Mongkok (Shoreview, MN)
By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Thai can be a deceptively simple cuisine. A single dish can be a perfect meal. It's so good you just tuck it away without much thought for how complex the flavors are or for how well they go together. The subtle perfect balance between spicy, salty, sweet, sour, and bitter flavors is what makes Thai food a standout.
We found good Thai at Mongkok, in Shoreview. Mongkok serves dishes from across Asia: Chinese, Thai, Japanese. It's the Thai dishes that are the winners.
Thai food is traditionally spicy, and Mongkok's menu ominously says "not responsible for side effects" when talking about spice levels. Don't let that scare you. In America, Thai food comes in a variety of spice levels. Tell the server what level of spice you want, and he'll make it happen.
Mongkok serves a variety of Thai curries. Even the mild is intensely flavoured, not so much hot as pungent and flavorful. Gong Gai, for example, is an rich blend of tastes, with a coconut milk base providing that perfect balance. Like most of the dishes here, you can order it with beef, chicken, pork, tofu, shrimp, or scallops. We think Thai food tastes best with chicken, tofu, or shrimp, and recommend you choose one of those.
Pad Thai is traditionally a mild dish, a plate of sautéed rice noodles with egg, bean sprouts, green onions, and peanuts. Squeeze the lime over it: the flavors mingle perfectly.
Tom yum soup, another classic Thai dish, is hot and sour and flavored with lemongrass. Mongkok's version comes with shrimp and vegetables and is very flavorful.
We can also recommend Sie Sahai, a Thai stir fry with your choice of protein, broccoli, baby corn, and tomatoes.
The Thai crispy duck is delicious, but a bit monotonous. We recommend ordering this only if there are a few of you at the table, and you've agreed to share entrees.
There's a lot more on the menu. Mongkok serves a variety of Thai fish and seafood dishes, three vegetarian dishes.
We recommend avoiding most of the Japanese selections. The sushi is uninspiring. The tempura is better but not really great.
The Chinese dishes, too, are not the best we've had. There's nothing exotic in this section of the menu, and the dishes range from okay to forgettable. The one exception is the Mongkok family special dish. This is a seafood medley: lobster, scallops, shrimp, and crab, cooked in a mild flavorful sauce with a variety of Chinese and western vegetables. And we liked the very good fried rice with this.
You'll get a choice of fried or white rice with every entree.
Appetizers are okay. We liked the agedashi tofu and the chicken wings, called nong tong.
There's no dessert here, and not much else in the way of frills. But if it's dinnertime and you don't feel like cooking, Mongkok is a great place for a quick and tasty meal. And everything came to our table piping hot, an event worth noting all on its own.
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