We love birthdays around here, so when one of our co-workers hit the quarter-century mark, we decided to celebrate the right way – with a trio of happy hour, dinner, and a lunch outing. (What can we say? We think treating ourselves to a meal we didn’t have to make is the best way to celebrate.) For our dinner selection our birthday companion wanted to try some Thai cuisine and had heard of the restaurant Lemongrass in Little Italy.
When you first drive by Lemongrass, you might actually miss it. The entrance is well hidden within the flat fronts of the backs of buildings, parking garages, and loading docks. At first glance, you might even be skeptical of what you might find inside, simply because of its locale. But, be brave – because you might just like what you find once you step inside.
The décor and atmosphere of Lemongrass is amazing. We loved the swanky vibe you felt just walking in the door, and you felt transported into a posh lounge not befitting of the restaurant’s locale. With open couches under a flower wall facing an extensively long and clean hardwood bar, and a wall full of pictures featuring Thai culture, Lemongrass provides diners with a great ambience. But perhaps what Lemongrass will most be remembered for in your mind is the stunning 20-foot statue of a Thai princess that separates the bar area from the dining room. With a rock garden and water underneath her, she stands from floor to ceiling and greets visitors as they make their way to their seats to enjoy their meals. (We tried to take some pictures of this masterpiece, but none could do her justice, or fit her in a frame.) The open feel of the restaurant and the dining area itself also made this restaurant feel upscale and modern.
The food and drinks at Lemongrass were hit and miss. The martinis were a bigger hit then the cocktails (we recommend the Sticky Mango Martini). The appetizers, while small in portions, seemed to be well-received by everyone who ate them. The group’s entrees however, provided the most disagreement in whether Lemongrass was a hit or not. Some diners thoroughly enjoyed their meals – the Pad Pak (a chicken stir-fry dish in garlic sauce) was perfectly seasoned and not drowned in sauce, and the chicken was cooked so it was tender and sliced so that there was no fat to be found. The Lad Na (a soup dish that has huge chunks of vegetables and meat) was also pleasantly received, and the entire contents were eaten even though the diner had claimed not to be that hungry. Both dishes were served with steamed rice, and while the soy sauce that the diners added lacked some salt, the rice was a perfect compliment to the meals. Those diners who ordered sushi from the extensive sushi menu that rests on all the tables at Lemongrass, were also pleased with their selections, but would have liked a wider set of spices to dress up their choices. Other diners, however, were less then pleased with their dishes. Many vegetarian options seemed to be more soup than entrée, and since it was not what the diners had expected, it was hard for them to enjoy it. Also, some of our group members were well-versed in Thai cuisine, and felt the meals not traditional enough for their liking.
We ended the night with a special fried ice cream treat for our birthday companion. While not the most delicious version we’ve ever had, the portion size was large enough that it allowed everyone at the table to get a taste and have a sweet ending to their meal. After dessert came the bill, and with the posh feel of the restaurant we knew we were in for a tough crunch on our wallets. The price was a little steep, especially considering the food was hit or miss, but you are paying for the atmosphere and overall dining experience, which are definitely worth a few extra dollars.
Overall we give Lemongrass a B. We think we’d give it another try and see if other dishes on their menu fare better. And we definitely approve of having a swank night out every once in a while, and Lemongrass provides this in spades.