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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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01.25.08

Bruno Gets it Wrong with Overpriced Thai Food

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Today, Pat Bruno reviews Vong Thai Kitchen

I know the major dailies are all about providing service these days, so I ask, is it a service to direct your readers to a nine year old place slinging $14 Pad Thai and Panang curry that preys on tourists and the Loop business lunch crowd?

Bruno contends:

Make no mistake about it, you will shell out more money at Vong’s Thai Kitchen than at your basic neighborhood Thai joint. But when it comes to finesse, flavor and atmosphere, Vong’s Thai Kitchen (VTK) steals the show.

I guess he’s never been to Spoon Thai (4608 N. Western) or Silver Spoon Thai (710 N. Rush St.), where the blonde walls are just as glorious as Avec, and the garnishes are carved by hand. Oh, and the Pad Thai is $6.95. Sure the service may not be four star, but it’s friendly and pretty responsive. Besides, at Vong, you’re likely to get an entitled college graduate waiter slumming it for cash while dreaming of making it at Second City or contemplating where they might drink their PBR tonight in Wicker Park instead of thinking about refilling your empty water glass.

It feels like Bruno is just interested in cozying up to famous chefs like the restaurant’s namesake, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. After all, the review is titled, “Currying Favor “. But, that’s not the case.

Bruno says:

“I have no idea if Vongerichten visits VTK Chicago to tweak the menu or to change this dish or add that flavor.”

Well, Pat, I know with your “freelance” career working as the sole reviewer for the Sun Times, you probably no longer have time for real journalism, but I bet if you called and asked Vongerichten, he would have given you the answer.

Regarding the food, Bruno says:

The “logs” of tender and flavorful pork, stacked askew, were quite delicious. And the tidy small salad on one end of the plate was quite good, too.

I don’t understand how a high priced long serving wordsmith gets away like using trite adjectives like “delicious” and “good”. At least Rachael Ray came up with Yum-O.

Anyways, make no mistake about it. I’m not being snarky for snark’s sake. Pat Bruno has a responsibility to his readers, and part of that responsibility is to find great places that his readers would not otherwise find. Likewise if he can find them at a value and from locally based entrepreneurs and chefs slinging their own blood, sweat, and tears and not celebrity mega-chefs who own twenty other restaurants and spend the bulk of their time in New York City, then he’s really on to something.

Nine years ago when Arun’s was hot and Vong was opening, maybe this was a good review. Now it’s not even topical. Bruno should be writing a piece on how Arun’s can still get away with charging $70-80 bucks for what’s now generally available at clean, friendly, value-priced, and authentic neighborhood Thai spots like Spoon, TAC Quick, and Sticky Rice.

Not only that, but these neighborhood spots execute just as well or better than Vong on accessible dishes like Pad Thai, satay, and basic curries. Silver Spoon’s crab Rangoon is one of ther better versions in the city. Better yet, once folks walk in the door and work their way through the familiar Thai-American fare, there’s a whole world of regional delicacies to discover from funky Issan Sausage to dried beef jerky to banana blossom salad that really celebrate what Thai cooking and culture is all about.

Bruno might contend that his wide reading audience (read, Grabowski rubes) isn’t ready for an authentic experience and that he’s fulfilling his mission. Well, I’m part of that reading audience, and I’m the Polish son of a blue collar tool and die maker from suburban Detroit and I’m interested. As far as the rest of the reading public, they had no problem looking beyond burritos as big as their head and deep fried chimichangas to eat Rick Bayless’s Oaxacan moles, so why won’t they do the same with Thai?

6 Comments on "Bruno Gets it Wrong with Overpriced Thai Food"

ab

Couldn’t agree more. Vong’s is a joke - an affront to the great neighborhood thai across Chicago putting out better product without the facade of uniformed waiters and exorbitant pricing. In fact, unless “finesse” means watering-down real thai flavors, Bruno is just flat-out wrong about Vong.

But what else can you expect from the Sun-Times? The corporate entity that continues to layoff workers as their product starts to resemble a bad University daily.

Maybe Vong’s advertises?



blondee47

Everyone reading knows u mean ‘Bruni”!!



blondee47

OH NO I am wrong…u do mean Bruno!!



Cynthia

It is frustrating, isn’t it, that with so many good writers eager to write about food, someone can get away with “it was delicious.”



Meghan

Thank you for this. Sometimes I feel that people who write about food in Chicago are part of a giant booster club, rallying around and cheering on the most mediocre of restaurants.



Carly

these types of articles bum me out. this sort of reminds me of vettel’s piece on dim sum:

“Forget the stacked-high bamboo steamers and the endless parade of dumplings. Two Chicago hotels — Peninsula Chicago and James Hotel have taken dim sum brunch upscale, with high-end ingredients and novelty preparations. Crème brulee inside an eggshell, anyone?”

as if the peninsula and james need anymore fluff.



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