The process of creating the menu at one of the most popular Asian restaurants in Gilbert was about as straight forward as it gets: Create a sauce using traditional Thai recipes while adding a twist. If Tenny Simpson and her brother, Top, liked it, then the sauce made the cut.
If not, they added a little of this and little of that until it was good enough or scrapped all together.
“The really funny thing is no formal training,” Tenny said. “None at all. We make what we like to eat. We have to eat it every day. We try it, and if we don’t like it, we try something else. If we like it, then we make it. Turns out others like it, too.”
That they do.
After three years in business, Ta Lew has a strong following with repeat customers recommending it to their friends, Tenny said. The wait times on a Friday or Saturday night can be anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour long.
“We can have three different tables, but the families all know each other,” Tenny said. “We have a full house. To-go orders can be a long time, up to an hour, but we cook everything fresh to order. It takes time, but [it is]worth it. We pay attention to every dish as a separate order.”
The pad thai and curry dishes are easy picks at any Thai place, but the specialties section of the Ta Lew menu features some more unique offerings such as crab fried rice and evil jungle princess—chicken, lemongrass, cabbage, mushroom and kaffir lime leaves.
There are five different spice levels—A Little Kick, Noticeably Spicy, Arizona, Native Spiciness, Crazy Thai Hot—to choose from to add to any dish.
“It’s a small place, but big flavor,” said Tenny, who ran a Thai restaurant chain in Williams in Northern Arizona before opening her own restaurant in the Valley. “This is my own. It is everything I wanted.”
Ta Lew Thai Bistro
1493 S. Higley Road, Ste. 102
Hours: 11 a.m.-,3 p.m., 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Mon.-Sat; closed Sun.