I never thought that we would come together for the third time without being able to share the details of dinner in one of our area restaurants. Last month I said I miss restaurants, and each week I miss them more. So this month, we re-assembled the review crew at unnamed destination, took a socially distanced seat and picked up a big order of take-out from Muang Thai in Red Bank.
I really enjoy the exotic, layered tastes of Thai food. I have been to Muang Thai many times and remember that this compact, colorful, corner restaurant is ornately decorated with servers who wear traditional Thai clothing. Try it for take-out now but do visit for the full experience when it reopens. Thai is a good choice if you have vegetarians at the table but a no-go for those with peanut allergies as it is an ingredient in many dishes. Don’t be afraid to try, but do ask about the heat levels as Thai food can get pretty hot.
Our appetizers included Chicken Satay. The chicken is marinated with Thai herbs, thinly coated, grilled golden brown and served with a powerfully punchy peanut dipping sauce. We also picked the compact Spring Rolls which were tightly packed with sautéed cabbage, glass noodles and carrot with a spicy plum dipping sauce. They were crispy and light, and impressively rolled into uniform 2-inch cigars (I wish I could get this person to pack my suitcase). Our third appetizer was the Summer Roll, filled with steamed chicken and shrimp with vegetables in a rice skin roll with spicy plum sauce. The skin is a matter of preference; some may like its soft, almost moist texture while others may not. If you’re looking for a salad-like taste, you can try these.
I also had a bowl of the Tom Ka Kung soup which is shrimp soup with galangal, lemon grass, mushrooms, coconut milk and lime juice. If I could fill up a bathtub with it, I would dive right in. It is a whole mouth of flavor, tangy, sweet, creamy and tart.
Now for the entrées. Diner one chose the Basil Fish. This is an impressive, whole roasted fish with the head and tail on and is topped with mushrooms, carrots, onions, string beans, basil leaves and a Muang Thai basil sauce. This diner’s guess was that it was sea bass, and he ate the juicy fish clean and completely enjoyed the basil sauce he had selected. Muang Thai also offers a whole fish with tamarind sauce, along with a ginger, garlic or curry variety. My guess is he will be trying them all.
Diner two’s choice was the Peanut Chicken which are chicken breasts prepared like cutlets served with sautéed spicy mixed vegetables and a mouth-filling peanut sauce. She noted that the dish had a pleasant kick, rounded out nicely by the richly roasted peanut sauce and that it delivered just the taste she expected.
Diner three picked Pad Thai chicken. This is a classic Thai dish, perfect for beginners to this complex cuisine. Pad Thai is stir-fried, flat rice noodles with eggs, scallions, bean curd, bean sprouts and ground roasted peanuts. Our diner commented on how flavorful the noodles were after soaking up the sauce. The chicken was chunky and tender.
I choose the Panang Lamb which is grilled lamb with bell pepper, string beans, carrot, basil, leaves and coconut milk in a sweet panang curry sauce. I simply loved it! It was a surprise to see these were bone-in lamb chops and that curry sauce was so good – sweet with a hot finish that didn’t overpower the distinct lamb taste.
Most of the desserts at Muang Thai include ice cream, and since it was a take-out meal, well, that wouldn’t have ended well. Instead our meal-ender came courtesy of the bakery at Delicious Orchards. D.O.’s bakery is busier than ever, and our platter of treats included key lime tarts, coconut custard tarts, cannoli, and charming chocolate cupcakes topped with addictive pink icing and sprinkled with shiny pink sugar that glittered like Cinderella’s ball gown. They were each a work of art, and even if the lines are long, they are worth the wait.
I must say that it was wonderful to enjoy that feeling of eating together. You wonderful readers have been terrific at supporting our restaurants, and now as they slowly reopen, I’m sure you’ll be just as eager as me to sit in their spaces, have their servers share the nightly specials and be dazzled by the artistry of the many extraordinary chefs in our community.
What we liked: The complex, lingering flavors, and their taste bud-awakening heat. I also want to send a shoutout to our delightful makeshift off-site server who was armed with an arsenal of clean plates and spoons to keep everyone safe, proving you can still enjoy the simple pleasures of a meal together.
Muang Thai Restaurant is located at 7 E. Front St. in Red Bank (near Marine Park). 732-741-9999. MuangThaiRedBank.com. Open Sunday 11 am to 9:30 pm; Monday 3 to 9:30 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11 am to 9:30 pm; and Friday and Saturday 11 am to 10 pm.
We give Muang Thai four and three quarter Js.