Fans of the famous Thai Kitchens in Hillsborough are justifiably thrilled to know that Ricky Chai has opened his flagship restaurant in Skillman, putting his unique stamp on area dining closer to Princeton. Devotees who have long made the trip up Route 206 now have the chance to have his signature dishes without the drive. Located in the Village Shops at Montgomery across from the Montgomery Cinemas, the new venue has ample parking and is the perfect spot for an easy date night of a delicious dinner and a movie.

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 was trained for months prior to the restaurant’s opening this March. They know that good service equals happy customers, and if the customers are happy, they come back again and again. Judging from the response of area residents since the opening, 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 hardly the one dish with four choices of sauce cuisine. At Ricky’s Thai, 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 ($10.95) that is the hallmark of great Thai cuisine, the next course can be the warm Yum Yum salads ($9.95 to $12.95 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 ($11.95 to $15.95) 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 ($19.95) 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 of the new restaurant 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’s Thai is renowned.

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

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