Like so many pan-Asian spots, Lemongrass Thai & Chinese Restaurant sets out to please just about everybody. Witness a bi-culinary menu that accommodates both wonton soup and tom kha gai, lo mein and pad Thai. What sets Lemongrass apart, though, is fare that, more often than not, is as vibrant as it is comforting.
True, the airy and spacious dining room sports an incongruous painting of a Venetian canal. So ignore the gondola and focus, instead, on the steaming bowl of chicken coconut soup in front of you. How velvety the slices of chicken are, how resonant and complex the broth. Wonton soup, on the other hand, turns out somewhat bland, the house-made dumplings thick and doughy. Yet the same kitchen sends forth sheer and delicate shu mai (shrimp dumplings), each containing a plump whole shellfish. Also noteworthy are light and savory pork and vegetable dumplings. From the Thai side of the menu comes chicken with sticky rice, little banana-leaf packets you unwrap, each bite unleashing a subtle smokiness.
One night, pad see yu -- broad noodles with chicken, Chinese broccoli and eggs -- offers a high gratification factor. The same holds true of fresh Chinese black pepper egg noodles tossed with tender slices of beef and a slyly incendiary sauce. But spicy coconut noodles with shrimp, ordered at lunch, are way too sweet, the pasta a bit mushy.
One dish not to miss is the colorful, comforting Panang curry with pumpkin. Another big hit is mango duck; it's bright and fruity, steering clear of over-sweetness. And Thai eggplant with sweet chili sauce comes up a nuanced winner, as well.
If you fondly remember the old-school Chinese-American dish moo goo gai pan, you'll want to try the chicken and vegetable stir-fry here. It's a study in fresh, clean flavors.
Conclude with mango and sticky rice. Or Thai coconut cake -- which is actually not cake but, rather, warm pudding. Easy eating, for sure.