Holladay • Anny Sooksri was a woman on a mission, and it wasn’t to get your mail delivered in spite of snow, rain, heat and gloom of night.
Sooksri abandoned a career with the U.S. Postal Service to open the Tea Rose Diner in Murray, quite possibly a tougher gig than handling mail. She opened two more restaurants after teaming up with Jeff Kelsch: Chabaar in Midvale and Siam Noodle Bar in Murray. In May, the partners launched their most ambitious eatery yet, Fav Bistro, in the space formerly occupied by Normandie Café on Murray Holladay Road.
Sooksri and Kelsch want to cure whatever ails us with liberal doses of coconut oil, fresh vegetables, ginger, garlic, green papaya, Thai basil and freshly pressed juices. They even boast of purifying drinking and cooking water using reverse osmosis, a filtration process that can turn salty water into fresh, among other things.
I don’t know if that’s really necessary in Holladay, but it’s a testament to the owners’ aim to help us eat and drink well. We’re all for purity, but how does it taste?
I was skeptical when I saw the size of the menu, which covers breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s somewhat eclectic in terms of theme: There are straight-up Thai dishes, and Thai-influenced dishes (a steak served on top of french fries, à la poutine, with a coconut milk sauce for $21.95), along with stuff like fish tacos ($8.95 at lunch, $15.95 at dinner) and a Reuben sandwich with bacon and house-made sauerkraut ($11.95).
With a few exceptions, the dishes I sampled were tastefully seasoned, looked good and were loaded with tasty fresh fruits and veggies in sometimes surprising combinations. And Fav Bistro offers a modest selection of beer and wine as well as limited cocktails.
The best thing I ate there was a red curry-spiked coconut sauce loaded with carrots, bell peppers and bamboo tips and topped with a fried softshell crab ($18.95). The sauce was creamy and mildly hot, perfect over the boiled white rice that came with it. And the crab was crisp outside, tender within, a treat not often seen in landlocked Utah.
The worst was a dish of mussels in a sauce of white wine, garlic and sweet chile paste ($15.95), which didn’t measure up because the mussels were rather small and dry, and too many didn’t open. There are better mussels in town, so opt instead for something less bistro-ish and more Thai, like the grilled half chicken with green papaya salad and rice cooked in coconut milk ($18.95). While the white meat was slightly overdone, the seasoning was subtle and delicious. I only wished for a bit more sauciness to moisten the coconut rice. But the red curry sauce from the crab dish filled in very nicely.
The chicken, like some other dishes on the menu, can feed two or three people, so before ordering, get advice from the wait staff about portions. They were friendly and able to answer most of our questions, although a bit slow in bringing table settings and the check to our patio table at dinner.
A lunchtime visit went more smoothly. The table was already set, and the service was efficient. We were the slow ones this time, as we debated what to order from more than two dozen options for breakfast and lunch, along with a dozen more appetizers.
We tried the chicken potstickers (five for $6.95), a respectable rendition of that classic cooked just crisp enough but tender within, served with a sweet chile dipping sauce. We also sampled two of the juice drinks ($7.95 each). The Energizer, which included banana, cherry and spinach, was green, frothy and delicious. The other was a less sweet concoction that included avocado, which made the consistency rather viscous.
Those veggies I referenced earlier are abundant even in the breakfast dishes. A Thai omelet ($10.95) was stuffed with chicken and garnished with lettuce, cucumber, carrot, scallions, bean sprouts and cilantro. Coconut milk added to the eggs made the batter soft, fluffy and delectable.
From the lunch menu, mixed grains fried rice ($11.95) featured a Who’s Who of the superstar seed world, from brown and red rice to quinoa and lentils. With the addition of garlic, onion, broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms, the sautéed mixture was the perfect platform for a poached egg. I felt like I could run a marathon, or maybe just a block, after eating it.
Fav’s version of larb ($11.95), a traditional Thai salad, can be made with chicken or tofu that is blended with shredded carrot, onion, cilantro and mint. It’s filling but light, just the thing for a warm summer day.
Same with the grilled chicken and papaya salad ($12.95), which comes with a portion of sticky rice. Tender white meat chicken gets a sweet jolt from the whitish flesh of the fruit while the rice acts as matchmaker, keeping it all together.
Vegetarians and vegans have a wealth of choices at Fav. They range from such simple dishes as crisp green beans sautéed with garlic ($7.95) and roasted cauliflower dressed with an addictive sweet red chimichurri sauce ($8.95) to more involved soups, salads and rice dishes.
If the sweet tooth needs placating, try one of the excellent housemade ice creams ($5); the coconut variety was enough for our party to have a couple spoonfuls each and feel satisfied.
Patrons of the former Normandie Café will see not much has changed with the interior layout and décor, which is casual and comfortable. The patio could use a little TLC, however: The tables were dusty and weeds are growing between the pavers.
While Fav Bistro has a strong Thai bent, it offers an eclectic mix of flavors borrowed from other cultures. Everything I ate seemed good for me, the kind of stuff my momma said I should. So, mission accomplished.
Fav Bistro **1/2
Food **1/2 (out of 4 stars)<br>Mood **<br>Service **<br>Noise • 1 bell<br>This Thai-influenced restaurant, which opened in May, offers a large menu of classic and quirky dishes. You’ll find larb, pad Thai and curries along with “steak massaman poutine” — meat on french fries with a coconut milk sauce — and a Reuben sandwich with house-made sauerkraut. The vegetables are fresh and abundant, and if you like coconut, you’ll be in heaven.<br>Location • 1984 E. Murray Holladay Road, Holladay; 801-676-9300<br>Online • www.favbistro.com<br>Hours • Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.<br>Children’s menu • No<br>Prices • $$-$$$$<br>Liquor • Beer, wine, limited cocktails<br>Reservations • Yes<br>Takeout • Yes<br>Wheelchair access • Yes<br>Outdoor dining • Yes<br>On-site parking • Yes<br>Credit cards • All major