Fans of authentic Thai food have been delighting in the award winning cuisine that Ricky Chai offers at his two flagship restaurants in Hillsborough and Skillman. Devotees of the original Hillsborough venue (now also called Ricky’s Thai ever since Ricky’s partner retired) have relished having the chance to dive into his signature dishes without making the drive up Route 206. The Skillman locale has received rave reviews from numerous food writers such as Pat Tanner in the Montgomery News, Faith Bahadurian in the Princeton Packet, and Susan Sprague Yeske in the Times of Trenton.

Ricky’s has also been voted the Best Southeast Asian, Thai, winning NJ Monthly magazine’s Critics’ Choice award three years running. Conveniently located in the Village Shops at Montgomery, across from the Montgomery Cinemas, the popular dining destination has ample parking and is perfect for a date night of a delicious dinner and a movie.

Chai is also busy planning a third location in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware River from Trenton. Look for this newest member of the Ricky’s family to be open by late fall or the first of the year. Eager fans can contact the restaurant for updates on the date of the grand opening.

Born in Malaysia, Chai worked for many years in the restaurant business, learning the craft from the bottom up. This depth of experience is evident in his ability to create a dining experience that is comfortable and finely tuned. Having been a waiter, he knows the key to customer service is to provide a varied menu and consistently fine food. The staff at Ricky’s Thai know that good service equals happy diners and happy diners come back again and again. Judging from the response of locals, there are a lot of happy diners in the area.

Making sure that customers get the best of the best Thai food, Chaiyo Thongpanich commands the kitchen as head chef. Thongpanich spent 17 years in New York perfecting his recipes and for many years has been the chef at the Thai Kitchens group. His dishes are famous for bringing complex ingredients together to please American tastes.

The menu abounds with distinct beef, chicken, duck, and seafood dishes, and any of the delicious options can be tailored to vegetarians. This is not your “one dish with four choices of sauce” cuisine. A tour of American-Thai dining awaits. Begin the adventure with the Honey Puffs appetizer, a house specialty of scallops, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. It’s not on the menu, but those in the know always ask for it.

After the classic Tom Yum Koong soup ($11.95) that is the hallmark of great Thai cuisine, the next course can be the warm Yum Yum salads ($10.95 to $13.95 for shrimp, scallops, and squid) followed by fresh fish specials or the famous Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao), rice noodles with a special chili paste sauce. The curries are definitely not run-of-the-mill either. Red, green, and yellow curries ($12.95 to $16.95) can be created with a variety of ingredients, including squid and duck. Other favorites of long-time fans are the Basil Chicken and the Tamarind Duck ($20.95) Many of the items are meant to be spicy and they can be made to order for every palate, from a single star to five stars for those not faint of heart.

The decor in Skillman is a calming palette of soft browns and brick-red. The tables, arranged with ample elbow room between, align with banquettes along the walls. Fine table linens complete the sense of warmth and comfort. A comfortable welcome, service by experienced staff and the best Thai in town are the hallmarks for which Ricky Chai is renowned. They will also be happy to cater your next private party or event.

Ricky’s Thai, 1378 Route 206, Skillman (Village Shops at Montgomery). 609-285-2955.

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