We’ve been going to Lemon Grass regularly since 1996, whether to dine in or take out. It may not be as chic as Teak Thai or Green Papaya, or have the take out trade of Ruthai’s, or be as busy as Wild Ginger, but its service is second to none of any restaurant, ethnic or otherwise, high-end or pedestrian, anywhere in the region. This is because it’s owned and run by a group of friends (some related), who give it their all day in day out at lunch and dinner. Their kindness and quiet friendliness has earned them a well deserved devoted following. I also don’t think they’ve raised their prices in over ten years. Patrons might consider reservations if they’re going to be part of a group of six or more, though this might seem pretentious. On the other hand, I’ve waited forty-five minutes for a table when I decided against reserving.
|The Comfortable Dining Room at Lemon Grass|
Our family and friends always ask about going there so when my Mom and Auntie Barbara visited, it was ours (and theirs) first choice. Lemon Grass is situated in a stand alone building on Madison Road a block from Rookwood (i.e. the epicenter of the Hyde Park-Oakley-Norwood shopping district). It’s a spare dining room, though elegant in its use of a large mirror and arrangement of bowls of spices.
|Chicken Coconut Soup|
We considered appetizers (it’s hard to go wrong with any of them, though the corn cakes, the spring rolls, and the crab crispies are all delicious), but chose soup instead. This group of dishes is one of their best. The Lemon Grass Soup is a winner with a complex flavoring of sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy elements and adding cilantro, scallions, and mushrooms. In Emeril’s parlance, they “kick it up a notch” by adding chicken and coconut milk to create a classic dish (Chicken Coconut Soup) that a patron might want over and over. The dumplings in the Wun Tun soup are plump, firm, and almost like pot stickers.
|Spicy Shrimps and Scallops|
|Mango Yellow Curry|
|Spicy Eggplant with Tofu|
Mom chose the Spicy Shrimps and Scallops that are tempura batter fried and served on skewers with steamed vegetables. (This is one of the selections from the insert menu). It was a big portion that we shared. Auntie Barbara had the Panang Curry, which she thought was very authentic in taste, but specifically in smell, to when she lived in Thailand with a host family and taught there a couple of years ago. She also had a chance to practice her Thai vocabulary. Neil ordered the Mango Yellow Curry, in which the fruit is randomly sliced and the curry sauce is creamy with a subtle bite. Most of the heat level for us is pretty relaxed since we usually don’t go above a 2 on a 10 level of spice, although Auntie Barbara had a 5 and liked it. I’ve had the Spicy Eggplant with Tofu and always liked it, but the eggplant was a little mushy this time. After going there probably hundreds of times over the past fifteen years, there have only been two occasions where we didn’t think the food was really good.
|Garlic Chicken Lunch|
|Paht Thai Lunch|
A few other notes about Lemon Grass are that they serve an unbeatable lunch weekdays for the current price of $5.50 consisting of many favorites from the evening menu with white or fried rice. They also serve a number of desserts, which we’ve liked but don’t always order, and Thai Iced Tea and Thai Iced Coffee, which we do. Mom thinks that the Iced Tea is the best mix of coconut milk and juice that she’s had at over a half dozen restaurants.
|Thai Iced Tea and Coffee|
One other cool touch is that they have their own dinnerware in white porcelain, highlighted with cobalt blue. Unfortunately they do not have a website, which one will either find charming or shocking. I think it adds to their appeal.
Lemon Grass is located at 2666 Madison Road.
I was quite comfortable staying at home and watching the house. They all needed some time to catch up on family stories.