But tonight, no one can bring themselves to ask the question pulsing through the city's dining panorama: Is Chef Bee really operating a "competing business," as the lawsuit alleges?
The answer to this question lies in how Khong and Oishi Thai advertise themselves. When Khong opened in December 2012, it was marketed as a redefinition of Miami's Thai food, doing away with rich curries and mundane pad thais. It was new, bold, and different. Today, the menu features boat noodles, fish cooked in banana leaves, and head-on prawn. Cocktails mix red chilies with gin, and the crowd is urbane.
Meanwhile, at this Biscayne Boulevard strip mall, families swarm Oishi Thai's dining room to sip miso soup and pop salted edamame into their mouths. Servers carry plates of chicken teriyaki, California rolls, and gyoza around lacquered tables. The restaurant's cooking satisfies cravings for essential Japanese and Thai dishes, catering to those who covet mochi ice cream as much as wonton soup.
Still, despite its nondescript location, thrilling dishes hide among the tilapia and fried rice. Oishi Thai's whole deep-fried snapper flakes off the bone, melding with a salty garlic-soy sauce that rides alongside. But even this fish is ordered rarely. "Have you been to Thailand?" asked our young waiter, staring curiously at the bare spines. "Americans don't usually eat whole fish."
Regulars instead opt for more dependable choices such as noodles. The restaurant serves seven variations of pad thai, its rice strips tangling around chicken, beef, vegetables, or shrimp. Pad kee mao fuses sautéed bell peppers with bamboo shoots, basil, and chili sauce -- a plate that fares well as take-out, especially when paired with spring rolls, some Netflix, and a fluffy, worn couch.
Unlike Khong's polished cuisine, the food at Oishi Thai comforts. Tom yum soup features poached, shredded chicken in a spicy lemongrass-infused broth; jumping shrimp salad layers pale lettuce with chili-paste-coated crustaceans; and tiger's tear beef couples the same greens with bits of piquant meat. The duck red curry is also delicious. Sloshed in a rosy sauce with shrimp paste and coconut milk, fried duck breast shimmers from the oil's heat. The same treatment graces soft-shell crabs, fried golden and crisp, and served with soy sauce.