First Bites

Khong River House: Northern Thai Food and True Confessions

Khong River House may have opened just days ago, but on a Thursday evening, the place was already as lively as its sister establishment Yardbird Southern Table & Bar.

Like Yardbird, Khong's colors are warm. Repurposed Thai shipping crates serve as wood wall decor. Edison bulbs cast a warm copper hue on the dining room. The ceiling is covered with tin panels that have been patinaed with age.

50 Eggs Restaurant Group's John Kunkel was at the restaurant when we stopped in to dine, and he pointed out some details. Thai license plates line the stairs leading to the intimate upstairs dining area and bar in what used to be Buck 15. Small dining nooks are placed in the back of the restaurant, inviting small groups to dine in private.  A Buddhist blessing, written by monks from the Wat Buddharangsi temple in Homestead, is seen above a statue of Buddha covered in flowers.

Most interesting, however, is the Truth, Dreams, & Confessions

project. This interactive piece of art by Candy Chang invites patrons to

write their anonymous secrets on a board and share

it. Kunkel admits he's had to censor a few of the confessions. A few we

read included "I like my iPhone more than I like my friends.", "I am

addicted to cheating", "I would like my mom to stop worrying about

money", and "My daughter is not my husband's biological child -- but he

doesn't know it."

Sitting down in the main dining room, we were

greeted by an extremely knowledgeable server who ran down the

experience and explained each spice, each side, and made recommendations

on how best to enjoy each dish. When we asked how she knew each item so

thoroughly, she replied that she and the rest of the staff had been

schooled for over three weeks. Quizzes and finals were given before

"graduation" day.

Chef Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, or "Chef Bee"

alternated between the kitchen and the dining room. We watched as the

chef made the rounds of tables, answering questions and making sure

diners were satisfied with his dishes, which focus on the flavors of

northern Thailand, but take cues from Vietnam, China, Burma, and

Myanmar. The result is far more adventurous and flavorful than your local Thai restaurant with generous portions more than suitable for sharing.

Kauyteaw Hor Phama House made Burmese style noodles containing roasted dried red chili, roasted peanuts, palm sugar, lemon, cilantro, and culantro ($12).

Sai Ua Housemade Chiang Rai sausage is served with pork cracklings and pickled vegetables ($12).

Het Op Mhor Din Jim Nahm Prik Kha Wild mushrooms simmered in lemongrass are served with a small dish of galanga chili powder.

Pad Mi Korat Thin rice noodles stir fried in tamarind juice with minced pork, crispy tofu, chives, and dried shrimp ($12).

Pad Pet Grop Prik Thai On Thai crispy duck from Chef Bee's mother's recipe, sauteed in young peppercorns, white onion, fresh chilies, and basil leaves ($25).

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss