Forking With Armani on Late Night Menus & Dinner Parties

Singapore Street Noodles and Maine Soft-Shell Lobster Ceviche are just two of Armani Thao‘s favorite dishes in Boston and if he’s recommending them, you know they’re good. Why? The food lover turned Instagrammer has quite the following — an audience of nearly 10,000 people online — and he’s passionate about sharing his culinary finds from around the city. Read on for his thoughts on dinner party-style restaurants, the best place for dim sum and his two favorite new Thai spots.

Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?

I am a full-time HR professional at a major local hospital, part-time Licensed Zumba Instructor and
full-time foodie. Boston has always been home for me. I grew up and went to school in Lowell, MA
but have always gravitated to Boston for the culinary scene, shopping and nightlife.

For as long as I can remember, food has been a passion of mine and photographing food is something I have always done; even before the social media craze. When I met my fiancé Nic 4 years ago, and we’d go out to dinner, he would always ask me what I was taking pictures of my meals for. My honest
answer to him would be, “Nothing! I just like to take pictures of food,” and that’s when he suggested that I create a page. And the rest is history….

Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.

I can easily come up with a dozen, but let’s stick to 5. To kick it off, the Salmon on Fire from
@OishiiBoston would be first. This dish is mesmerizing and absolutely delicious. It is such an
innovative dish and it is probably the most “Instagrammable” dish in the city, in my opinion.

Singapore Street Noodles from @RedLanternBos and @EmpireBoston are also a must on the list for
me. Big Night Entertainment is so consistent with this dish. The curry flavor is perfectly implemented and is not overwhelming to a point that it drowns out the seafood. I get this dish EVERY TIME!

Linguini and Clams from @StripByStrega. If you’re a pasta and littleneck clam lover, this dish is
literally perfection. Probably one of my favorite Italian dishes in the city. It’s also a very Instagram-worthy item.

The Maine Soft-Shell Lobster Ceviche with Oscietra Caviar from @Nahita_Restaurant is an
absolute must. It was my first time ever trying lobster ceviche and I crave for it now. This is such a unique item and the presentation is so elegant and stunning. They lay the lobster tail on top of a slab of Pink Himalayan Salt, topped with Oscietra Caviar.

And last but not least, the Peking Duck from Peach Farm in Chinatown. My favorite hole-in-the-wall
Chinese Restaurant that serves incredible authentic Chinese cuisines, and their Peking Duck is
always a must every time I stop by.

What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?

I really think the next big craze would be late-night dinner party-style restaurants. As Boston
continues to grow and young professionals either stay or move into the city, the nightlife and
culinary scene will grow cohesively. I envision that there will be more and more trendy, upscale
restaurants that offer a combination of nightlife to open shop.

Restaurants that offer unique ambiances, late-night menus and culinary innovation; very similar to what we currently have now with restaurants like @EmpireBoston and @MystiqueBoston at @EncoreBostonHarbor. (Big Night Entertainment obviously saw this coming.) I’m envisioning something similar to the New York and LA food & nightlife scenes.

Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?

I absolutely love @Chef.Tatiana (@OutlookKitchen). Her passion and love for food is translated on
her account. I love reading about and following her journey as she creates some culinary

I also love following @ChefChrisCoombs of @BostonChops, @Deuxave, @Dbarboston. The level of detail and love that he implements into his masterpieces is just out of this world. It truly is art.

I may be biased because he is a great friend of mine, but @KeithSarasin of @GreenLeafMilford and @TheFarmersDinner truly brings so much innovation when it comes to Farm-To-Table. His creativity, passion and love for the culinary scene is so inspirational. His Farmer’s Dinner is truly one of the most amazing and unique dining experiences I’ve had.

Last but not least, I know! This is a fourth, but Chef Vivianna of @PanelaRestaurant is one to watch out for. Her culinary innovation on traditional Colombian foods is just incredible. I just wait to see what else she’s got in her sleeves.

Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?

Gosh, a top 3? This will be tough. There are so many great foodie accounts. But here are some of
my favorite Boston foodies. @NomStoppable. I think they’re hilarious and they post some mouth-
watering content. I also love @NewEnglandFoodExplorer and @BostonFoodBae. Their photography skills are at another level. Plus, they find some great hidden gems in the Greater Boston area. @TasteOfMassachusetts is also another great account for foodie finds in all of MA. He finds some great foodie items that you can’t find in Boston and is so supportive of up-and-coming foodies.

Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.

Diverse and Underrated.

Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?

@PabuBoston. I still can’t believe I have not made it to Pabu yet.

@Deuxave. That’s been on my list for some time now and I’m finally making my way soon.

@TigerMamaBos, @BootlegSpecial and @FatBabySouthBos are just a few others I have been eager to try.

What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?

I’d like to think that I represent the general population when it comes to being a foodie. There are so many foodies out there who are not on social media and they’re usually the ones who really
REALLY know their food and local secrets. I try to be very discreet when I’m out dining. I keep it
simple with just my phone and a small portable light, if needed. Angles and natural lighting are

Be creative and take your pictures at an angle that truly compliments the dish. Passion and love for food is another piece to it. I love taking pictures of food, but most importantly I LOVE food itself. Everything on my page are foods I’d recommend and have eaten. I also only post photos that I have personally taken, unless I’m in the picture and it’s my fiancé @NichJoss being my personal photographer.

A Few Of Your Favorite Things:

Favorite brunch spot: Well, to be honest, growing up eating Cambodian food, I’d have to say that my favorite brunch is Cambodian food and a couple of my favorite spots are in Lowell, MA. Senmenorom Restaurant (Mama’s and I’s favorite) and the new Lowell Restaurant are my favorite spots. I also LOVE Dim Sum. China Pearl in Chinatown, which offers dim sum in the traditional carts or Windsor Cafe, also in Chinatown, offers made to order dim sum.

Favorite place for outdoor dining: @StephaniesOnNew is my all-time favorite outdoor dining spot. It’s pretty much an iconic patio spot on Newbury Street.

Favorite BBQ joint: There are a couple of BBQ places I need to check out, but thus far,
@BlueRibbonBBQ is my favorite.

Favorite late-night: @EmpireBoston for sure. I love the vibe, space and menu. Plus, there’s never a wrong time for sushi.

Favorite neighborhood for food: Seaport. There are just so many new restaurants and so much
excitement going on in the area.

Favorite new restaurant: My favorite new restaurant is @ThaiBarShiOfficial. Chef Jake has
truly mastered Thai street noodles/food and sushi. All of his creations are works of art and are
absolutely delicious. I’m also going to add @Dakzens to this category. I have been going since they
first opened. Their food is so authentic and delicious and I’m so happy to be able to witness all of their success.

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