Originally from Thailand, Joyce Patra started 50-Fifty by herself in 2016. Formerly, she and her late husband headed the popular Bangkok Blue Thai restaurant in La Verne. / photo by William Zeus Hardy

Originally from Thailand, Joyce Patra started 50-Fifty by herself in 2016. Formerly, she and her late husband headed the popular Bangkok Blue Thai restaurant in La Verne. / photo by William Zeus Hardy

by Krista Huey
photography by William Zeus Hardy

The aromatic smell of Asian spices, seafood and curry permeate through the restaurant as you enter 50-Fifty Asian Fusion Cuisine. Clanging pots and the sizzling of food can be heard as the chefs are quickly working to fulfill orders for hungry guests. As soon as you enter the restaurant, you are greeted with a warm and inviting smile from the owner of the restaurant, Joyce Patra. A feeling of comfort fills you as you are welcomed into the establishment to enjoy fresh-cooked Asian fusion cuisine.

Joyce Patra presents a modern twist on classic Thai dishes through her food. She uses her personal recipes in the menu and is extremely hands-on in her kitchen. She is immersed in the process, helping her employees prepare food to ensure the quality is preserved in every dish. Her authentic recipes and hospitality are what keeps her loyal customers returning.

Joyce first learned to cook from her father in Thailand. “My dad would always wake up early to cook, and I would help him cook every day. He is a master cook and told me cooking is in the blood of all my siblings. We all know how to cook and have our own style. Most of my siblings own a restaurant in Australia, and I’m the only one in America,” says Joyce.

50-Fifty Asian Fusion, located in Claremont at 201 N. Indian Hill Blvd., opened in 2012 with Joyce Patra at the helm. It took her seven months to open the restaurant because she envisioned three “dreams” for her restaurant. Joyce wanted the restaurant to have a waterfall, wood-slat ceilings and a bar countertop.

“I wanted a bar countertop so people have somewhere to sit if they are waiting for the table instead of waiting outside. I also want to make sure they’re comfortable and have a place to offer a cup of tea while they’re waiting.” Joyce stood by her three dreams for the restaurant regardless of what others thought. She stuck to her plans and opened up the restaurant when her visions came to life.

Joyce also previously co-owned a Thai restaurant known as Bangkok Blue in La Verne. She has much experience in the restaurant industry and decided to open 50-Fifty Asian Fusion on her own after closing Bangkok Blue. “Ten years before I opened my restaurant I worked at other Thai restaurants, Panda Express and Benihana, but I quit and opened my own restaurant because I always knew I wanted to open my own restaurant and become an entrepreneur,” she says.

Joyce’s new restaurant focuses on an Asian-fusion concept instead of strictly Thai food. And she brings a “modern interpretation of classic Asian dishes’’ to her customers. Some of the standard Thai food that was served at Bangkok Blue, such as the pad see ew and curry carried over, but to incorporate the Asian-fusion aspect she added pork loin, beef stew, short rib, and American dishes with Asian ingredients. Her menu has a wide variety of food choices ranging from fried rice, chow mein, curry and an assortment of meat and seafood dishes.

Her idea for the name 50-Fifty came from having half of the menu with standard Thai dishes and the other half with dishes she created herself. Joyce is half Chinese and half Thai, and draws from both of her cultures to cultivate a diverse menu. “I always wanted to create and do my own thing, which is what I did with the menu at 50-Fifty. I always use fresh ingredients, and I tell my chefs if they question the quality of an ingredient then throw it out and use another one.”

Joyce also opened up another Thai restaurant three years later in January 2018, called Foxy Noodles and BBQ in Upland that serves Thai food with a new and unique menu.

“I opened Foxy Noodles and BBQ four years ago. I really wanted to do a casual noodles and grill, and I always want to try and challenge myself and think what else can I do. I thought that I better stick with my roots and came up with a lot of recipes for barbecue, and I am so proud to serve them at Foxy Noodles and BBQ. I love grilled food, and at Foxy Noodles and BBQ I can create different dishes. My other server owns the restaurant now, and I watch him run it,” says Joyce.

Her 50-Fifty Asian Fusion restaurant is famously known for its braised beef short ribs, Mandalay curry, pad thali and Joyce’s fried rice. All of the dishes contain high quality fresh ingredients and are cooked to order. Thai tea is also a popular beverage because it is brewed with fresh Thai leaves and topped with decadent cream. Joyce prides her restaurant on the consistent quality and flavor of her food. Because of her emphasis on using fresh ingredients, she has quickly gained popularity in the area and, as her website boasts, has become a “cornerstone of the Claremont community.”

Nevertheless, Joyce’s restaurant has grown over the years and has expanded its customer base to outside of Claremont. 50-Fifty Asian Fusion has a high Yelp rating with 300 reviews. People have recognized her restaurant for her food, but also for the service and her staff. Reviews on Yelp describe the service as “excellent,” “friendly” and “attentive.” Other reviews highlight the superb flavor and quality of the food.

Joyce prioritizes service in her restaurant, which is “everything to her.” “I want my customers to feel like they’re in a comfortable place and coming to a friend’s house to eat homemade food.” She makes it a priority to greet every customer herself. If she is unavailable to greet and seat them, then she must say goodbye or stop by their table during their dining experience. “I never take a day off because I don’t want to miss who’s coming to my door,” says Joyce.

The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. During the afternoon hours, 50-Fifty offers special lunch deals at an affordable price. Guests can choose from dishes including beef and vegetable stew, chicken with broccoli, fried rice and much more. College students, Claremont locals and visitors can be seen during this time enjoying Joyce’s Asian fusion for lunch. During the dinnertime, she offers more dishes such as a Ginger Basil Halibut Steak, Andaman Sea Duo and Pacific Rim Curry. Many couples can be seen during the dinner hours having a date and enjoying their time together.

The ambiance of Joyce’s 50-Fifty Asian Fusion restaurant is an up-scale establishment perfect for a quick lunchtime or date night. Inside are wooden rectangular tables with black cushioned chairs. Classical and soothing music is also played throughout the dining experience. Alcoholic beverages are served for those who wish to enjoy wine or liquor with their meal.

Charlie Chalong, wok chef at Fifty-50 Asian Fusion, and is Pad See Eew noodle creation. / photography by William Zeus Hardy

Charlie Chalong, wok chef at Fifty-50 Asian Fusion, and is Pad See Eew noodle creation. / photography by William Zeus Hardy

The dishes are served family style and are expected to be shared with multiple people. Each order is a large quantity of food and feeds approximately two to three people. The presentation of food promotes a bond between the people dining as they share the food and talk during their meal.

During the pandemic, Joyce also started selling homemade granola. Each order costs $5 and can be bought online or in-store. “Throughout the pandemic, I had time to make more food during the daytime because I only did takeout at night. I was thinking about what else I can offer to my customers other than the Asian-fusion food. I came up with the idea to do granola and wanted to offer it for a reasonable price and see if customers like it. It is healthy and contains no sugar and fresh ingredients,” says Joyce.

50-Fifty Asian Fusion can be enjoyed both at the restaurant and at home. The establishment offers pick-up orders online or over the phone. Food delivery also comes through GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats. Therefore, if you are uncomfortable dining out due to COVID-19, you can still try Joyce’s food from home. All the same dishes are still offered in both to-go and delivery options.

“My passion is nonstop and never ending because I love what I do,” says Joyce. And that passion shows in her food and service. ■