Review: Vong’s Thai Kitchen
By Anthony Todd in Food on Sep 4, 2008 7:27PM
We first visited Vong’s Thai Kitchen almost four years ago, after seeing its dessert selection featured on an episode of "Top Five" on the Food Network. An oasis of good taste and value in a section of River North dominated by large chains like P.F. Chang’s, VTK was created by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten in 2002. Vong’s Thai Kitchen is labeled as French/Thai fusion, but it leans heavily towards the Thai, offering faithful renditions of traditional specialties in a trendy downtown atmosphere.
On a recent visit, the first pleasant surprise hit us upon picking up the wine list. Rather than creating an extensive selection of overpriced bottles, VTK has focused on a very few wines that compliment the food. Rather than apologizing, the restaurant is frank and points out the incompatibility of oak flavors with Thai cuisine. The cocktail menu is excellent, including a variety of creative martinis.
The appetizers are universally good, though we often skip straight to the main courses because the portions are very generous! On this trip, we returned to an old favorite, the VTK Signature Shrimp and Crab Pad Thai. While it may be heresy, this is the best pad thai we’ve had in Chicago – and we’ve been to a lot of Thai places. Filled with sprouts, shallots, egg, Thai basil, scallions and garlic, there was enough for us to eat our fill and have lunch the next day. We also tried something new: Shrimp and Scallops in Citrus Curry. All of VTK's curries are made in-house with freshly toasted spices, and its light, fruity taste was a treat.
Be sure to save room for dessert. At lunchtime, the restaurant offers “The World’s Smallest Dessert Menu” – printed on a business card, it presents eight $1/$1.50 dessert choices, including a miniature Passion Fruit soufflé served in an espresso cup. Bring a date and order the entire menu! At dinner, we enjoyed the warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake and a tiny “Lunch Box” filled with homemade coconut ice cream. The best part? With cocktails, two main courses and dessert, the bill was under $60.
Vong’s Thai Kitchen is located at 6 West Hubbard Street, off North Michigan Avenue. They are open every day for lunch and dinner, check the website for current times. The restaurant is casual, and usually requires reservations for prime-time dinner hours.