Thai Authenticity the Hip Way with Tong Brooklyn

If you are looking for authentic Thai food — yet crave for more than just the usual Pad See Ew, and perhaps some delicious drinks also — Tong Brooklyn is your go-to tonight. Talking with Chef de Cuisine Francis Rattantana, we’ll find out how they keep their traditional Thai vibe while infusing it with top-notched wine and beer-pairing, using the unique small-plate concept.

Tong Brooklyn at Brisket King 2022. (Photo by @smoke_sweats)

Food Karma: Tell us more about yourself, chef Francis?

Chef Francis Rattantana: So my name is Francis Rattantana and I’m the Chef de Cuisine at Tong Brooklyn. I have been working in the restaurant business for 10 to 11 years, mostly in Asian restaurants ranging from Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Korean. I do have 2 years in Italian cooking and 1 year in French. In terms of cooking style, I try to create traditional flavors with modern techniques and equipment. 

FK: And how does that apply to what you are doing at Tong Brooklyn?

FR: Well, it’s a little hard to describe but sometimes there are more efficient ways to make a certain dish. With dishes that require a long brazing time, for example, you can add a crockpot to the equation to shorten it. 

Nonetheless, we try to keep it as authentic as possible by getting authentic, traditional ingredients in all of our dishes. We also pay close attention to the flavor and try to keep it as Thai as possible. 

FK: Can you take us through the menu for more details?

FR: Sure! So our restaurant’s concept is a small tapas style with small plating coupled with beer and wine, with our Kub Klaem section. We also have familiar dishes that people are used to ordering at Thai restaurants like Pad See Ew or Tom Yum Sea Food Soup, so our customers can be comfortable with the stuff they know and adventurous with the stuff they don’t yet know about Thai cuisine, both in the same meal. 

What I think really separates us from other Thai restaurants is how hard we try to keep it interesting with menu items that you just can’t find anywhere else — which are still authentic Thai dishes in their own way!

FK: That’s really cool! Why did you choose the focus on small plates and alcohol pairing though?

FR: This is for you to come in and try as many new dishes as you can before getting full! It’s also for people to be more comfortable ordering an unfamiliar dish, knowing that they won’t have to waste a big portion if they don’t end up liking it. 

FK: Do you think this small-tapas concept along with your cooking style — incorporating new techniques with traditional flavors — might affect what you guys are trying to do in terms of authenticity?

FR: That’s a really good question! We have thought about this as we set up and experiment with our recipes, and I don’t think they are able to jeopardize our authenticity. The plating might be modern but the ingredients are still there, the flavors are still there, and our intention to keep the Thai traditions are definitely always there!

FK: Glad to hear that! Now that this authentic presence is settled, will you guys focus more on making the drinks more Thai as well, or will you try to add in more modernity to the concept?

FR: We actually are gonna focus on both at the same time. Authentic food will come first for sure, and a modern touch will make the presentation more pleasing to our customers and fitting to our concept. We are also trying to add Asian influence into our drinks menu for sure. 

FK: Can you let us in on the new menu?

FR: I can with the food! We are gonna have a new seafood stir-fried called Pad Cha Talay with a new Corn Salad. We are also adding the Massaman Brisket that got us Best Original Dish at Brisket King to the menu temporarily. It might stay permanently if the customers love it. We didn’t actually smoke this one, but we brined it with fish sauce, water and sugar for 18 to 24 hours, before confitting it for 4 to 5 hours using lemongrass, bay leaves and some other Southeast Asian herbs. 

(This was Francis’s answer at the time of the interview. All three dishes are still on the menu for you to enjoy right now!)

FK: I love to see the Brisket King influence! Have you been to events like ours before?

FR: Brisket King 2022 was actually our first restaurant event! I have been to other events in my chef career, but this was also my first BBQ event. 

FK: And how was your experience?

FR: I liked it! I got to meet a lot of other chefs, and some of them were from all over the country. I wanted to come to Rib King too but it was a little too far away. And we didn’t have enough staff on a Saturday. But I’m glad that I get to show people that we can BBQ brisket and add Thai flavors onto it as well! Can’t wait to come back next year!

There are still a few more months till both Brisket King and Rib King 2023, but our holiday-exclusive for Brisket King as well as for Pig Island are out! You can check them out right here and here! For the meantime, visit Tong Brooklyn in Bushwick for a New Year’s Eve celebration on Saturday and show your support on their social media!

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