New Restaurant Brings Authentic Asian Cuisine to Arbor Lakes

New restaurant brings diversity and authentic Asian cuisine to Arbor Lakes.

The Fountains at Arbor Lakes remains one of the go-to spots in Maple Grove—filled with favorite shops and restaurants. Since opening the doors last July, the family-owned restaurant Hong Thai has become one of the hottest new places to eat.

Derek Carstensen is a part owner of Hong Thai, along with his brother Jessie and their parents. “My mom told my father that she wanted a business, so they put their life savings together,” Carstensen says. Since 2003, Hong Thai has brought Thai cuisine to Rogers, Albertville and now Maple Grove.

At Hong Thai, they are focused on improving their already successful brand both in cuisine and style. “Hong Thai hasn’t expanded in a long time, but a lot has changed in eight years. We want to update things to make the food better…make it more elegant,” Carstensen says.

He highlights three major areas that make the restaurant exceptional—traditional comfort, professional service and unforgettable taste.

Eastern cuisine is an all-encompassing experience, so Carstensen describes how Hong Thai strives to maintain the balance of implementing cultural aesthetics into the venue while providing a comfortable dining atmosphere. “It’s subtle. You notice the culture, but you’re still here, you’re still at a restaurant,” he says.

While the culture of Hong Thai is naturally inspired by Eastern culture and cuisine, overall diversity is also a strong theme. “We cater to anyone and everyone; families, couples coming in for a romantic night out and lots of business lunches,” Carstensen says.

Not only is diversity reflected in the customers but also in the staff. “We have a small to medium size staff. We have people from everywhere, a lot of diversity,” he says, explaining how this is a bit outside the norm for Asian restaurants. “We have Asians come in and wonder why there are non-Asian workers, but we have passion and for a lot of us, that’s what we’re here for.”

The staff is proud to display its diversity by way of their open kitchen. “We are not trying to hide the fact that we are diverse. It’s modern times. We are all people that grew up in diverse environments. It seems natural what we’re doing,” he says.

Carstensen is also excited to note that this particular location is run by a relatively young and ambitious staff. “Our head server is just 26 years old,” he says.


Lab Esan is a very popular menu item and also one of the authentic Thai cuisine items that Hong Thai offers. Head chef Nicholas Gross explains, “It’s basically a meat dish and we use a fish sauce that is very aromatic with a lot of herbs.”

The dish contains lime juice, fresh mint leaves, cilantro, green onions and ground red peppers and is served with sticky rice and cucumber. “This is a dish that you will often see in villages,” he says.

They also make Pad Thai, which consists of stir-fried rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts and green onions and is topped with crushed, roasted peanut. “I’ve tried pad Thai all over the United States, all over Asia, and ours still stands out to me,” Carstensen says.

“Considering what Maple Grove has to offer, a lot of big names, a lot of local attractions, we wanted to bring something different. It’s a great spot,” Carstensen says.

Cooking Classes

Savory Kibbeh

An old East Mediterranean specialty, homemade kibbeh pockets are full of spicy stuffing made of onion, meat and nuts. Served with lentil soup and tabbouleh salad.

Park Center Senior High
Feb. 11, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., $39 +$10 supply fee
Register at the website

World Flavors Demonstration

Learn how to make one of these dishes: Indian lentil dal stew with tomato, Thai chicken satay, vegetables flavored with mustard seeds and coconut, Middle Eastern roasted cauliflower, Greek tatziki served with Afghani rice pilaf.

Ethnic Food Company
Feb. 15, 6 p.m., call for price
Register at the website

Southern Cooking

Influenced by early settlers, Southern food is a medley of flavors using local seafood, vegetables, poultry, livestock and, of course, pecans. The class meal includes: crab dip, traditional cheese straws, gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, buttermilk biscuits, cheese grits, pecan praline candy and traditional bread pudding with bourbon sauce.

Maple Grove Middle School
Feb. 17, 6–9 p.m., $39
Register at the website

Thai Spring Rolls and Dipping Sauce

Thai use a special sauce for barbeque chicken, spring roll and fried fish. Combine fresh sprouts and lettuce with ingredients like chicken, pork, shrimp, tofu, and mock duck to make rolls with that special sauce.

Ethnic Food Company
February 22, 6 p.m., call for price
Register at the website