Rice Temptation’s Menu
949.361.9222 / ricetemptation.com
223 Avenida Del Mar #A, San Clemente
(Next to Tina & Vince’s Deli)
Separated by nearly 3,000 miles Thailand and Japan boast their own distinct flavors, but across the Pacific ocean the two flavors are brought together harmoniously by husband and wife combo Birdie and Tony Hartono. The couple moved to San Clemente two years ago and bought a restaurant on the city’s downtown street, Avenida Del Mar. Calling upon both their heritages, the couple showcases traditional Thai and Japanese dishes and then blends the two flavors to create new dishes in their restaurant, Rice Temptation.
Birdie is from Thailand and her husband Tony is from Japan, however they met in California while attending West Coast University. For the past ten years the couple has been raising a family and running two restaurants in Canoga Park. The first restaurant is a Sushi Bar and the other is a traditional Thai restaurant. The family was searching to purchase a home when a friend suggested that they look at San Clemente as a viable location. “We just fell in love with the area, but instead of buying a home we bought a restaurant,” Birdie said.
Wanting to focus their energy on spending more time with the family, the couple has decided to sell their other two locations in Canoga Park. With family as a top priority they also decided it would be a great idea to combine their two former restaurants into one. This enables the family to still showcase the delicious flavors of both Thai and Japanese cuisine, while creating more quality time for the family to spend together.
The restaurant is quaint, simple and relaxing, with no more than ten tables. Birdie greets you with a welcoming smile, seats you right away then heads right back to the kitchen where she and her husband share responsibilities. “Tony is a sushi chef and I cook the Thai food, we only have two other employees,” Birdie said.
Teriyaki plates, Thai and Japanese curries, noodle dishes and soups are made fresh to order, and they can adjust the level of heat in each dish to accommodate those who like spicy and those who prefer just a little flavor. They make all their own curries from scratch, which Birdie says allows for more flavor to come through.
In keeping with the demands of the customer, the couple has also created a gluten-free soy sauce which is the base in many Japanese dishes. Birdie said she wanted her customers to be able to eat and try the delicious flavors without having to worry about the special dietary restrictions. The couple now serves gluten-free teriyaki, house ginger dressing and soy, they are currently working on a gluten-free Ponzu sauce. The couple does urge those with serious gluten allergies to proceed with caution as these sauces are prepared in the same equipment where wheat product is used. “Thai and Japanese food is very healthy and flavorful, I want customers to try what we eat everyday,” Birdie said.
Soba or Ramen noodle, both traditional Japanese noodles, are served with a choice of green, yellow, red or Panang Thai curry, something that Birdie says is a perfect cross between the two cuisines. The Thai curry is traditionally more spicy than Japanese curry and heavier because of the coconut milk, whereas the Japanese curry is more reminiscent of the common Indian curry, according to Birdie. The house favorites include the Tom Yum Ramen and Panang curry.
They also wanted to add more Thai flavors to their sushi dishes. Through the use of their sushi rolls, the couple incorporates the spices of Thailand and Indonesia with the fresh and carefully cut fish of traditional Japanese sushi. This is exhibited in their white dragon and spit fire rolls.
As the restaurant’s clientele has grown over the last year, the couple has listened to their customers’ requests for more dishes. They are excited for their new additions to the menu which they plan to release in January of next year. The menu will include stir-fry dishes which Birdie has been diligently working on for quite some time.
While the future some day may include a noodle house, Birdie and Tony both prefer to keep their business family-ran so they can focus on raising their two young children. Two different cultures meet in a foreign country and because of their children have collided, the end result is an exciting concept that allows our community to taste a variety of flavors in a single location.