By: Reilly Hirst
Khong Thai Cuisine
260 Winton Road North,
Rochester, NY 14610
My lunch companion looks at me and says in mild disgust, “American Thai.” She’s not wrong. But I also ask if really there is much better Thai she’s had here in Rochester. We go through the litany. Neither of us like the King and I; her experience of Thai Mii Up was better food and worse service than mine. I like Yellow Elephant in Fairport; Sak’s is apparently run by the same team as here. Churi’s is the only one on our list that we wonder could compete. My companion values that warm enveloped feeling in a restaurant and less Americanized décor. I lean towards food over environment; but also appreciate more intimate authentic spaces.
We walked into Khong Thai on a Monday, that nefarious day when fewer restaurants are open for lunch. We shared the spring rolls (vegetarian), the papaya salad and the Panang Curry with Chicken. I had the Thai Iced Coffee, she the Lemongrass tea. I can say honestly that this was better Thai food than many I’ve had in ROC. Is it Toronto level? No, not even Buffalo or Syracuse for that matter. My companion was put off by the lack of heat. In contrast, some other restaurants make their dishes hot with a warning and if you don’t like heat, stay out of the kitchen or at least that dish. That lack of compromise is best for truly experiencing the food and, therefore, the culture of other countries.
As a GERD sufferer I do find myself at odds. I ate hot spicy foods for years; now, it’s at my own risk- including potential hospital stays and esophageal cancer. Am I always good about this? No, I could say I risk it for you the reader, but really I risk it for me, the eater. Even by my new wimp standards, Khong doesn’t bring the heat, any heat. The Papaya salad was too mild; it had flavor, but from the pungency of vinegar. The Panang was soupier than either of us were used to, though it had flavor, just not the right one. The Spring rolls were fresh and crunchy: the cabbage, super crisp and fresh, but the rolls lackluster in flavor. It needed what was absent: enough Cilantro and some Avocado. (This must be more than just our meal as a Yelp picture matches almost exactly the rolls we got.) The Thai Iced Coffee was good just as it was; the Lemongrass Tea full of actual lemongrass. I would seek out Khong again. The décor was nice enough: modern, clean and for the limited space well managed. My companion would not seek it out but would eat there. Next visit I am intending to get the Curry Puffs, maybe the Satay, and the Num Tok Nuer, or Beef Salad, all favorite dishes. I also may want to try the Tom Yum, Tom Ka, or the Pad See Eiw which is more than enough to keep me coming back in an attempt to go through them all. I am expecting them to rank as the other dishes did: decent Thai, American not at all spicy Thai. Walk, don’t run, but at least you can eat Thai now.