Among the many dining choices in Forest Park, Bua Hana stands apart with its unique blend of Thai and Japanese cuisines.
Julie Yu, a graduate of OPRF, took over the reins of the restaurant from her mother and continues to work with her uncle, and says that the restaurant business comes naturally.
“When I was a kid, I cooked for myself, and when I was in high school, I had dinner parties for my friends. I was always learning, always trying to put a new twist on dishes you already know.”
Yu had her first restaurant job while in high school, working in the kitchen and later in the front of the house. Later, she learned the ropes at the family restaurant, helping her mother serve and cook at Bua Hana.
The name Bua Hana is a tip of the hat to the two distinct cultures that Yu combines in her menu. Bua, is the Thai word for lotus and comes from her grandmother’s name, and Hana means flower in Japanese. Half of the restaurant’s menu is Thai food, and the other half Japanese.
Yu thinks the two cuisines are a natural combination. “Thai food is crisp and refreshing, you can taste the individual ingredients. The emphasis is on seasonings like lime, cilantro, garlic and chiles that let the natural flavors of the foods shine through. This pairs well with the Japanese food, such as sushi, in which you want the quality and taste of the fish to be at the forefront.” At Bua Hana, Yu strives to create dishes that offer a creative spin on traditional foods. Working with her mother’s recipes, she tweaks the authentic tastes to come up with food that is anything but ordinary. Even with the traditional recipes, Yu makes sure that only the best quality foods come out of her kitchen as evident in the crispness of the vegetables in Yu’s stirfry. “We make our dishes from scratch, and each dish is made to order. We think about the texture, the flavor and the presentation in all of our dishes.”
With heart attack tempura and unagi poppers, the combination of spices, tuna or eel and cream cheese are unique to Bua Hana. Dishes like the som tum papaya salad and spicy curries bring the heat to the menu. Chashu pork miso ramen combines the flavor of braised pork belly with the traditional Japanese broth soup. Yu also offers wine flights and a variety of sakes to complement the food.
Now a Forest Park resident, Yu anticipates finding new ways to connect with the community. Whether it’s pairing her cuisine with a sake tasting or creating themed culinary events, she looks forward to showcasing the Thai and Japanese culture through the restaurant. She also plans to open her space to community organizations as an event space.
Bua Hana offers dine-in, take-out, delivery options, and the menu can be seen at www.buahana.com. Be sure to ask about the catering menu. Impress your guests with a stunning sushi tray or unique spread of appetizers and flavorful/colorful Thai dishes.
Follow Bua Hana on twitter at @buahanafp, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BuaHanaThai