Now that we’re back, Kira and I will be trying something a little different. Instead of us each writing a separate review, we’ll pool our thoughts together in a single review. I (Erik) will probably be the one that does most of the writing, so you can blame all the rambling tangents on me. But I’ll do my best to make sure that both of our opinions are properly represented here.
Bangkok Thai Cuisine. Sunday, May 11th, 2014. Dinner time.
Bloomington has a lot of Thai restaurants: Esan Thai, Siam House, two different My Thai Cafes, Delicious Thai Kitchen, and now Bangkok Thai Cuisine. (I’m not even counting the recently closed Thai restaurants Basil Leaf and A Roy D.) We love Thai food, but most of the existing restaurants are pretty good, so we weren’t actively looking for more options on the Thai cuisine front. But we do what we must for our readers.
Bangkok Thai Cuisine is in a somewhat hidden location, tucked behind the east-side Kroger on Covenanter Road, a street that doesn’t get a lot of traffic. And so it’s no surprise that restaurants in this location don’t tend to last very long. The first time Kira and I ate at here, it was called Limestone Grill, and it was a pretty fancy place. The second time we ate here, it was Nadia’s Bistro, and it specialized in locally-produced ingredients. But the decor hadn’t changed very much and it still felt like a pretty fancy place. Now that it’s a Thai restaurant, the decor is still very similar (including the one wall that is covered in some sort of abstract faux-stone relief mural),
so it feels a bit more upscale than it might otherwise. They’ve made a few changes, like the bamboo-style chairs, presumably to ensure that the customers don’t forget that they’re in an Asian restaurant. Kira has put forth the hypothesis that it’s all really the same restaurant and that the cook just gets bored every few years.
Chicken satay (upper left), fried tofu (bottom right), crab Rangoon (left and right), spring rolls (upper right and bottom), and three sauces (from left to right: sweet and sour, cucumber, and peanut).
We ordered a sampler for our appetizer, which came with chicken satay, spring rolls, fried tofu, crab Rangoon, and three sauces (peanut, cucumber, and sweet and sour). The chicken satay was good, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a chicken satay appetizer that wasn’t. Even though I’m not usually one for spring rolls or egg rolls, I really liked the spring rolls here. Kira recommends using the cucumber sauce on the spring rolls, even though sweet and sour would be more traditional. As usual, the tofu is really just another vehicle for the sauces, which were good, but not unusually so. Kira thinks that the wonton wrapper was a bit on the chewy side, and I suspect that crunchier would’ve been better, but I still liked it. My usual complaint about crab Rangoon is that it’s mostly stuffed with cream cheese with barely any crab*, but no such problem here.
*Yes, I know that it’s usually processed whitefish and not meat from an actual crab, but my point still stands.
I ordered the yellow curry (with chicken, carrots, and potatoes), and I was pleased to find that there was no shortage of chicken. In fact, they might’ve gone too far in the other direction and shorted me on the vegetables. Kira ordered the pad Thai because you can’t go to a Thai restaurant in the U.S. and not try the pad Thai. It might be cliche, but it’s still our favorite Thai dish. Kira thought that the noodles were a bit on the chewy side and that the sauce tasted a little too much of peanuts. I didn’t mind the flavor (peanuts go well with pad Thai, in my opinion), but if I ever get the craving for pad Thai in particular, this won’t be where I go.
We both ordered our dishes with a spiciness** level of two out of five stars. (I have no idea why this is something that only happens at Thai restaurants. Ten minutes with Google has failed to answer this question. If I ever figure it out, dear readers, I’ll be sure to let you know.) Deciding on how many spiciness stars at a new restaurant is always a difficult decision for someone like me. I do like the flavor that often comes with a little bit of heat***, but if it gets too spicy, I simply can’t finish the meal. I’ve tried to just grin-and-bear-it before, but then I just end up feeling ill. Kira is somewhat more tolerant of spiciness, but not by much. A two-star curry or pad Thai is sometimes perfect and sometimes a smidgen too hot for me. At Bangkok, the pad Thai was probably a little too spicy for me and just fine for Kira. Neither of us could detect any heat at all in the curry. Your mileage may vary, but you can use our experience as a reference point.
**I’m well aware that there are two meanings of the word “spicy”. I think it’s perfectly obvious which meaning I’ve intended here. Sadly, ordinary colloquial English does not have a simple, unambiguous way to refer to the sensation brought on by chemicals like capsaicin. Scientists use the word “pungent”, but to me, that usually means strong smelling, so it’s still unambiguous.
***The same goes for the word “hot”. Anyone who decides to deliberately misinterpret me here is the bad kind of pedant. And coming from a self-admitted pedant, that’s a nasty insult.
The service was friendly and prompt, but mostly unremarkable. We asked for some extra rice to take home with our leftovers, which was happily provided. We expected there would be a small charge for that, but we also expected the server to mention how much that charge would be before heading off to get the rice. There was, but he didn’t. It turns out it was $2, which feels a bit on the steep side to me. Dinner entrées are in the $11 – $17 range and lunch entrées are $10 – $12. These prices are comparable to the other Thai restaurants in town (although Delicious Thai Kitchen is slightly cheaper).
Ultimately, I’d say that we were satisfied by Bangkok Thai Cuisine, but given the many excellent options we have for Thai food in Bloomington, we probably won’t be back there very often.
(Note: We’ve decided to drop the numerical scores that we used to give to restaurants. Looking back on the old reviews, they seem to be wildly inconsistent, and you’re better off reading our actual words to get an idea as to whether we liked a place. If you don’t feel like reading the entire review, you can jump to the last paragraph to see our summary.)