My Thai or Lemongrass Balto?
In the food for Thai and thought I'd try one of the new places in town: My Thai or Lemongrass in Baltimore.
Anyone have any preferences/suggestions? I've actually eaten at My Thai before and enjoyed it and so would automatically defer to Lemongrass but I'm wary of a place that has such a high profile and spin, is the food good here? I don't want to fork out money for a so-so meal only to realise my dinero would have been better spent @ My Thai - and yes, I realise there are lots of other Thai restaurants around but thought we'd give one of the new kids on the block a spin.
I had the same reservations going in to Lemongrass, but I'm happy to say that they were quickly allayed once I had my first bite of drunken noodle (or was it the panang curry?). I expected it to be overpriced, overhyped and all about how "cool" the space was. The space is very cool, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the food wasn't any more expensive than the mediocre offerings of other Thai establishments on the eastern side of town (I think our tab was around $60, which included app, 2 entrees and 2 cocktails per pp), and it was really good, to boot. Not to mention a great cocktail menu that you won't find elsewhere. Give it a shot, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Well, we ended up at both places and came away disappointed by both.
Started @ Lemongrass for drinks and app's before deciding to stay or leave.
I am happy to report they have Tiger beer (woohoo, so hard to find in MD) which elevated them to near god status in my book, sadly everything fell flat after that.
We decided to try the Satay Chicken and the Fish Cakes, the latter bc i think it's a tough dish to do well and the former bc i had a craving. Note, all the app's bar one or two were fried and not one was spicy.
The satay chicken came out looking breaded and sauteed with a very thin peanut sauce. I wasn't impressed. Part of the taste of satay is the fire and smokey taste and the grill, breading them was a bad idea. The chicken was on the dryer side too.
The server heavily discourgaged ordering the fish cakes (which only made me want them more) bc she said they had a 'strange rubbery texture' and people were often disappointed by them - not a great sales pitch but we forged ahead. Now, i'm not sure what people are expecting but they tasted and looked like your standard Thai fish cakes: rubbery texture, fried and with sweet chilli-vinegar dipping sauce. Not bad but certainly not inspirational.
So, based on two disappointing app's we decided to head up town to MyThai for entrees and see if it was any better there.
MyThai: I've eaten here before and i think i posted my review, but i was very impressed the last time. Sadly, this time it didn't live up to those expectations.
Granted, it was 9pm when we got there and the place was dead, but still...we ordered the beef salad, the duck curry and the pad thai, 2*s worth of heat.
In brief, the food was spicier than we were expecting almost bordering on too hot too enjoy, which was funny bc last time i had 1* and thought it def needed a notch up.
The beef salad came out as a red onion and mushroom salad with a couple of pieces of extremely overdone beef. Not good.
The duck curry had good flavour and ingredients - tomatoes, pineapple, bell peppers, but the meat was extremely tough and dry, surprising for duck.
The pad thai was fair but i've had better at Thai Jai Dee. This one was extremely dark in colour, sort of pink/brown which I think was due to the chilli-oil used to flavour it and not the chilli flakes. FYI this is another pad thai that features the pink tofu which diners often mistake for pork.
All in all, i was dissappointed by both but will give them another go as I've eaten at MyThai previously and was rejoicing in the flavours for days afterwards, and Lemongrass bc they're new, in my hood and the convenience factor alone makes it worth another jaunt down the block.
I have to say, it was really nice to go out and eat 'ethnic' food in somewhere that was more hip and less divey than usual. Now if we could just get somewhere that serves good food with good hip atmosphere that'd be killer!
"Divey" was perhaps a poor choice of words, bc it conjures up images of smokey bars off the beaten path. I guess i mean 'non-atmospheric' and kitsch, I hate the monotonous decor of the thai places in baltimore: Thai Jai Dee, Thai Arroy, The Thai Restaurant etc...they all seem the same. It's nice to have a place that doesn't try and replicate the staid theme of fake plants, bamboo and tapestries. Perhaps these trappings are to reinforce the notion of authenticity but I'm not sure. When i think ethnic food in baltimore, i equate the thought with cheap and cheerful, which is not necessarily bad but it'd be nice to equate ethnic with funky or romantic or hip or upscale decor. I think that's part of the mass appeal for the Helmand and the Ambassador Dining Room, these places serve great ethnic food in surrounds that are just as lush, yet the prices (esp the Helmand) are still within a reasonable budget.
