Guest Nibble scribe Elysian McNiff continues her Union Square Restaurant Round-up by visiting Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar.
Fun fact: Ronnarong Saskua, head chef of Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar, did not learn how to cook until he moved to the U.S. While in Thailand he worked as an electrician. Now, luckily for us, he has shifted his attention from circuit breakers to skillets and exotic Thai ingredients. Ronnarong has a few nicknames. At the restaurant, he’s known as “Ronnie.” To his family, he is “Kin,” which means “eat” in Thai, because he is so enamored with cooking.
“The most important skill for a chef is creativity,” says Ronnie. His creative flair is evident in the menu. Ronnie prepares traditional plates like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew (all delicious), yet in 2009 he started serving adventurous Thai tapas, as well. These savory bites are known in Thailand as gup gla-em or “drinking food.” The tasty tapas pair well with the equally imaginative drink menu. Order a homemade shrimp curry cake with the Ronn-sake, a tantalizing tongue teaser made with muddled fresh basil, ginger, soda and a touch of chili. Want even more heat? Share Ronnie’s Spicy Squid, made with homemade chili sauce, and a pitcher of Ronn’s Spicy Patio Punch with a chili-loving friend. If you’re driving home or just not in the mood for a cocktail then try out a non-alcoholic house-made soda with syrup infusions of basil, super spicy Thai chili, ginger, lemongrass—or a get wild with a combination!
Many of these herbs are a product of Ronnie’s hobby, gardening. The lime leaves, basil, mint, and lemongrass are all grown in Ronnie’s garden. Speaking of Lemongrass, you will find it infused in many of Ronnie’s drinks and dishes. Lemongrass is Ronnie’s favorite ingredient; “it is one of the smells of home for me,” he says. Now, Ronnie calls Union Square home. He loves working as a chef, and says that the best part of his job is “making a beautiful plate of food and then seeing that plate come back empty so I know it was enjoyed.”
On a recent Union Square Tasting Tour, we sampled the Papaya salad (above left) and Paradise Beef; we highly recommend both! Whether you sample these dishes or find favorites of your own, we have a feeling you’ll make Ronnie smile by sending back an empty plate!
Check out Thai Tapas Tuesdays, which occur the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Events center around a theme, like sherry, sake or Pretty Things beer. Order a drink and get a free tapas.