The color of fulfillment
Thai Purple is as wise a choice as its name suggests
It was the Thursday after Thanksgiving. Still pondering leftovers and facing the necessities of Christmas (cards, gifts, tree), my friend, Pam, and I decided to escape a looming December and sneak away to Alhambra’s Edwards Renaissance 14 for a late-afternoon matinee showing of “Lincoln” and dinner at an undecided (but must not have turkey on the menu) restaurant somewhere close by.
“Lincoln,” as almost everybody concurs, was superb, although we had some minor disagreements about the ending which, for those who haven’t yet seen the film, I will not reveal. It was already dark as we left the theater, chilly and drizzling. As we pondered where to eat, a vibrant sign appeared to guide us forward. Not as divine as the Star of Christmas legend, perhaps, but striking nonetheless: A large, violet neon sign above the white fairy-light decorated façade of Thai Purple restaurant.
Mesmerized, we walked across the street to the incredibly warm and welcoming restaurant. We passed a sandwich board advertising Tuesday cut-rate pad Thai ($3.99), happy-hour specials and two-for-ones galore. Once inside, the highly decorated interior (some might call it cluttered, but I prefer “richly textured”) was mesmerizing. And the most fascinating thing was the dark wood furniture, more or less mahogany but with a decided purple cast.
We were seated in a cozy booth, one of several lining the north side of the restaurant, with orange and purple leatherette upholstery and crisply folded purple linen napkins. We counted at least four mounted flat-screen TVs of different dimensions, each tuned to a different sporting event, flickering silent images reflecting in mirrored walls and adding to the sensory overload.
Buddhist statuary, brick walls, floral carpeting and an ornately carved wooden gable crowning the small granite-topped bar at the dining room’s rear captivated us. And then there was the small photograph of Elvis Presley seated among Thai dignitaries above our booth, another on the opposite wall of King’s Cup 2005 golfers, a tropical fish tank and an intriguing miniature diorama on a shelf nearby.
But the décor had nothing on the menus, large spiral notebooks with deep purple pages (some added in later with purple ribbon) and filled like albums with color photos of — need I say it? — a huge amount of purple (cabbage, orchids, plates, backgrounds) with yellow and orange printing and a multi-hued (green, blue, purple and orange) logo on the bottom of each leaf.
So complex was this tome that we had to keep sending our patient waitress away while we attempted to decipher its contents.
Finally, after much pondering, we had our selections made: green papaya salad ($7.98), black pepper and garlic fried shrimp ($8.95), pad Thai ($7.50), pad prick keeng with crispy pork ($7.95) and a house specialty — winter bamboo with chicken chunk (noodle), described as having “a taste all of its own because it comes from our very own chef’s family recipe that was passed down from generation to generation.” We requested the main dishes to be prepared spicy and were not disappointed.
The papaya salad was sauced with lime vinaigrette and paired with green beans, sliced tomatoes, shredded carrots and red chili, zesty and refreshing. The pad Thai, which I later learned from Yelp critiques has people lining up for the Tuesday lunch special, was OK — a little sweet for our taste, but at $4, I can certainly see its attraction. Our shrimp were smallish but plentiful, in a tangy sauté with shredded cabbage, redolent of garlic, pepper and chili with a distinct undertone of fish sauce and plenty of heat. And the crispy pork in the pad prick keeng turned out to be delicious pan-fried slabs of pork belly in a rich red curry.
But best of all was that family dish. Thick slices of mature bamboo shoots in a dusky curry, similar to panang but with subtle herbs I couldn’t name, it came in a large bowl with a heap of cold rice noodles, a few basil leaves and some lettuce, bean sprouts and lime on the side. We gave up trying to separate the strands and finally dumped the entire mass into the hot gravy where it sponged up the liquid. Just be prepared to put up with the kind of cleaved poultry parts (with jagged bone shards) that only Asian cuisine aficionados accept willingly. To us, it was definitely worth it.
Our meal ended with complimentary cups of coconut boba, at a 10 percent discount because we’d been to the Edwards and had gotten lots and lots of take-home boxes for my husband’s supper and Friday’s dinner as well. When I got home I went online and looked up Thaddeus Stevens (one of the most fascinating characters in “Lincoln”), the history of the telegraph and then turned to the symbolism of the color purple.
According to various sites I visited, purple is the color of good judgment, spiritual fulfillment and peace of mind. As a mixture of red and blue (warm and cool), it’s an ideal color, associated with the crown chakra linking individuals to the advanced spiritual truth of the universe. In retrospect, it’s obvious that we exercised good judgment in dining at Thai Purple. And if we didn’t link up to any
advanced spiritual truths or fulfillment, we certainly left physically filled and completely happy with our afternoon and evening.
27 N. Garfield Ave,
Beer and wine/