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Dinner at Vong (long)


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Restaurants & Bars Manhattan Dinner

Dinner at Vong (long)

Adam Stephanides | | Jun 28, 2000 11:42 PM

Last night I made a reservation at Vong for tonight, then searched this site and to my dismay found more negative than positive comments. I considered cancelling my reservation, but since there were some raves, decided to try for myself. I'm glad I did. It's not the equal of Jean Georges (but then, it's not its equal in price either) and it's not the perfect fusion of French and Thai cuisines, but I found it very good for what it was.

I ordered the tasting menu, which began with crab spring rolls with a tamarind dipping sauce--good, but not outstanding. The next course was seared tuna with Szechuan peppercorn, soy mustard sauce. This was excellent, my favorite dish of the night. Next was a chicken and coconut milk soup with galangal and shiitakes. This, the most "Thai" dish of the meal, did have a real Thai taste and was very good. I can't judge how authentic it was, and a Thai aficionado might have found it insufficiently hot, but it was
much hotter than anything in French cuisine, without drowning out the other flavors.

The next two courses were disappointing, though. The "fish" with wok-fried napa cabbage, water chestnuts, and chilies (that's how it was written on the menu: "fish" in quotation marks), which turned out to be skate, was not very good at all. The skate was pretty flavorless, and the accompanying vegetables added very little. The lobster which followed was nothing special, and the yellow curry sauce accompanying it was very mild. With the last course of the main meal, things picked up again. This was crisp squab with egg noodle pancake: the squab was very good, and the "egg noodle pancake"--slightly gummy egg noodles pressed together--was also tasty, and had enough chilies added to make an interesting counterpoint to the squab.

The dessert menu was full of exotic-sounding desserts, but the dessert served with the tasting menu was the most conventional one: warm valrhona chocolate cake, good but unremarkable. Since I'm unlikely to make it back to Vong in the near future, I decided to order a second dessert. I had what the menu described as strawberry wontons, fromage blanc, and lime leaf ice cream, but when it arrived lemongrass sorbet had been substituted for the lime leaf ice cream. The lemongrass sorbet and strawberry wontons actually worked very well together.

Overall, I enjoyed myself. While the meal was more inconsistent than a meal that costly ought to be, it was refreshingly different from your average haute cuisine. I'm inclined to give Vong credit for trying something new, rather than slamming it for being "watered-down Thai food" (when in fact it's basically contemporary French cuisine with some Thai touches).


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