Terry, Hilarie and I had a Thai lunch at Mon Thong on Friday the 13th (of June), a remarkably lucky day in our eyes! We had a phenomenal meal. We met owners Joe and Sunee Karunyasopon who opened the first Thai restaurant in the Okanagan in 1990. Now with 3 locations in the city (including Orchard Plaza and Landmark 5), their newest restaurant opened May 2013 on Ellis Street.
Their nephew, Karun (aka “New”) Boonsrirode is manager/part owner. Each time I’ve dined there, I see New fully engaged in creating an absolutely perfect dining experience for every guest. With great coordination among his staff team, New ensures prompt attention and exemplary service.
Left to right: Joe, sunee, Annie, Hilarie, Terry, New
Joe and Sunee have also set up restaurants in Vernon and Penticton in the past, which have since been sold to other families. Very much a family-oriented business, Joe and Sunee oversee and train Mon Thong staff so that the same high quality recipes and ambience continue to provide authentic Thai cuisine and culture as part of the Okanagan experience.
I asked them what was their original inspiration. Without hesitation, Joe smiled: “My wife’s cooking!” Everything she made was so delicious, he wanted to share it with the community and provide a legacy for his extended family.
The name “Mon Thong” refers to the most prized Durian fruit, also called the ‘golden pillow’. It implies a rich and comfortable experience that the restaurant aims to provide. From the first time I walked into Mon Thong, I was very impressed by the décor.
It has 3 separate areas, including a full bar.
There is a large area with 2 big booths at the front of the restaurant.
There’s a series of more private booths and comfortable seating (including golden pillows) towards the back of the restaurant.
There are beautiful details everywhere that fuse traditional Thai imagery with modern elegance. The interior designer was a frequent Mon Thong customer! This is one of the best restaurant designs that I have ever seen.
There was a gentle poem on the cover of the menu which set a peaceful mood.
We started off the meal with Appetizer Combination B which includes Por Pia Tod (spring rolls with sweet plum sauce), Thai Chicken Satay (marinated chicken with Thai peanut sauce), Tod Mun (spicy deep-fried chicken patties), Shrimp Wraps (deep-fried shrimp wrapped in rice paper) and cucumber salad.
Hilarie announced that the peanut sauce was one of the best she had ever tasted. It was thick, creamy and wholesome-tasting. The chicken was soft and tender. Our spring rolls contained meat, but vegetarian and vegan options are available. The vinaigrette on the cucumber salad was sweet, light and refreshing. We were also brought a bowl of in-house recipe hot sauce which had a deep smoky flavour followed by a spicy-nice heat on the tongue. The chicken patty was peppery and Terry’s favourite. We all gave high marks for the shrimp wraps which were juicy and succulent inside, contrasting the crispy outside.
Next, we had the Yum Nuea, a Thai-style spicy beef salad. The presentation was visually exquisite with bright, fresh-garden colours.
The beef was abundant and tender, playing a melody of flavours that altered as I chewed. There was a slight spice-kick at the back of the throat. This dish raised the bar beyond standard salad greens by adding mint, cilantro, tomato, carrot, spring and red onions. The salad had a delectable range of texture and was such a surprising winning combination of ingredients. With excellent protein-carb balance, I could eat this guilt-free salad for lunch on a regular basis!
Now, for the main event.
We had Tom Kha Gai, a popular Thai coconut milk soup with chicken and lemongrass.
It was aromatic with full-bodied flavour. It wasn’t thick nor watery; yet it was both rich and light. I loved the mushrooms in it. Terry liked that the onions maintained a crispy texture. Hilarie was thrilled to discover slices of galangal (similar to ginger, but milder and considered upscale). She could really taste the kaffir lime/lemongrass, and said the soup was like dessert!
One of our main dishes was the Gaeng Mas-Sa-Man, with chicken, crushed peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes and coconut milk.
The unexpected chunks of potato and tomato provided intermittent reprieve from the 2-chili spice-rating of this delicious mixture of both yellow and red curry. With lots of thick slices of chicken and an assortment of vegetables accompanied by rice, the curry is made tame enough for someone like me who is easily scared off by chili symbols on a menu. We gave this dish high marks for unique curry flavour and ingredients.
Lastly, we had Pad Thai. It was easy to see why it’s the most popular of all Thai dishes.
With big chunks of tofu and plump shrimp, this dish was fun to eat and a gift for the sweet tooth. Bean sprouts and crushed peanuts added crunch to the otherwise soft and sticky noodles, light and fluffy tofu, and tender shrimp.
The Dining Experience
Quality of Food
Everything at Mon Thong is prepared with fresh ingredients and cooked to order — even the soup and appetizers. They happily accommodate allergies and special diets, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan. Thai is a unique cuisine and may be an acquired taste to some; but of all the Thai food I’ve had so far, I have to say that Mon Thong has the highest quality and best taste.
The gracious hosts made us feel special and valued with friendly and considerate attention from the moment we entered. The service was exemplary and our expectations were exceeded. Food was brought promptly. We were immediately provided with cutlery and chopsticks, water and tea. Any questions about the food were quickly answered, and we were given the right amount of attention exactly when needed.
Spacious, light and airy, the décor lends itself to a pleasant visual experience. The seating is very comfortable, and the lighting was perfect: bright enough to see your food, but soft enough to be gentle on the eyes. Artistic accents are a visual feast. Subtle details like textured vases and white elephants create a happy atmosphere. The 3 sections and varied seating arrangements offer plenty of options to suit any personality or occasion. The restaurant can accommodate large parties (reservations are recommended).
The restaurant was impeccably clean and tidy. I could not fault it. Every time I have been to Mon Thong, I’ve been impressed by the consistently high standard for cleanliness, unmatched by any other place I’ve ever been. The washrooms are among the cleanest I have ever seen at a restaurant.
Value for money
Our meal could have happily satisfied 4 people at a reasonable price. Mon Thong has special lunch menus starting at $8.50 and dinner entrées starting at $12.95. Combined with excellent service and high quality standards, we felt this was great value.
Hilarie and I have been to Mon Thong on several occasions and can confidently rely on having an excellent experience every time. The setting is adaptable for both casual and formal occasions, with culinary options to suit just about any palate. Mon Thong is a super-central, perfect downtown location gathering place for friends to enjoy a meal, drinks and conversation in a pleasant and comfortable environment with delicious food that is guaranteed to please.
Go to this award-winning restaurant once, and you’re bound to return again and again!