2710 Long Beach Rd, Oceanside
At the conclusion of a restaurant dinner have you ever asked everyone at the table to guess about the total cost of the meal? I do and the often-stratospheric results are the reason many families are discouraged about eating out. Yet every once in a while we get a pleasant, encouraging, unexpected result. That happened recently at Lemongrass, a neat, new Thai and Chinese storefront in Oceanside. Four diners ordered three appetizers and five entrées. The guesses around the table varied from $100 to $150, but the tab was actually an almost unbelievable $74.50. This number was surprising not only because the portions were large and the food was mostly very good, but we also took home such a quantity of leftovers that the doggie bag was quite heavy.
Proprietor Xingtan Sun also owns Thai Coconut, a more modest but equally inexpensive restaurant in Wantagh. The pale indigo walls, traditional art, white tablecloths and an expansive storefront render BYOB Lemongrass a bit more upscale. Its mainly Thai menu is supplemented with a shorter, more basic throwback list of Chinese dishes (lo mein, chow mein, fried rice, egg roll, wonton soup, etc.) that allowed us to hopscotch between the two sides.
Most of the Thai dishes achieve a balance of sweet and spicy. The Thai seafood Poh Taek soup, with its shrimp, noodles and calamari ($4.25) is a perfect pick for those who want soothing, rather than spicy, dishes. The 6 plump Shao Mai dumplings ($5.75) were tasty and filling. The so-called lettuce cup ($6.75) is actually an Americanized title for traditional Chinese soong dishes, which are lettuce leaves filled with chicken and vegetables—these could have been better seasoned and tastier.
Think noodles at Lemongrass. Both the Thai drunken noodle, a.k.a. pak ki mao, ($9.95), and the Chinese pan-fried noodles ($11.75) were outstanding. The drunken noodle is a slightly spicy stir-fry while the pan-fried egg noodles were a crispy delight. The young chow fried rice ($5.95) is a flavorless disaster. What does merit a nod are two other dishes: The marinated, grilled Siam chicken, which is gai yang on a bed of spinach with a side of peanut sauce ($10.95), though the chicken was a tad dry; and the garlic shrimp, or kratieum prik, replete with bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms and scallions ($12.75). The shrimp will especially appeal to those who want a little kick. Unfortunately, the service isn’t that hot. The young waiters can’t seem to avoid the gaps between courses.
And don’t bother saving room for dessert. There are only the three usual suspects: Fried banana ($2.95), coconut cake ($3.95) and mango with sticky rice ($4.75).
photo by paul kim / thefphoto.com