Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lemongrass Asian Bistro (2 1/2 Forks, $10-20)

Lemongrass is a favorite among many people I know, which explains why they now have four locations from Fort Lauderdale to Boynton Beach. Lemongrass's real appeal is not the food nor the setting, it is the menu. The lunch menu is diverse and well priced. Their dinner menu is inspired, innovative, and exciting. Where else can you get the Lobster Monster sushi roll, topped with double lobster tails, or the Extremely Rainbow roll made with Alaskan King Crab and topped with a variety of fish?

The lunch menu ranges from $6.95 to $11.95 and has the perfect amount of variety and different price points to appeal to any customer. The servings are generous and I appreciate the little extras, like the choice of appetizer that comes with most meals. I highly recommend the Bento boxes, which offer a sampling of both Sushi and Thai. The Pad Thai Bento nestles cold sesame noodles, salad with ginger dressing, a generous portion of Chicken Pad Thai, half of an Inside Out (IO) California Roll with sesame seed, along with your choice of mixed Sushi (sliced raw fish atop mounds of sticky rice) or Sashimi (sliced raw fish). I have never been able to finish it entirely, so it would be appropriate for a very hearty eater.

Another favorite lunch offering is the Double Sushi Rolls, which gives you your choice of two basic rolls, including my favorite Spicy Tuna. They have Sushi meals and Sashimi meals as well. I have enjoyed but not been wow-ed by the Sushi I have tasted at Lemongrass. I would like it to be fresher and bolder. The rolls are looser than they should be.

If you are just in the mood for Thai, Lemongrass offers several Thai entrees, including Red Curry, Panang Curry, Volcano Chicken, Basil Chicken, and Shrimp with Peanut Sauce, among others. They usually have a special of the day which has been fish every time I have visited. The Thai dishes I have eaten were tasty but not authentic. They seem heavier and less subtley flavored than I would like. The Pad Thai is saucy, with a reddish tint that is unusual to me. Although certainly edible, I will not order the Panang Curry here. This is a dish I truly love and it does not meet my expectations at Lemongrass. Here the peanuts overwhelm. The dish is missing the flavorful blend of peanut, curry, coconut milk, basil, and lime leaves that I look for.

Lemongrass is a growing restaurant chain, which started in a tiny corner of a plaza in Boca as Sushi Thai Cafe. From its humble charming roots emerged the hip cool Lemongrass appropriate for its new setting in Boca's upscale Royal Palm Plaza. But hip and cool is not so appealing to me. Immediately turned off by the cold pristine interior, I prefer the outside tables in Boca. The new Boynton Beach location is dark and sleek and equally cold. I find the setting dismal and depressing but perhaps a younger hipper crowd would approve. I also despise the music selection, which sounds like a creepy nightclub. Who wants that thump thump thump when they are trying to enjoy a meal?

I have had several meals at Lemongrass and I will go back. But they need to work on the setting and flavor before I can thoroughly recommend it.

Here is the website with complete menu. http://www.lemongrassasianbistro.com/boca/about.html

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