One of Dallas' most elegant Thai restaurants will open a new location in a neighborhood that seems destined to love it. Asian Mint, the popular North Dallas Asian-fusion dining destination, will open its third outlet in Inwood Village, in the space long occupied by Cafe Istanbul.
Set to open in the fall, it will follow the same combination of New Bangkok-style cuisine, sweet service, and tasteful interior design as the other two locations on Forest Lane and Oak Lawn Avenue.
Asian Mint has accumulated many awards since founder Nikky Phinyawatana opened the first branch in 2005, including a spot on CultureMap Dallas' list of the top 100 restaurants. The restaurant will also be at the James Beard House in New York on November 8, to celebrate the Asian Full Moon festival of Loy Kratong with traditional Thai dishes and wine pairings.
It offers well-executed classics such as pad Thai, tom yum soup, and pad kee maw, and also has an amazing dessert program, with signature sweets such as the green tea ice cream cake. It's a favorite for vegetarian diners and earned a nod from USA Today as a top Dallas restaurant featuring gluten-free options.
It's also known for its stunning modernistic interiors, with eye-catching pastel colors and cool, minimalist design.
Located across from Medical City, the Forest Lane location is not only a favorite lunch spot for the hospital community, it's also an oasis in an intersection with few upscale alternatives. Its Oak Lawn location opened in 2009 and quickly developed a following among the Park Cities lunch crowd.
At Inwood Village, renovating the Cafe Istanbul space turned out to be an unpredictable but fascinating excavation. It was a makeshift space with three different levels of flooring, and 20 years worth of funky add-ons.
"We found a thick brick wall in the middle, with a window all covered up that had to be 50 years old," Phinyawatana says.
They've transformed it into their prototypical clean style, with 65-70 seats plus a 7-seat bar where customers can also pick up orders to-go.
Phinyawatana says she's perfectly happy with two branches, but is doing a third for a couple of very specific reasons.
"We have a lot of customers from this neighborhood who come into the Oak Lawn location and say they'd come in more often if we were closer," she says. The only other options for Asian food in the immediate area are Shinsei and Sushi House.
But Phinyawatana's main motivation is offering staff members who've worked at Asian Mint for many years a platform for personal growth.
"I've had those guys come in who've made offers to turn the restaurant into a franchise, but I'm not there right now," she says. "I'm not just doing this to make money. If we're not having fun, we're not doing it. I love my staff so much, and want to give them the experience of opening a new restaurant. My restaurants are a medium for people to grow."