Little red elephants reside on the menu of Thai Kitchen III, denoting intensity of spiciness. A customer who chooses one elephant will get the mildest level, and five elephants an electrical stampede among taste buds: symbolic preview of the smorgasbord of choices, sauces, and ingredients available to patrons on the menu.
During finer weather, outdoor dining in a front patio setting at the Hillsborough restaurant is available, but the winter freeze when I visited made me extremely grateful for the cozy ambiance of its interior. Music and decor from Thailand added a feel of authenticity while dim lighting introduced a romantic aura, ideal for dates.
Thai Kitchen III, in Hillsborough, opened approximately seven years ago, according to both the manager and my waitress. The first Thai Kitchen began fifteen years ago, around 1997, and is located near the Bridgewater Commons Mall. Their success, popularity, and Zagat recognition have established a total of four locations by now, with the newest in Chester that will soon be celebrating its two-year anniversary.
Although several regions of Thailand are represented, my waitress informed me that Bangkok cuisine is the primary inspiration. Before visiting, a patron may consult their website: http://thaikitchennj.com
The menu offers the following broad sections, jasmine rice accompanying many dishes: Yum Yum—a warm salad composed of lettuce and meats— appetizers, soups, duck, Chef's Special, innumerable types and undreamed of paradise of noodles and fried rice, Thai curry dishes, standard entrees, beverages.
I requested a Thai iced tea, its sweetness soothing, an ambrosial perfumed infusion. Trusting the Chef's suggestion led to three large curry puffs for an appetizer. Dipped into a cucumber and red onions clear sauce that was cool and astringent yet light, the puff pastry turned moderately soggy without losing its ebullience, opening into a hot pocket of steaming curry, sinking into and getting lost among potatoes, chicken, carrots, onions.
Trust properly placed.
A visit to a Thai restaurant without trying their Pad Thai would feel criminal, so next came Pad Thai with chicken—I went with three elephants. Patrons have the option of adding chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, tofu, shrimp, or squid to a hearty dish that satisfies the appetite in a grounding kind of way, interspersed with bursts of crushed peanuts.
Under Chef's Special, I chose Tamarind Duck that arrived with a side bowl of jasmine rice. The rice lay on a sofa of crunchy noodles that nicely complemented the crispy texture of each piece, glazed with tamarind sauce, all the while leaving space for the fleshy interior of that dark mysterious redolence of duck meat.
The service throughout the meal was friendly, helpful, prompt, and smooth. My waitresses answered all my uncertainties regarding particular dishes with knowledge and ease.
I completed the meal with a slice of mango mousse cake. A plate decorated with crisscrossing raspberry coulis zigzags was brought out on which sat a mattress of vanilla sponge cake topped by a fat layer of mousse that tasted literally like what I would imagine of mango translated. Even though my waitress said the cake was purchased, I thought it had an originality and freshness to mesmerize one into believing it had been crafted on the premises.
For the duration of the meal, I felt as if I had disappeared into an enclave of South East Asia.
Thai Kitchen III
649 Us Highway 206, Hillsborough, NJ 08844