think I could hold dessert, she wanted me to try a different dessert, Thai Roti, a pan-fried crepe in butter, topped with a sauce of Thai milk and sugar and served warm. Oh, my job is sooo tough, but I managed to sample a few bites. Round like a small pizza, the Roti was perfect comfort food for a rainy day.

Thai Chili
Thai/Sushi Restaurant
1007 Calimesa Blvd #A
Calimesa, CA  92320
Open 7 days until 9pm