Oriental Garden, a popular local lunch spot and Denton institution, has reopened just in time for the new semester, but under new management. Located across the street from UNT's campus, the restaurant closed for renovations in May, announcing plans via Facebook to reopen within two weeks. That initial hiatus stretched long into the end of summer; their Yelp page got flagged as "closed," their Facebook page peppered with questions about reopening. On Sunday, another Facebook post announced “We are now back in business under NEW MANAGEMENT.” This came as a shock to a number of loyal locals anticipating the same menu and friendly faces after the long break.
Since he opened Oriental Garden in 2003, Sivapong Satumtira (known as Pong to friends) served up affordable, Thai-centric Asian food in a casual setting with pleasant enthusiasm. OG’s new manager, First Sukpanishakul, says Pong wanted to retire, so he sold the business to the same family that runs another Denton Thai establishment, Thai Ocha, owned by Sukpanishakul’s aunt.
First, the bad news: Yes, the menu is different, and more limited than the five-page menu many Dentonites knew by heart. The appetizer and soup options are a fraction of what they used to be, and a large number of rice and noodle dish options vanished in the renovation. But here’s the good news. The new menu is more streamlined, focusing on the affordable, spice-laden Thai dishes that earned OG a decade-long following.
The green curry was satisfying, though obviously made by a different chef. Yes, we’ve been used to eating Pong’s spicy green curry at least twice a month going on three years now, but whereas the old version was a less viscous celebration of lemongrass, the new green curry is creamier, spicier and with a larger assortment of fresh vegetables. The pad kee mow is a noodle dish of fresh bell peppers, broccoli and onions wok-charred until the thick rice noodles glisten, giving them a smoky depth.
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Loyal fans of the old OG will be happy to know the new Oriental Garden succeeds in the one place nearest and dearest to our heart: It’s still a great place to get a quality, sit-down meal near campus for around $10. Considering a large bowl of freshly made curry runs about the same as a Chipotle burrito down the street (less if you order guacamole), the new Oriental Garden won’t be hurting for business.
Oriental Garden, 114 N. Ave. B, Denton