There's always a buzz when a new hip Thai restaurant moves in, and from Annapolis! I'd heard much about Lemongrass, and it's sister restaurant Tsunami next door, actually first from my hairdresser (whose opinion I worship). Mr.S and I, who'd most likely be Thai reincarnates in another life, were intrigued, and decided to make a date of it two weekends ago.
There was a short wait for a table, so we plopped ourselves at the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. First off, for the contemporary upscale "lounge" ambiance that Lemongrass was trying to impart, the staff sure was dressed down. The barstaff, and there were 3, were mismatched, wearing a range of wrinkled corduroys to wrap sweaters to Hane's white tees. The drink menu was interesting, offering a list of seemingly exotic ingredients mixed into martinis like kaffir lime leaves, blood orange juice, pear puree, etc etc with names like Bangkok Sunset... I ordered the Royal Tiger, which included Tangqueray Bangpur, blood orange bitters and muddled kaffir lime leaves. What was placed before me was neither very attractive nor very delectable. With the interesting ingredients, this drink could have great potential, but it just didn't hit the mark that night.
I'm not sure where the giant Buddha-like statue in the middle of the restaurant was looted from, but we walked past its enormity to the rear dining room, all very contemporary with its polished woods. It seemed like there was only two servers that night; we waited a long time to place our order and were not even offered glasses of water. Seeing as most of the tables were full and there were two large parties, we patiently waited and waited.
To start, we had the crispy string beans, lightly battered, fried, and coated with a sweet and spicy garlic sauce. Nothing to complain about here, it was delicious. The string beans were more tender than crisp, and I honestly would have eaten anything covered in that sauce.
Mr.S got the crispy duck as his entree, which was basically slices of duck breast, fried and covered in the same chili garlic sauce as the string beans. I was confused by the steamed veggies on the side; large slices of squash, snow peas, and broccoli that were way too bland and completely unnecessary. I looked around at other entree plates around us, and they seemed to adorn every plate!
My seafood red curry came in a large soup bowl. The flavors were good, and there was a medley of shrimp, scallops, and squid stewed with bamboo shoots, green pepper, and eggplant. My only complaint was it was too soupy to be called a curry, and the eggplant a bit undercooked.
If you're looking for an authentic Thai meal, Lemongrass should not be at the top of your list. There wasn't even a single Thai server or customer in the restaurant, and I seriously doubt any of their kitchen staff are of Thai lineage. The flavors were all there, maybe a bit too sweet at times, but the dishes were obviously lacking a precision and fine-tuning that the art of true Thai cuisine embodies. The vegetables, garnishes, and presentation were all too rough for the fine quality that these dishes should have had. Our meal surely didn't break the bank, but the prices were comparable to those of other Thai restaurants who offer a higher quality of food (i.e. Thai Restaurant and Thai Landing) Lemongrass is definitely selling its trendy and as they would like to call it "urban chic" atmosphere, but in order for that to be believable, the staff first needs to be better trained and secondly, more smartly dressed.
I would go back, but probably in a few weeks when some of the kinks have been smoothed out, if only for a Tiger Lager and a plate of those crispy string beans.
1300 Bank Street
Baltimore, MD 21231