Walking through the door, you feel an immediate transformation. The rich red walls blanket you in their warmth while the authentic woodwork places you in Thailand.
The slightly unusual foliage discretely placed around the restaurant gives an exotic feel while soft Oriental sounds infiltrate your ears. As the intense smell of spices circle the restaurant and take residence within your nose, your tummy simply cannot wait for what's in store.
As you glance over the menu, you realize that they have beaten you to it. Do you really know what actual ingredients create those simply delicious flavors? Lemon Grass realizes that in order for its patrons to truly appreciate its delectable dishes, a short description of its namesake will not only help its patrons delve more deeply into a Thai experience but actually expand the narrow view that many of us have on foods from the Far East. How many of you knew that lemon grass is the seasoning used in most traditional Thai dishes, or that it could be used as medicine? Not only does the restaurant give you a taste of Thai food, but you also get a sliver of Thai culture.
After experiencing my botany lesson for the evening, I moved on to the pages and pages of descriptive dishes that continued to make my mouth water until I needed a napkin. Even as a vegetarian, I relished in the enormous number of choices so eloquently written that I almost wanted to order three or four dishes because I simply could not decide.
As the rich spices continued to waft through my nose, I knew I needed to make a decision quickly, otherwise my stomach would "have my head" so to speak.
I settled on the Veggie Lemon Grass Soup ($3.95)which is the traditional Thai hot and sour soup with mixed vegetables flavored with onions, kaffir lime leaves and my new favorite herb, lemon grass. Hardly a fan of hot and sour soup on principle, I was amazed at the chef's ability to season the soup to perfection while steaming the vegetables to a tender texture. I could not have started my meal any better.
As I finished my soup, I started to have a nagging feeling. What if I am stuck in anticipation for the main course while the service tests the little patience I possess? But, to my satisfaction, Lemon Grass works more efficiently than you can imagine for a meal so well cooked and prepared. I dove into my Veggies Mussaman ($8.95) with no hesitation, and I could not believe the incredible taste of fresh vegetables and tofu doused with Lemon Grass's popular red curry peanut sauce with coconut milk. The seasonings in this beautiful sienna-colored sauce help you leave the traditional winter dreariness of Philadelphia and drift off to a place far more engaging, even if it is for only a moment.
Although I already felt satisfied, I could not help myself. I just had to try one of their beguiling desserts. I settled on the Tropical Island ($3.95) with richly flavored fried bananas and coconut ice cream, leaving me dreaming of palm trees and sandy beaches. I could not help but gobble up every bite.
If you are looking for a quick escape from the gray Philadelphia horizon and an amazing meal for a relatively inexpensive price, you need not look farther than 36th Street and Lancaster Avenue. Lemon Grass, nestled into a quaint complex, is just waiting for you to come in and experience bliss.