Some of the best Thai food we’ve ever had came from strip mall places, many of them far less visually appealing than Bangkok Thai. Entering the restaurant, we were struck by how beautifully furnished and decorated it is. The food is, of course, the point, but here the soft music, subdued lighting, lovely wall and table decor and even the pretty serving pieces create a setting that promises an excellent, peaceful meal.
That promise was fulfilled in nearly every respect.
We started with an ice cold Singha ($5) and a pot of good strong tea ($1.75). Wines are also available from a small list, either by the glass ($7 to $8) or by the bottle ($23 to $29).
Our server, whose attentive service was marked by a pleasant balance between professionalism and friendliness, dropped by the table to answer questions several times before taking our order. From a list of appetizers ranging from a $1.99 spring roll to a special shrimp dish for $5.99, we selected our favorite tom kha with chicken ($3.75), moo dang ($4.99) and tofu tod ($3.50).
Our tom kha, the coconut enhanced soup made with straw mushrooms, basil, lime, cilantro and other rich flavorings, had the unusual element of celery and a bit more spice than we’ve commonly found in the soup in restaurants. It was delightful.
The moo dang was a light dish of small and tender pork slices garnished with lightly pickled ginger slices and fresh sliced cucumber. The various sliced elements were prettily arranged in a pool of lightest sweetened rice wine.
We love fried tofu, and our tofu tod was remarkable for the almost honeycombed texture the very hot, clean oil had created when it was fried. The exterior was crispy but not at all greasy or overdone, so we assumed that the oil used had been extremely hot. The resulting interior texture made picking up the sweet chili sauce served alongside easy.
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After a brief pause, our mains came to the table on some of the prettiest serving pieces we have seen lately in a restaurant. Each dish was presented in a different shape and patterned/color piece so that the contrasting flavors were underscored by the appearance of the serving pieces.
Pad Thai ($12.99) is almost obligatory in a Thai restaurant, so we ordered it. It turned out to be the only dish from our meal that didn’t suit our taste. The sauce was quite tomato-y, sweeter and the whole dish a bit wetter than we prefer. We could see how this preparation would suit those who prefer a sweeter pad Thai, and the elements–the rice noodles, chicken, bean sprouts–were all fresh and cooked correctly.
On the other hand, we were completely happy with our panang curry with fried tofu ($12.99). Here, the tofu had been cut into strips and fried to a crispness that allowed the sauce to soften the crust while also flavoring it. The curry was enhanced with green peas and peppers. The flavors were rich with basil, coconut milk and chilies that created the wonderful delayed heat that works when the spices have been cooked into the dish.
Though our server brought us a set of crocks with dried chili flakes and chili oil to add more heat, the kitchen had already done a beautiful job with that feature of the dish.
We also tried a house specialty: gang dang phet yang, sliced duck breast in a red curry sauce with green peppers, pineapple and cherry tomatoes ($26.99).
The most remarkable feature of the duck curry was how the flavor of roasted duck dominated the thin red curry sauce. The dish was sweet, hot and rich, and the large pieces of roasted duck were tender and flavorful.
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After having a second meal packed up from what we left on the table, we enjoyed two desserts from a short list on the menu: House-made coconut ice cream ($4.99) and fried banana pastries with ice cream ($4.75).
The coconut ice cream was icy and tasted exactly like frozen, sweetened coconut cream. Simple and generously scooped, it was delicious.
The same ice cream garnished four pieces of banana, wrapped in what appeared to be wonton wrappers deep fried to a crispy coating. The pastries melted the ice cream into a delicious sauce.
Bangkok Thai restaurant has recently changed hands, now belonging to the owners of Thai Flavor on Erie Boulevard, who have retained the original owners’ menu.
During our 90 minutes at the restaurant, we saw nine take-out orders go out the door but saw only four tables other than ours occupied. It was early in the dinner service, but we couldn’t help thinking that, as good as the food was, we would always want to enjoy it in the beautiful peace of Bangkok Thai’s dining room. We certainly will do so again.
The restaurant: Bangkok Thai Restaurant, 7421 Oswego Road #9, Liverpool. 315-451-4621.
Credit cards? Yes
Access to disabled? Yes
Children’s menu? No
Vegetarian options? Yes. Also some gluten-free.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
Cost: Main dishes on the menu range from $11.99 to $26.99, and a couple dining here should expect to spend $30 to $60. For our review, we ordered from several sections of the menu, and our total for three including appetizers, mains, desserts, beer and tea, with tax and a 20 percent tip, was $115.96.
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