Stirring Up Serenity

Low-lit ambience contrasts with brightly arrayed plates at Lime Leaf. Photo by Matt Rose

Red fringe drapery and a low-key zen simmer have long set the scene inside Lime Leaf Thai Fusion, a deceptively narrow storefront on Main Street that unfolds into a long, elegant dining space — not to mention sequestered party seating upstairs. As with many Asian restaurants, the menu goes on for many pages, with vernacular curries providing the top note and a list of starters running from reliably Thai spring rolls to guilty pleasures such as rangoon, deep-fried wontons filled with a creamy crab-and-cream-cheese mixture. (Rangoon always tastes a bit like the county fair no matter where you get them — not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Lime Leaf has been run for three years by brothers Sam and Ray Zheng, who add seasonal specialties to the tried-and-true menu. Front-end manager Chelsea Hyder infuses even more freshness. On a recent weekday night, she made a basil-and-lime mojito using herbs she grows in front of the restaurant, and the cocktail was superb — stimulating, not too sweet, and an ideal pairing with all the tang happening in the food. “I’m always experimenting with new flavors and combinations to keep things interesting,” says Hyder. (The crisp Chang beer, a Thai import, was another fitting complement to the meal.)

Photo by Matt Rose

Lime Leaf’s lettuce-leaf wraps are lovely, providing the kind of eureka moment common in today’s carb-free milieu — “wow, you don’t need bread for a wrap, and I could totally make these at home!” Except you probably couldn’t, or wouldn’t, because the wraps here are prepared with such high delicacy it’s hard to imagine taking the time to recreate the exact taste and texture. The ground beef was finely chopped, the lettuce whispered of homegrown origins, and the seasoning and sauce were produced with careful balance.

Chosen from the nightly chef’s-specials menu, the pepper-steak entree contained basic ingredients — it was more Pan Asian than specifically Thai. But the prime rib was tender and generously portioned, served hibachi-style on a dramatically hissing iron plate paced over a heat-absorbing fiber mat.

The Gang Masamon, one of the classic curries, comes with a choice of protein, and here tofu seemed like the best choice, providing an even texture while letting the substantial sauce — savory but not too heavy — keep all the attention. Though it had a two-chili warning, denoting extra spice, the dish seemed quite mild. In the end, potatoes, cashews, and pineapple made for a winning effect. Lime Leaf also offers four other curries: Green (eggplant, peas, bamboo shoots, and basil are the highlighted veggies); Red (bell pepper); Yellow (onions and potatoes); and Panang (lime leaves). The familiar Pad Thai is listed under the noodle bowls.

Hyder acknowledges the expanding downtown restaurant scene. “Seeing new and different concepts is great,” she says. “If anything, it inspires us to work a little harder.” She notes the direct competition of two other Thai restaurants within walking distance of Lime Leaf. But her regulars come back with a certain craving. “Our recipe is a little more full and bold than the other places in town,” says Hyder. “I personally believe our curries are the star of the show.”

Lime Leaf Thai Fusion (342 North Main St., Hendersonville) is open every day, Monday through Friday from 11am-3pm (lunch) and 5-9pm (dinner), and Saturday and Sunday from 12-9pm. For more information, call 828-692-3300.

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