Nestled among the Randolph Street carnival of restaurants like Marche and Red Light, you'd expect Aroma to serve up lobster pad Thai under a kaleidoscope of lights and bass-driven electronica. Instead, Aroma offers a Zen oasis, serving basic Thai fare amidst flickering candles and bamboo woods. Simple ornamentation like a golden carved inlay on the maitre d' station and a mural of trees are the only nods to art, and there is one plasma screen, should you need to catch a little football with your fried tofu.
There are hundreds of good Thai restaurants in the city, but only a few near the West Loop. Aroma is probably the best of the West. While this isn't Arun's, the chef rocks a few alternatives to the traditional eats, including an aromatic lemon grass shrimp served with Super-Mario-like Chinese mushrooms and deep-fried catfish marinated in Thai herbs (both $10).
For those who can't decide on a protein, the Aroma Pad Thai is served with chicken and shrimp, or construct your own Thai small plates feast from more than 15 appetizers, including Thai escargot and the Golden Triangle, egg-battered tofu served with sweet and sour sauce and crushed peanuts.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant