LA VERNE, California, September 23, 2017 — La Verne has a wonderful restaurant coming up on its 10th anniversary (June 9, 2018), but excuse LaVerneOnline for celebrating the momentous occasion a little early. We’re just so excited about the excellent eatery and its owner Virada Khowong that we couldn’t contain ourselves. Some stories just need to be told sooner rather than later.
First off, the restaurant, called Taste of Asia, really should be called a Taste of Heaven or a Taste of the World because of the life experiences Virada brings to each dish and diner.
Virada has worked in restaurants from Laos to Long Island, and her personal journey, which took her from a communist regime to Hong Kong to Thailand to Los Angeles is inspiring.
She is a survivor and now she helps us survive with about a hundred different menu selections and specialities that are, well, out of this world.
About the only complaint or fault that you can find with the restaurant is that it’s not open on Mondays. How dare the woman!
All you really need to know about the quality of the Taste of Asia is that it’s Virada and her knowledge of Asian cuisine behind every menu selection. All the while she and her husband Sam were helping out relatives in their restaurant kitchens, she also was mastering accounting and bookkeeping and keeping alive her dream of one day opening her own restaurant.
The decade before she finally opened Taste of Asia, she worked for Bausch & Lomb’s accounting and bookkeeping department. During all that time, she never let on about her secret passion. They didn’t know, for example, that she would use her vacation time each year to return to Thailand and enroll in various cooking schools and academies and accumulate a bushel full of cooking credits and certificates attesting to her culinary skills.
Her coworkers simply knew that she made the best chicken salad for their potluck gatherings.
“I just feel like, I don’t want to tell people, because then maybe my dream doesn’t come true.”
Well, the word is out now, so the question becomes how did Virada and Taste of Asia make it, given that a decade ago, conditions weren’t ripe for businesses to succeed. The Great Recession was full on, and to be frank, anyone giving sound economic advice back then would have recommended that she keep her accounting day job.
To make a go of it, she relied on family — husband Sam, daughter Violet, son Sean, nephew James — the way she had once helped her relatives with their restaurants.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Beyond that, it was Virada’s personal touch, coming out from behind the stove, talking to customers and always inviting feedback that helped Taste of Asia gain a foothold in the community. With that constant engagement, she learned, for example, that American palates are more sensitive to spices so now she and her staff ask the customer for their individual seasoning preference — mild, spicy or very spicy.
Another issue that ate at Virada was that her small, intimate restaurant couldn’t always handle a lot of traffic, especially on special occasions like graduations and other celebrations. So about three years ago, she expanded the restaurant, adding the space from the next door unit, formerly occupied by a volleyball retail outlet.
The dining public came out the clear winner with Virada’s decision to expand, although the remodel took about twice as long as they had planned.
As for her food, all her noodle dishes, soups (House Wonton), appetizers (especially the curry puffs, a flaky pastry filled with ground chicken or beef, potatoes, onions and carrots with curry powder, served with cucumber), seafood specialties (sole filet with soy sauce, topped with ginger and green onions), and numerous ala carte items and Chef V recommendations remain extremely popular with diners.
SOME DAY OFF!
And on that one day that Virada dares to close, she is usually at the downtown Los Angeles markets and food houses hand-picking the protein and produce that she will turn into her daily culinary creations. Often, she and her staff return many more times during the week, because they don’t want to carry a lot of inventory. Foremost, her whole farm-to-fork ethic is based on always keeping things fresh.
“We tried delivery, but the quality was hit or miss,” Virada said.
Perhaps, best of all, Taste of Asia remains a family affair, filled with familiar, attentive faces. In the competitive, coupon-crazed restaurant business, Taste of Asia’s consistency has generated an intense, loyal following. In other words, don’t ever get between a Taste of Asia customer and their Pad Thai or drunken fried rice.
“People know what they’re getting when they come here,” Violet said, adding that when Taste of Asia has had to raise prices over the years, the adjustment has been a trifle, 20 or 25 cents. They respect their customers and their budgets.
Approaching her 10th anniversary, Virada’s passion for cooking remains very much on the front burner, and she and her family, with their warm and welcoming smiles, are gearing up to serve the community for all the wonderful celebrations ready to take place through fall and the holiday season.
Better grab a Taste while you can!
Taste of Asia is open every day but Monday. It’s located at 2007 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne. For more information,
call 909.392.7777 or visit www.tasteofasialaverne.com.