Local Thai cuisine heats up

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Take first the ability to cook dishes that people crave. Add one part the desire to please customers. Throw in a dash of creativity and a sprinkling of good business sense. Mix all these ingredients together and you have Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine in Brooklyn Center.

Owned by Souk Moua and his wife Van Sengmavong, this cozy eatery has been open for nearly a year now with relatively good success.

One step inside the modest yet intimately detailed restaurant will tell you that Souk and Van have poured their heart and souls into Lemon Grass.

A look through their menu and you’ll see that with dishes named “Crazy Duck”, “Angel Wings” and “Insane Chicken” the couple wanted to create something unique with personal touches.

“We didn’t want to open a restaurant that was like all the others,” Souk commented. “Just like our food, we wanted to offer something that can’t be found here in Minnesota.”

Originally from San Diego, CA., the couple wanted to bring a “West Coast flavor” to the Twin Cities.

No other dish on the menu exemplifies the “West Coast” flavor better than the “Crazy Duck”. Similar to the beef salads (laab) that can be found in virtually any Thai or Lao restaurant, finely sliced duck meat is served on a bed of salad greens and fresh cucumbers.

The similarities stop there though. Unlike beef salads where the meat seems to dominate our sense of smell and taste, the freshly roasted duck meat (which is roasted in-house) delicately soaks in the assortment of herbs and spices, accentuating flavors that are both tantalizing and gratifying.

Soft to the touch, the tenderness of the duck meat prompts you to keep eating and eating without feeling the uncomfortable guilt of overeating. At Lemon Grass, where the portions are purposefully large, overeating is fortunately one of the drawbacks.

If the duck is something you want to further explore at Lemon Grass, try the “Pho with Roast Duck”. Because they do their own roasting, Souk explained, they are able to control every aspect of how the duck turns out, which, from my experience, turns out pretty good.

Otherwise, if the classic dishes are what you crave, Lemon Grass can certainly accommodate your needs. Trained by her family of restaurant owners, Van is well versed in the classical Lao and Thai cooking.

With familiar favorites like “Pad Thai”, “Coconut Noodle Soup” (otherwise known as “Kao Poon”), and of course “Papaya Salad”, Lemon Grass doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the picky eater who is looking for both taste and value.

“We’re starting to see more and more Hmong folks who used to travel all the way to St. Paul for a good meal,” explained Souk. “By word of mouth, people are discovering that we’re here.”

Hidden behind a shopping center where a “Festival Foods” is the cornerstone market, Lemon Grass is not easily found – perhaps the only bad thing I could discover about this restaurant.

Once you find the restaurant, however, you will not be disappointed, especially if you take this critic’s recommendation and get the “Crazy Duck”!

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