It's hard to deny the inherent cuteness of miniature-sized things, especially iced Thai drinks shrunk down to a size that would make an American Girl doll look like she's holding a tumbler glass.
At eight-month-old Manaow Thai in Long Beach, experienced Thai chef Nitaya Pungauthaikan, who founded the first Thai restaurant in the area decades ago, teams up with her second-generation daughter, Parichart, to create a menu inspired by Bangkok's diverse street food. The minimalist space sports geometric wall coverings and communal seating (look up for a neon installation of interconnected triangles). It's a setting that suits Manaow's one-of-a-kind drinks sampler, a colorful array not offered at any other Thai restaurant — one that gives you sipping portions of five of the place's best-selling beverages.
For $5, you get both the ubiquitous — Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee, each perfectly sweetened with condensed milk — and the house specialties: tamarind juice, limeade with honey and lemongrass iced tea.
The tamarind juice at Manaow has the same tartness as the Mexican agua fresca made from the pea-looking legume, and it comes in a spice-rimmed glass, like a good michelada. The lemongrass iced tea is sweet enough to cut the herb's more aromatic qualities without teetering into sugary territory. And, yes, the purple drink on the platter is really the limeade, sweetened with honey and infused with the leaves of the butterfly pea flower. The blue-tinted flower is imported dry from Thailand, and when mixed with water and limeade it somehow gives the restaurant's signature drink ("manaow" means "lime" in Thai) a deep purple hue.
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When your sampler is finished, pick your favorite of the five and a regular-sized portion — included in the $5 price tag — awaits.
Manaow, 3618 E. Broadway, Long Beach; (562) 433–2574; manaowthai.com