When Gingergrass replaced Kinh Do on Barrington, loyal patrons were pleased to hear that the outgoing owners had passed on their recipes and knowledge to the incoming proprietors. Long a fan of Kinh Do spring rolls, I've been dying to get back and see how the changeover has gone.
The menu's now a mix of Vietnamese and Thai dishes; bubble tea, the popular Asian drink, is still available.
We're ravenously hungry and knowing that leftovers can be taken home, we throw caution to the wind and order the Thai-Vietnamese combo for two ($42), plus a couple of extra dishes (salad rolls, coconut curry, and shrimp and spring roll vermicelli).
The inside now has a slightly more
elegant, though still minimalist, atmosphere. Pale wood floors are anchored by a darker wood cash counter and wine hutch, the walls are white with a black stripe near the high ceilings and soft pendant lighting casts pools of warm light. Unfortunately, the uncomfortably narrow chairs remain.
We begin our feast with Vietnamese salad rolls ($5.25), two plump rice-paper rolls filled with sprouts, vermicelli and lettuce, accompanied by a hoisin-based dipping sauce. The sauce adds flavour to the remarkably fresh (though bland by nature) ingredients in the rolls.
Next up, crab Rangoon. These deep-fried, star-shaped pastries are stuffed with crabmeat and cream cheese. Although neither authentically Thai nor Vietnamese (they're believed to be a North American-Chinese creation), they're rich and tasty.
Empty plates are cleared for our Tom Yum, the Thai hot-and-sour soup with shrimp and thinly sliced mushrooms. This particular version is a little sweet for my liking, and lacks the fire of a traditional Tom Yum. I do love the spring rolls—they're packed with shredded pork and delicious, and exactly as I remember.
Subtly fragrant jasmine rice provides a foil for the four main dishes; Vietnamese short ribs and Thai chicken curry are part of the combo, and we've added vegetable-tofu coconut curry ($8.95) and shrimp-spring roll vermicelli ($9.95).
The vegetable-tofu coconut curry is a beautiful rendition, laden with fresh, crisp vegetables, sticks of firm tofu, and a mild curry that even the most timid tastebud would enjoy. The green chicken curry is also very good—certainly not the hottest Thai curry I've had but it has a decent kick—and the short ribs are tender, with a much lighter glaze than their Chinese cousins. The rice vermicelli comes in a large bowl, with a layer of bean sprouts beneath a tangle of noodles, over which the cut-up spring rolls and heavily hoisin-marinated shrimp are laid.
The Thai food here is by no means subpar when compared to the two other Thai restaurants nearby. But at Gingergrass, the Thai flavours are not quite as distinct, not quite as defined—they're more muted than in the neighbours' kitchens.
The Vietnamese offerings seem to have been replicated faithfully and quite successfully from the Kinh Do recipe book, and Vietnamese is definitely my preference here.
I like the upgrades to the decor and the expansion of the menu, and am pleased to find the new servers to be fast and friendly. I also like that I don't have to lie when I tell her we've thoroughly enjoyed our visit and we only regret that our meal is over.
GingergrassThai & VietnameseRestaurant1284 Barrington425 8555Tues-Sat11.30am-10pm
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