I am deeply saddened to hear that the Vong restaurant in New York City will close its doors on Saturday, November 7. Jean-Georges Vongerichten took on the City by storm when he opened the Thai/French Fusion concept 18 years ago. Another flagship restaurant becomes a victim of the ailing economy.
I remember first dining at Vong in 1999. My favorite dishes were the Black Plate and the Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup. Also, we cannot forget the Sticky Rice Wrapped in a Banana Leaf. All of which, I replicated at home after purchasing the “Jean-Georges Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef” cookbook. The pages are worn and frayed and stained. That’s how I first got introduced to Thai (and Fusion) cuisine and it’s been non-stop for the past decade.
I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting both Pierre Schutz, executive chef at Vong, and Jean-Georges at classes each taught at Degustibus and The New School, respectively. When I mentioned to Jean-Georges that I replicated the Black Plate at home for a New Year’s Eve party, he stepped back and commented, “And you were able to find all of the ingredients? I am very impressed.”
Back then, obtaining the “unique” ingredients was via the Internet or by visiting the Asian Market downtown (which I learned was easier than the Internet). My local A&P did not sell lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves or nam pla. Still doesn’t.
The Black Plate consisted of crab spring rolls with a tamarind dipping sauce; prawn satays with fresh oyster sauce; lobster and daikon rolls and a rosemary ginger dip; quail rubbed with Thai spices served atop a crunchy cress salad with fried shallots; and raw tuna and vegetable rolls wrapped in rice paper.
Another favorite was the chicken and coconut milk soup that is made with lemongrass, thick slices of galangal, shiitake mushrooms, and kaffir lime leaves.
Finally, one can’t go wrong with the sticky rice steamed in a banana leaf. The steamed glutinous rice is tossed with nam pla and coconut milk then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed again.
All recipes are in the cookbook and are very easy (I know) to prepare at home. The only drawback is that I have dishes to wash afterwards. Oh, well, guess we all have to pay the price for something.