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24 Feb 2014

Restaurant News Bites: Thai House's New Owner; Cocktails at the Viceroy; Shabu Shabu; and Much More!

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This simple sign got our editor/food writer all excited. This simple sign got our editor/food writer all excited. CVI Crapcam

Hey, Locals: Give Thai House Another Shot

Nisa Hennecke, the new owner of the Thai House in downtown Palm Springs, doesn’t think her personal story is all that special—but she thinks her food is.

Well, I’ve got some news for Hennecke: Both her food and her personal story are pretty gosh-darned special.

Hennecke, a native of Thailand, had worked for years at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, as a poker dealer. But last year, she decided to make a huge change: In June, she purchased Thai House, at 246 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

Why?

“My whole family owned a restaurant, everybody, in Thailand,” she told me.

Indeed, Thai House is a family affair: Hennecke’s sister and brother-in-law moved to the Coachella Valley from Thailand to cook at the restaurant, and her children help out as well.

Hennecke said she and her family completely revamped Thai House’s menu, and that they cook food the way people cook at home back in Thailand.

“My sister is the best cook you will see,” she said.

Hennecke emphasizes freshness, and that was apparent when she treated me to lunch: The tom yum soup was some of the best I’ve ever had.

While Thai House is doing well with tourists, Hennecke said, she’s had a difficult time attracting locals, perhaps because they are unaware that the food has changed. So, Thai-food-loving locals, take it from me: Give Hennecke and Thai House another shot.

For more information, call 760-778-1728, or visit www.thaihousepalmsprings.com.

Viceroy Introduces a New Handcrafted Cocktail Menu

David Nepove knows his cocktails—and residents of the Coachella Valley should be elated that he’s sharing his knowledge with local bartenders.

Nepove is the president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, as well as the director of mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits in California. He was recently in town for a couple of days to help the good folks at the Viceroy Palm Springs’ Citron Restaurant revamp their cocktail menu for the season.

The goal of the Viceroy’s new menu: To use fresh ingredients that are locally sourced, if possible—and to include something for everyone. The results are refreshing and delicious.

I spoke to Nepove as I sipped on a rosemary gimlet, made with 209 gin, fresh lime and rosemary syrup—made from rosemary grown on-site at the Viceroy. Nepove said it’s his goal to make sure all of the bartenders he works with get inspired to take their craft to the next level, and to think of new ways to present lovely ingredients to their customers.

“My job is to steal information from friends and peers, and show that to the people I work with,” Nepove said. “… The staff here at the Viceroy was extra-receptive to this training. They walked in here as bartenders; now they’re craft bartenders.”

The drinks aren’t cheap—the specialty drinks at Citron cost $14—but they’re also a lot more complex and better-thought-out than the drinks you’ll find almost anywhere else.

Citron is located at the Viceroy, 415 S. Belardo Road, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Now Open: Shabu-Shabu Zen

I was first introduced to shabu shabu in Tucson, Ariz.—and I was instantly smitten.

It was at a restaurant (which, alas, has since closed) called Shabu Shabu Takaka, and if memory serves, here’s how shabu shabu works: Diners are brought a soup broth, along with sauces and a variety of raw veggies and meats. The broth is brought to a boil at the table—think fondue, sort of—and the diners cook the raw meats and veggies themselves in that broth. The cooked veggies and meats can be dipped into the sauces and eaten; when they’re all gone, noodles can be added to the broth, and the concoction can be eaten as soup.

It was, in a word, delicious.

Anyway, flash-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I was driving down Highway 111 through Rancho Mirage. I spotted a sign for a new restaurant, called Shabu-Shabu Zen, with the description “Japanese hot pot, tapas and sake bar.”

Ooh.

The restaurant opened in late January, at 71860 Highway 111, and has been getting rave reviews on the citizen-review websites ever since. My schedule has not allowed me to visit Shabu-Shabu Zen for a meal yet; after I stop in, I’ll share the details here.

As of this writing, there’s no info other than a logo at the restaurant’s website, www.shabu-shabu-zen.com; presumably, more details will show up there eventually. Watch this space for details, too.

In Brief

Tonga Hut, at long last, is open. The tiki bar and restaurant, located at 254 N. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, celebrated its grand opening on Valentine’s Day. … Smoothie fans, take note: Juice It Up! has opened at 79775 Highway 111, No. 102, in La Quinta. It’s the second valley location of the Irvine-based chain, joining the store at 72877 Dinah Shore Drive, No. 101, in Rancho Mirage. … Morgan’s in the Desert, located at the La Quinta Resort and Club at 49499 Eisenhower Drive in La Quinta, is kicking off its Spring Peak Harvest Festival. Expect a series of three-course prix-fixe meals highlighting seasonal ingredients—from blue mussels from Puget Sound, Wash., to morel mushrooms from Mesik, Mich.—between now and early June. Get details at www.morgansinthedesert.com. … Congrats to the folks at Las Casuelas Terraza, the humongous restaurant at 222 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. The restaurant celebrated its 35th anniversary in February. … Appetito, a “Cal-Italian Deli” restaurant featuring the food of chef Chad Shaner, is expected to open any day now next at 1700 S. Camino Real, No. 2, in Palm Springs. That’s the spot right next to the Koffi across from the Ace Hotel and Swim Club.

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