With a clever name like Foreign Correspondents, one might wonder, is it a members-only hideaway for spies? A trendy club or maybe a new outpost of the CIA? It’s the latest restaurant concept in the Heights by the burgeoning Treadsack Group (Hunky Dory, D&T Drive Inn), and this one specializes in Northern Thai food helmed by local fishmonger and bycatch disciple-chef PJ Stoops. The “foreign correspondent” Stoops spent many years living and cooking in Thailand with his wife, Apple, who is of Thai descent. Here’s what to know before you go.
It's all about farm-to-table at this Thai restaurant.
Most ingredients are being grown by Cambodian farmers in nearby Rosharon, who cultivate more than 60 of the crops and unique ingredients implemented in the menu. Farmer Sameth Nget grows primarily water spinach but also other Asian fruits, vegetables, and herbs, many not available commercially anywhere else in the U.S. Nget raises ducks for the restaurant, with duck eggs being an important star on the menu.
Sci-fi fans should dig the decor.
Located in an unassuming strip mall in the Heights with tons of self-parking (who doesn’t love that?), expect minimalist ambiance with hints of cartoonlike sci-fi. Wood tables and chairs with some pops of neon color juxtapose a huge mural with green aliens created by local artist Jon Read. Expect greenery inside and out, including planters growing shoots and micro-leaves for the menu, and a small front patio. The fragrance of Thai cooking welcomes you the minute you open the front door.
The menu goes way beyond pad Thai.
Chef Stoops serves dishes that offer an exploratory journey for those new to the cuisine and a fresh take on classics for Thai connoisseurs. Curries and soups like lemongrass and tamarind fish soup share menu space with spicy fruit and chopped duck salads (laap); whole grilled snapper with cold noodles; magenta rice; spicy blue crabs with curry paste, and khao soi, or curry and coconut noodles with braised chicken. For dessert, there’s a Thai cream soda float made with coconut milk ice cream.
Bird is the word.
Chef Stoops is a Gulf seafood expert, but he's also working with farmer Nget to breed the most authentic Thai chickens in the U.S. The two have been working for over a year to develop just the right flavor and texture of birds. Foreign Correspondents serves three types of chickens commonly found in Lanna (Northern Thai) and Isaan (Northeastern Thai) cuisine. The first is roughly analogous to Western meat chickens, though not so large and popular for quick-cooked fried dishes. The second type is called gai baan, or “house bird,” featuring a stronger taste and firmer texture, which the chef uses in minced and braised dishes. The third bird is a specialty bird crossbred from the two above types.
The beverage program packs a punch.
Treadsack beverage director Travis Hinkle (most recently with The Pass & Provisions) has developed a strong wine program for the restaurant, with an emphasis on Rieslings, which pair amazingly well with Thai flavors. Cocktails by mixologist Leslie Ross are imaginative and beautifully presented — think Thai and gin tonic with lemongrass and bloomed chile garnished with graceful cucumber ribbons.
4721 Main St.; 713-864-2408; Dinner daily 5–11 PM.