Name: Lemongrass Restaurant
Location: 1550 Vestal Pkwy E., Vestal, NY 13850
Phone: (607) 785-0688
Cuisine: Asian fusion
Price: $20+ per person.
If there's one dining option that the Binghamton area is severely lacking in, it's fine dining restaurants that cater to a younger audience. The nicer restaurants in the area, like Number 5, P.S. Restaurant, and The Silo, tend to appeal to an older clientele. Lemongrass attempts to buck that trend, offering a posh environment and a fairly progressive menu of Asian fusion entrees in their Vestal Parkway location next door to the Full Belly Deli.
Megan and I have been to Lemongrass a few times over the years. The first time, we went with a large group of friends and were quite impressed with what we found. The second time, Lemongrass was the restaurant we chose to celebrate the first anniversary of our wedding. For whatever reason, we hadn't been back since then until we decided to head there for lunch today. Honestly, I usually forget it's there. Its location does not give Lemongrass much visibility; I'm convinced if this restaurant were in downtown Binghamton, it would do much better. As it stands now, Lemongrass looks like an entirely average storefront in a strip mall from the outside. My guess is that most people who would drive by have no idea how nice it is on the inside.
My friend Tom alerted me to the fact that Lemongrass served a lunch menu. Before he said something, I had no idea that they were even open for lunch at all. He also said that the lunch portions were about the same size as the dinner portions at about half the price. That certainly sounded like a good deal to me.
We arrived at Lemongrass around noon and were the only patrons in the restaurant throughout most of our meal. The restaurant looks nothing at all on the inside like you'd expect it to from the outside. It's dimly lit and well-decorated with a black-and-tan color scheme and a floral arrangement on each table. The dining room is toward the back of the building with no windows--a good thing in my opinion since windows would give you a reminder that you're on the Vestal Parkway. Lemongrass reminds me of a slightly lower-key version of places I've been in New York City. On looks alone, it's up there with the Mad Moose among the hippest-looking places in town.
We ordered the Crispy Spring Roll appetizer ($5.95) to begin the meal with. For entrees, I got the Malaysian Curry with Naan ($9.95) while Megan elected to go with the Malaysian Pineapple Fried Rice ($11.95). I also ordered a Thai Iced Tea ($3.95), essentially black tea mixed with coconut milk and some spices. I think I detected some anise in this version. Very refreshing on a hot day like today.
The Spring Rolls were excellent, fried perfectly and coated in with a sweet sauce. They were not at all like the Spring Rolls you would normally find in a Chinese restaurant, but were more similar to the Cha Gio spring rolls you can find at Vietnamese restaurants. On prior visits, we've sampled the Gyoza (Japanese pot-stickers) appetizer as well, and found them to be very good. The Spring Rolls were, however, far superior. The presentation, as with everything I've ever ordered at Lemongrass, was nothing short of beautiful.
The Malaysian Curry with Naan was delicious. The curry itself consisted of sliced chicken, bell peppers, onion, garlic, shallots, and various spices (cinnamon? anise? clove? coriander? -- I think I have a pretty good palate at guessing these things but I'm never quite sure!). The naan (Indian bread) was served in its own little basket on the side and was delicious. I thought the curry had excellent taste but thought perhaps the chicken was a little "off." I'm not sure exactly what the issue was, but it didn't seem as well-incorporated into the curry as I would have preferred, making it a little bit foreign to the entree. The slices of naan were not large enough to encapsulate much of the curry, making the dish a little difficult to eat in the usual style. But that was not a big deal. Despite these minor flaws, I enjoyed the dish and would order it again.
Megan's Pineapple Fried Rice was awesome. She's ordered this before when we've come for dinner, and it's normally served literally inside half a carved-out pineapple, making for a very cool presentation. They didn't do it that way for lunch, but the portion appeared to be roughly equal to the dinner portion. Consisting of fried rice, pineapple, and jumbo shrimp, with crunchy lotus noodles covered in a sweet and sour sauce served on the side, we both found this dish to be a perfect combination of flavors. I highly recommend this dish, particularly to those who are somewhat inexperienced with Asian cuisine. This is a dish I guarantee you will like.
Our bill came to a mere $34 before tip, a great value considering the quality, presentation, and sheer volume of food we ate. The service we received was also top-notch. I got the sense that the owners really cared about giving us the best lunch they possibly could. It is a definite shame that there weren't other diners there along with us. I have heard that Lemongrass has been struggling to maintain a steady clientele lately, and the fact that their website seems to be disabled is not a good sign. This is a restaurant extremely worthy of business, and is a place I will not hesitate to visit again in the near future. I encourage you to do the same.