The toughest part about opening a new restaurant in downtown Chandler might be figuring out what niche has yet to be served.
After all, the city’s historic square is lined with restaurants covering all the popular cuisines: American, Italian, Mexican, Irish and Thai, not to mention a pizzeria, a sushi bar, a microbrewery, a micro-winery …
Enter Siracha Lounge, an intriguing new concept that combines Pan-Asian street foods with a trendy nightclub vibe.
Siracha is the brainchild of Virakon Vongphachanh, born in Laos and raised in Texas where his family runs a Thai restaurant. The 36-year-old’s resume also includes stints at Mikado Restaurant at The Mirage in Las Vegas and, most recently, Blue Wasabi in Gilbert.
Combining the Boston Street spaces that formerly housed KiZake Sushi & Martinis and Vivi’s Boutique, Siracha boasts 2,800 square feet in its red, black and white interior, which includes a private karaoke room.
Another cool feature is a 2,000-square-foot courtyard patio with fire pit, water fountain, lounge seating and its own bar. DJs provide outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Siracha’s menu focuses on the kinds of inexpensive, authentic foods TV travel show hosts like Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern explore on the streets of the Far East.
That means anything from Vietnamese pho to Korean barbecue to Chinese noodle dishes to Thai curries. Starting this week, Siracha will offer sushi as well.
I like the Bangkok Buffalo Wings (six for $5), meaty treats whose sauce is a perfect balance of sweet and spicy, but the most popular starter seems to be the Monkey Balls ($7), lightly breaded coconut puffs filled with salmon and cream cheese.
After eyeing several soups, particularly the tom yum and pho, I try the oxtail ($14), whose beef broth is heavily seasoned with anise. The presentation — flames shooting up out of the center of a silver tureen — is an attention-grabber for the entire dining room.
Among entrees, the Virakon Special ($12, pictured above) is a carnivore’s delight — two huge ribs, four small skewers (two beef, two chicken) and shrimp fried rice with a side of spicy barbecue sauce.
Panang chicken ($9) features a red curry that’s actually light pink. It’s flavorful and warms the mouth, but it’s no impediment to anyone adverse to spiciness.
One thing to keep in mind: While the appetizers are mostly small plates perfect for nibbling, four of us were able to share the oxtail soup and the entrees are just as big and filling.
Happy hour deals — available 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays (all day Wednesday) and 10 p.m. to midnight Saturday — are especially friendly on the wallet: $1 spring rolls, dumplings and bowls of edamame, $2 domestic drafts and $4 signature martinis (pictured at left, the Spiked Arnold, Chilly Willy, Sex on an Alligator and Bikini Tini.)
Where: 95 W. Boston St., Chandler (southwest of intersection of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard)
Open: Lunch and dinner daily.
Prices: Appetizers $5-$12, soups/salads $7-$24, rice/noodle dishes $6-$12, specialty entrees $7-$9
Info: (480) 857-1409 or sirachalounge.com.