Appetizers
October 9, 2012
Thai Paradise expands, along with Christina Mendonsa's Corner

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One of our dining go-to's is Thai Paradise in Folsom, especially for its succulent, garlicky lemongrass chicken, which appears on the daily-specials whiteboard.

Other diners like the restaurant, too, as evidenced by the out-the-door lines on Friday and Saturday nights. Its loyal clientele includes News10 news anchor Christina Mendonsa. There's even a corner table dedicated to her, complete with a publicity photo. It's known as Christina's Corner, partially pictured here.

"I walked in (when it was first set up) and was unbelievably flattered," Mendonsa said Monday. "That was so sweet of them!"

More about that in minute, but first the news:

Husband-wife co-owners Alex and Jarunee Fleming (she's the chef) are adding 80 seats to their 50-seat restaurant by taking over the next-door space vacated by Ritz Camera. Currently, the restaurant seats 50 people in its dining room, and another 50 on the adjoining outdoor patio.

Alex Fleming toured me around the upcoming new space on Monday. "We're in the middle of renovation now," he said, showing a work-in-progress jumble of lumber and tools. "We'll knock a hole in that wall over there to connect the two dining rooms. Once the expansion is complete, we'll begin accepting reservations for the first time, and we'll be able to handle large parties. We should be up and running around the first of November."

Part of the Thai Paradise expansion will include the Christina Mendonsa Love Seat, a much larger version of Christina's Corner. It will be a corner banquette fronted by a large table, and will seat 10 to 12 diners. On the wall above it will be mounted a large photo of the TV journalist, this one subtly lit by a spotlight.

"My family and I have been going to Thai Paradise since it opened," Mendonsa said. When the Love Seat makes its debut, "I guess I'll have to make some more friends and have a few parties there," she said with a laugh.

Just what's the connection between the TV celebrity and the Thai restaurant?

"She was being interviewed by (PBS affiliate) KVIE Channel 6, and was asked what her favorite restaurant was, and she said Thai Paradise in Folsom," Alex Fleming said. "I asked her if she would like to have her own special corner table, and she said yes. Anybody can sit there, of course. Christina comes in at about 5 p.m. once a week, but you don't have to move if you're already sitting there. She'll sit somewhere else, no problem."

The same scenario will be true of the bigger, better Love Seat come November.

Does Mendonsa have a favorite dish at Thai Paradise?

"The green chicken curry (No. 25) is my absolute favorite," she said. "The chicken is very tender, the spices are just hot enough, and the mix of vegetables is delicious."

Alex Fleming favors his wife's "pad ka prao" (No. 31). It's Thai basil sauteed with onion, jalepeno, red bell peppers, green beans and garlic chili sauce. He adds pork, chicken and shrimp.

As for the Thai Paradise menu, the recipes have long been passed around within Jarunee Fleming's family, and the comfort levels of home cooking clearly show. The restaurant was included in Style magazine's recent Readers' Choice Awards issue.

Thai Paradise is at 2770 E. Bidwell St., Folsom, in the Broadstone Marketplace. Open for lunch and dinner daily. For information: (916) 984-8988, www.thaiparadisefolsom.com.

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