Dining Out

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Bangkok Thai
****
Out of a possible five
$$

Dual fare delights taste buds

The combination seemed perfect.

Bangkok Thai Restaurant and Sushi Bar offered two styles of cuisine that have become quite popular in the Summit City. But combining those two presented as much risk as reward in a time when keeping things simple and focused is the popular restaurant trend.

Bangkok Thai need not worry, however.

This little restaurant in Jefferson Centre offered favorable variations of both in a hip, modern atmosphere.

The appetizer options were vast, given I often like having sushi rolls as an appetizer.

The Spicy Crab Spring Rolls were the best with six raw rice wraps stuffed with imitation crab, carrot, cucumber and a spicy sauce. It exuded freshness, every bite crunched and the only fault was that the sauce was not really that spicy. That theme continued during my visits to Bangkok Thai. Dishes I ordered as “Thai hot” were more of what I would consider to be medium.

When it came to sushi, the Muay Thai Roll and off-menu featured Snow Roll impressed.

The Muay Thai had spicy shrimp, crab and avocado inside the rice, and tuna, salmon and yellowtail outside. The roll was also topped with orange sauce, spicy sauce, Muay Thai sauce – a dark sauce similar to what is commonly called eel sauce – flying fish roe and sesame seeds. All of the seafood added something to this rather jam-packed roll and each could be tasted. The sauces added a lot of flavor but kind of got muddled, and the creamy avocado was delightful.

The Snow Roll was a little simpler with smoked salmon, crab, avocado and cucumber inside and white tuna and a similar combo of sauces on the outside. The cucumber added some crunch, and the smoky salmon worked well with the sweet sauces. What I also liked about Bangkok Thai’s rolls was that they were perfectly sized to be eaten in one bite; not too big, which seems to be a common practice these days.

It is also worth noting that Bangkok Thai has a wonderful children’s menu that includes sushi. The basic California Roll my son had was prepared with the same care as the regular rolls, featured two preparation styles – rice inside and out – and was beautifully presented on a raised wooden serving tray.

The most impressive entrées I had were from the Thai side, and they were quite traditional.

The staple papaya salad was as good as it gets. It was a mix of julienned papaya, long beans, carrot, garlic, chiles, dried shrimp and tomatoes dressed with fresh lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. This masterpiece was the perfect harmony of crunchy, sweet, spicy, sour and salty.

Although there is a small soup section on the menu, the folks at Bangkok Thai referred to the other two dishes I tried – Geng Deng Red Curry and Tom Kha Kai – as soups and it was easy to see why. These delicious coconut-milk based offerings arrived in little bubbling crocks with sticky rice to pour the soupy mixtures over.

The Geng Deng featured my choice of pork, chicken or beef with green beans, bamboo shoots, fresh basil leaves, red and green peppers in the rich, creamy, light brown sauce. I chose chicken, and it was nice and tender; the shoots added some crunch and the basil added a light touch to tame the spice.

I chose pork for the Tom Kha Kai, which was swimming in a kaffir lime leaf-, lemon grass- and galangal-infused sauce, along with mushrooms, tomatoes and onions. The lemongrass and pungent lime leaves made this a much lighter dish than the curry, but the heat built up with each spoonful. The pork was not as good as the chicken, but still above par.

The only entrée I was not as impressed with was the Amazing Bangkok Chicken. It was not as amazing as the other three Thai dishes, but I still ate every bite.

The crispy fried chicken pieces in this dish were soaked in a hot chili sauce and topped with crunchy fried basil leaves. There was really no sauce here as the breaded chicken soaked it all up, and it actually reminded me of good ol’ boneless Buffalo chicken wings. Fresh basil would have been better than the fried, which added little to this rather heavy, one-note dish. But it was still tasty, and I actually found myself wanting a little ranch or bleu cheese dressing to drizzle over it.

The desserts at Bangkok Thai were more memorable for being unique than they were for being tasty. The least unique, the mango sticky rice, was perfect with soft, ripe fruit and a sweet, creamy sauce along with the chewy rice. The pumpkin custard was a hefty serving, and it had plenty of pumpkin flavor, but I would never choose it over the mango sticky rice. The ginkgo nuts with taro mousse was my second favorite with that same sticky rice coated in the sweet, sticky mousse and dotted with the tender nuts and chewy slices of jujube fruit (i.e. Chinese dates), which were the best part.

The black beans with sago pearls was my least favorite. The pearls are made from palm stems and are similar to tapioca. This dish had a sweet, milky sauce coating everything, but the beans were just too starchy and outside my comfort zone.

The folks at Bangkok Thai did make me feel quite comfortable. There were a couple of delays while waiting for my bill, but my server acknowledged it and apologized upon returning to my table.

The restaurant was also gorgeous. It was dimly lit with modern drop lights, had a tile floor, a little sushi bar tucked neatly into one corner and gorgeous decoratively embroidered fabric under the glass-covered tables.

Restaurant: Bangkok Thai Restaurant and Sushi Bar

Address: 6735 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Phone: 486-2819

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: Thai

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: No

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Spicy Crab Spring Rolls ($5.99), Muay Thai Roll ($14.99), Amazing Bangkok Chicken ($12.99), Geng Deng ($12.99), Tom Kha Kai ($12.99), papaya salad ($8.99), mango sticky rice ($5.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

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