Review: Tong-D

Terrific Thai in Barrington
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  May 17, 2011

Yes, it's sad to think about, but there was a day when there were no Thai restaurants in Rhode Island. Sorry, best not to dwell on the thought. I was reminded of those cilantro and lemongrass privations when a friend brought me to a place off my beaten track. That's an oversight I'm certainly going to make up for in the future. After one visit, as far as I'm concerned, there are Thai restaurants and then there is Tong-D.

The first thing that sets it apart is its simple but elegant decor, from a modernistic chandelier to something as basic as a see-through folding partition with an interesting cord pattern. Burgundy and gold leaf hangings in traditional designs decorate one wall, and on another is a series of silvery tree images made by grinding off a copper surface. The total effect of the space is smart and polished.

Tong-D | 401.289.2997 | 156 Country Rd, Barrington | Mon-Thurs, 11:30 am-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30 am-10:30 pm; Sun, 3-10 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible

The same certainly could describe our meal. Being a cheapskate, part of my pleasure was over their prix fixe lunch being such a bargain — $9 or $10 for salad, an appetizer, and an entrée. But most of the fun was in the eating. I don't know about you, but a bonus for me is seriously considering — and lingering over — other menu options. It's like a calorie-free first course.

At Tong-D, the opportunity was provided by a tantalizing list of chef's specialties. There was koong ob woonsen ($14), large shrimp sautéed in a sesame-ginger sauce, two of my favorite flavors. I could have either soft shell crabs ($16) or salmon in a choo chee curry sauce ($14), and a new item was crying tiger, grilled flank steak with a Thai style tomato salsa. If I were vegan, their "tofu royal" ($11) would tempt me with asparagus and other vegetables in a ginger-soy sauce.

As for the prix fixe lunch possibilities, they also were numerous. We could choose one of a half-dozen appetizers, from edamame on the minimal side, to steamed pork ravioli, which sounded like dumplings, for something more substantial. There are 11 entrees, and the more intriguing ones include flank steak slices in chili sauce, asparagus in roasted ginger sauce, and bok choy predominating among vegetables in "toasted garlic" sauce.

We both chose to start with a soup, I with the chicken tom yum because I'm a fool for lemongrass, and Rob the coconut soup, for the corresponding predilection. Both were substantial bowls rather than cups, and both were chock-full of sliced mushrooms, to the point that not many more would have fit. The chili oil beading beneath my spoon looked intimidating, but the heat was not excessive. Thin slices of galanga, the earthy but inedible root, flavored both soups, a subtle but particularly appropriate enhancement in coconut milk.

A salad was next to each soup in a divided wooden tray. Again, the portion was sizable. The presentation was attractive, with a tumble of shredded carrot next to a slice of tomato atop baby spinach as well as frisee for a bit of bitterness with the lettuces, and the dressing was fragrant with sesame oil.

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