And to answer your question for 'good authentic Thai', in our discussion last night about where we go on a regular basis to satisfy our Thai cravings, i realised it was my own kitchen or those of friends!
We just went to Lemongrass last night, and really enjoyed it. I was surprised by how chic and modern it was, which immediately raised questions for me about 1. price and 2. authenticity of the Thai food. However, it managed to surprise me on both counts. We had spring rolls and lemongrass soup for apps, and green curry and pad thai for mains. The lemongrass soup was really nicely balanced between the hot, sour, and savory. Spring rolls were hot and perfectly crispy without being oily. Green curry and pad thai (which my gf asked for HOT) were definitely spicy but also had really nice flavors.
It was a place of interesting contrasts. Despite the chic bar/lounge decor and atmosphere, there was a large Asian family gathering with 3 generations (including little kids) at the table next to ours. The staff reflected the young chic/urban atmosphere and not the Thai food; our server confessed that she'd never tried any of the curries! But the food itself was quite Thai and quite good.
Two apps + two entrees + Thai Ice Tea + Cocktail = $45, so the price was right too. Probably the best Thai we've had in Baltimore (but I've only been to Thai Restaurant, Thai Landing, Thai Jai Dee (sp? in south Mt. Vernon), and some Thai place in Canton). To qualify that, I haven't been to My Thai or Thai Arroy, which seem to be well-liked on this board. We'll be back to Lemongrass, though.
My (Thai) wife and I lived in Bangkok for 12 years so know what good Thai food should be like. We also lived in the Baltimore/D.C. area for many years and during that time probably ate at every Thai restaurant within 40 miles. By far, our favorite place for truly authentic Thai dishes was Bangkok Garden in Columbia, MD (corner of Steven's Forest Rd. and Robert Oliver Place). One key to the authenticity of this place is the large number of Thai customers they have.
I can't speak to My Thai, but I've eaten at Lemongrass a couple of times. It's pretty decent as Ameri-Thai goes, but don't expect anything authentic. Contrary to some earlier posts, I thought the curries were a glaring weakness, actually. The green had no balance of any kind and the panang just tasted like peanut butter (the latter being a bit of hyperbole, but you take my point). The roast duck salad, authentic or not (I can't say), was especially good on one occasion, but a couple of other salads have disappointed so I can't speak to their consistency.
My husband and I went to Lemongrass Baltimore since we were in the 'hood. We arrived at 5 p.m. on a weeknight and were promptly seated (they open at 5) in a small side room that our server told us had been recently re-done to stop the noise from the bowling alley upstairs. The music wasn't too loud; the vibes were pleasant. For my husband and me, we like to be able to hear each other talk but not hear what couples in the next table are saying!!) Our server recommended a red wine for me that was excellent (but sigh i can't remember the name). We ordered the appetizer plate special which was excellent. I got the lobster special that was HOT but I sopped it up with lots of rice and it was delicious. Lobster itself was tender and flavorful. My husband ordered the crispy duck which he enjoyed but couldn't finish it all (doggy bag). Finished up by sharing the fried ice cream which was Ok but we couldn't finish it. We have been to the Annapolis Lemongrasses. Each has a different atmosphere, reflecting the customer base. The Lemongrass near Annapolis Mall is suburban and unpretentious - families and senior in walkers and ordinary working folks. Downtown attracts the lawyers and professionals from West Street. The Baltimore Lemongrass is attractive, a good date place. Our server told us the kitchen is all Thai but I think there are some concessions made to American palates (I traveled in Thailand years ago and they altered their food (usually) when they saw Westerners walk in the door)