The Roanoker - July/August 2017 - 136
Happy decor, and
recipes make Red
Jasmine a warm dining
104 | JULY/AUGUST 2017
But the threesome didn't give up. They kept scouring real estate across the country and happened upon
an ad for a restaurant for sale in Roanoke. Lenoel's
siblings flew to Roanoke with only one requirement
"Does it have a dishwasher?" she asked her brotherin-law. "If it does, I will take it."
Besides the dishwasher, Lenoel found the restaurant
charming with its long, curving brick bar and sodashop stools. But the building seemed cursed. It had a
string of owners-none lasting more than a year. She
puts her head in her hands and laughs. "It made me
nervous to think what might be wrong with this place!"
Opening Red Jasmine became a family affair.
Lenoel's mother came for six months, sitting in the corner, waving happily to customers when they'd walk in.
Her sister and brother-in-law stayed eight years. Lenoel
says she relied heavily on their decades of restaurant
experience, especially when it came to the menu and
ingredient sources. For cooking style, Lenoel hearkened
back to the influences of her Chinese father and traditional Thai cooking.
"I grew up with good food. My father was very particular about eating good food-fresh food," Lenoel
says when describing her philosophy on using the best
ingredients and fresh cooking for her restaurant.
Besides her ingredients and particular cooking style,
Lenoel believes it is her secret sauces (especially her pad
thai sauce) that sets her restaurant apart from other
local Asian restaurants.
"Thai cooking is very complicated," explains Lenoel.
"Especially curry. There are different kinds of curry; each
type takes different spices in different amounts to make
it taste right." Again, Lenoel attributes her traditional
Thai upbringing for helping her understand the nuanced
flavors of Thai curry.
But let's face it. For most Americans, it's all about the
pad thai. "If you want to know how good a [Thai] restaurant is, first try their pad thai," says Lenoel, describing the difficult process of creating yummy pad thai.
"The sauce is delicate. It needs to be a little bit sweet, a
little bit sour, a little bit salty, to come out just right."
The time frame for cooking pad thai is also critical, says
Lenoel, fractions of a minute can ruin its flavor.