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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Khong River House, South Beach

The team behind Yardbird recently unveiled Khong River House, a post-colonial homage to the food of Northern Thailand. The names alludes to the Mekhong River, which runs through Southeast Asia and provides the eatery with a convenient set of cuisines from which to compose the menu (such as Northern Thai, Vietnamese and Burmese street food). Walking in the main dining room (the former Miss Yip space) feels like industrial-loft apartment of a couple of discerning globe-trotters who made out really well at a flea market in the Far East. Bare light bulbs are housed in traditional Thai fishing traps, the brick walls are meticulously scuffed and a stairwell to the upstairs bar is clad in Thai motorcycle license plates. The main dining room can get loud on busy nights, but the dining “alvcoves” in the back provide a quieter and more intimate atmosphere for small parties.
Executive Chef Piyarat Potha Arreeratn (known as Chef Bee), staffs the kitchen with Thai-born chefs for an authentic experience. You can get your noodles and curries, but this isn't your local Asian fusion shop. Instead, entrees feature grilled and fried seafood and traditional – often very spicy preparations. Prices are a bit higher than at a Thai flea market: most small plates average $12, larger shareable main are $17-$36 and rice is $4.

Crispy duck with green peppercorns and basil.

Traditional Boat Noodles made with beef brother, meatballs and topped with chicharones.

The staff really push Burmese Fresh Noodle Wraps for a starter but I wasn't as enamored of the dish, made with roasted dried red chili, roasted peanuts, palm sugar, lemon and cilantro. I found more exciting the small plates of fiery chicken wings flash fried and dressed in a sticky chili sauce and the grilled eggplant salad with mint and sour roasted chili paste. Salads feature proteins like the spicy, aged-pork ginger salad with fried curried rice balls. The jungle curry is not made with coconut milk, but rather a fragrant mix of tiny bitter eggplants, chunks of chicken, peppercorns, baby corn and mushrooms. The Rotisserie Chicken (GAI YAANG) is marinated in coconut milk and lemon grass while the grilled whole fish is salt-crusted and stuffed with basil and lemongrass.
Overall the experience is one you won't readily find in Miami: a gorgeous, meticulously-scuffed dining room combined with unabashedly spicy authentic Thai cooking. Welcome, welcome Khong. 1661 Meridian Avenue Miami Beach, Florida 33139 (305) 763-8147

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