I usually equate small plates with dim sum and tapas, but not with Thai food. Thai food brings to mind either big heaping plates of pad thai noodles or fiery servings of curry and minced meat. You don’t really go to a Thai restaurant to nosh on some small snacks while drinking some beer. But Tong, a new Thai restaurant in Brooklyn–more gritty Bushwick than fancy Williamsburg–wants you to do exactly that. Its menu features kub klaem or small plates that are meant to be ordered in multiples so that you can nibble on a few things here and there. Which is great because the small plates are fantastic and you’ll want to try as many things as you can.
Right now Tong is offering both indoor and outdoor seating. If you’re ready for it, the indoor space has that dark, clubby atmosphere that is a pretty common motif at many stylish Thai restaurants. The menu is expansive–the list of small plates is long, and if you grew up eating Thai food in the States, you probably haven’t heard of a lot of them. The servers will be more than happy to narrow it down for you. Ours in particular recommended the pork jowls (kor moo yang) and the fried tofu skin stuffed with crabmeat and pork (hoy jor). As soon as I heard her say the word “jowl”, I was totally in. And of course, anything stuffed with crabmeat is bound to be delicious.
She was so right with her picks. The pork jowls were amazing. The grilled meat was tender and juicy and good enough to eat on its own, though it does come with a pretty good spicy tamarind dipping sauce. I was impressed by the finesse involved in the fried stuffed tofu skins. The skin was thin and delicate, encasing all the meat without any part of it bursting from the seam. If you’ve ever felt really good after eating an amazing freshly fried spring roll, then you’ll feel this way about the tofu skins. I also ordered what seems to be Tong’s most publicized dish, the grilled octopus with chili lime sauce (pla muk yang), described as a favorite after-school treat. I don’t see grilled octopus on very many, if any, afterschool menus, but it certainly should be. At least for those who can take the heat.
We needed one bigger dish to round out our mini meal of small plates, and went with the crab fried rice. That was definitely the star of the show. The crab meat was generous, and nobody could get enough. Even my young daughter kept asking, “more rice?” We were supposed to save some to bring home to one of the grandmas, but that definitely wasn’t happening. It was all gone. We ordered khao soi noodles as a consolation prize. The broth was delicious, but the noodles didn’t travel as well back home. I would definitely want to order the noodles again at the restaurant.
I think what I loved about Tong is how different it’s been from the meals I’ve been eating in the pandemic. It’s been a long stretch of homecooked meals and a rotation of reliable neighborhood restaurants. To finally be able to branch out and try something really new was pretty rewarding. It is a bit of a trek to get out here, though. Like I said, it’s not in the more densely populated parts of Brooklyn like Williamsburg or Park Slope. I saw a lot of warehouses, but not that many subway stops, although the Jefferson stop on the L is nearby. If you have a car, drive here asap, and otherwise, see if they deliver to your area.
321 Starr St
Brooklyn, NY 11237
*Take the L train and get off at Jefferson St