Malls aren’t usually thought of as foodie destinations. Yet, across the United States people are finding great food in such places. In fact, the restaurant in Las Vegas widely regarded as the best Thai restaurant in the United States, Lotus of Siam, is found not in a casino but rather in a strip mall. In southern Rhode Island, the South County Commons has all the prerequisites of being a great plaza – a movie theater, a Cardi’s Furniture, a tanning salon, an assisted living facility and a variety of restaurants. Already having the excellent Trattoria Romana, South County Commons was on the map as a place to dine. When I heard Tong-D, a Thai restaurant, had opened there this past winter, I immediately thought of Lotus of Siam and hoped it lived up to the high standard.
When Tong-D opened in South Kingstown in February this year, it relied on the reputation of its wildly successful original location in Barrington. The new restaurant is located in a bright, light filled space almost directly across from the famous Japanese restaurant Shogun. The interior of the restaurant is high class. Hanging from the ceiling are large, elegant crystal chandeliers, and the shiny, wooden floors are accented with decorative throw rugs. Every table has a fresh rose on it and gorgeous topiaries envelop the dining room.
Hoping to enlighten my parents to new South County dining possibilities, I brought them along for dinner at Tong-D. We started with a celebratory cocktail since my mother had recently retired. I was feeling the island vibe and felt compelled to try a Mai Tai ($10). It was made with Bacardi Superior Rum, Bacardi Gold Rum, DiSaranno Amaretto, triple sec, sour mix and house made punch. It was sweet and had a real kick to it! My father tried the Tom-Yum Martini ($10) – Stoli Vodka, Bacardi Superior Rum, chili, lime and lemongrass syrup. Although the drink was good, what set it apart was the amazing glassware it came in. The conical martini glass sat in a small, glass bowl of ice. The martini was kept cold by the ice, and it was a stunning presentation. My mother is on a Mojito kick and thought Tong-D’s version ($9.50) was particularly good since it had a nice tart taste from the lime and not too much simple syrup.
The menu at Tong-D is varied and interesting. There are many familiar favorites as well as some innovative twists on Thai cuisine. There was so much to pick from, I had a hard time deciding what to order, so we started with a trio of appetizers. With a wide variety under $9, you could make a meal from the appetizers and be perfectly happy. First out of the kitchen, we sampled Garlic String Beans ($5.95). The beans were sautéed to a perfect crispness and served in a sauce of garlic and soy. They weren’t spicy like I have seen in other Thai restaurants, but they were very flavorful. Next up, we shared an order of Chicken Satay ($6.95). I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about this dish, but my satay connoisseur mother proclaimed it to be fantastic. The chicken was marinated in coconut milk, grilled on a wooden skewer and then served with a peanut butter cream sauce and a lighter, vinegar based peanut sauce. We also tried the Scallion Pancake ($5.95), and it was fluffier than most versions I have tried. The pancake was good on its own, but it was accompanied by some dipping sauces, and the sauces elevated this dish even higher.
Pad Thai is the one Thai dish everyone in the United States seems to recognize. Seeing Crispy Pad Thai ($12.95) on the menu, I was excited to try this new take on one of my favorites. The enormous platter of fried noodles presented to me was overwhelming at first. As I started to eat, however, I was rewarded with not only the extra-crunchy noodles, but also with tender, white meat chicken and grilled shrimp. The sauce was heavy on soy/fish sauce flavor, yet it was still good. My mother wanted something with wide noodles, so she tried the Chicken Pad C-U ($10.95), known as Pad See Ew in most other Thai restaurants. See Ew refers to the sweet dark soy sauce it’s made with. The wide rice noodles tasted homemade and absorbed the sauce. This dish also featured tender, white meat chicken. My father, not known for being daring in his food choices, ordered Lobster Ravioli ($17.50) because he thought it sounded like a safe dish to try. I don’t know if he was expecting such a unique take on lobster ravioli, but that’s what he got. Although the ravioli were standard, they were accompanied by a delicate Karee curry (yellow, coconut flavored) sauce made in-house, wilted baby spinach, chunks of potato and some crispy noodles thrown in to give the dish texture. Surprisingly, my father enjoyed it.
Dining at Tong-D is an enjoyable experience all around. The servers were friendly and helpful, the atmosphere was elegant and relaxing, the food was well prepared, and the prices are exceptionally reasonable. If you are looking for a bargain, on Tuesday-Sunday, the restaurant offers a prix fixe lunch. It includes a choice of appetizer, house salad with miso dressing and an entrée ($10.95-$11.95 depending on your selection). It’s a great way to sample a variety of dishes at a reasonable price. Not to mention, since you’re at a shopping center, you can run some errands or catch a movie when you’re done.
50 South County Commons Way