Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bye bye Bangkok

Back in the early to mid 90's, my best friend Heidi and I were in our early 20's and were just starting out as "real adults."  She and Lloyd finished grad school and moved to Atlanta.  Being single, I could jump in the car and head to ATL pretty much at a moment's notice to hang out for the weekend.  Not only were these trips to spend time with "The Hoser" and "The Barber" (it's a long story) but for all the cool dining that Atlanta offered that Columbia didn't.  

On one trip, Heidi took me to my first Thai restaurant.  As a former Thai delegate to the Model U.N., I couldn't be more excited!  (Ha Ha...can you believe that?)  It was a place in  Virginia Highlands and was completely new to me.  I loved every second of it.  But, malheureusement, there were no Thai restaurants at home.  But, somewhere along the way in the mid 90's, my dad found Bangkok.  

It was (and still is) a small place in a strip mall on Garner's Ferry Rd.  I remember going there first with him and mom and was overjoyed to find the place.  I have been there many times and ordered many dishes, but haven't been in years.  I always had positive memories and sentiments about the food.  I met Neil there today for lunch, as he was working nearby.  Alas, my discovery of Mai Thai has prejudiced my palate and Bangkok has either changed for the worse or my memory was just being generous.

Bangkok is still small, which I always find endearing.  But, it's showing age and frankly, neglect.  Dingy carpet, cheap chairs, crack-n-peel numbers on the wall over the booths, a cashier stand crowded with junk and a kitchen door that needs paint and a proper door handle were the first things that caught my eye.  We were given a table but then Neil had to get up to get menus for us. Now, here's what alarmed me about the menu.  They've always had Chinese stuff on it and that's ok.  So, they have it separated out into the Chinese lunch menu and the Thai Special lunch menu.  The Thai menu doesn't have ONE SINGLE curry dish on it!  What?  How in the world can you NOT have curries on a Thai menu?  They do have Pad Thai, Pad See-iw, some other noodle and rice dishes, satay and one noodle soup, but this stuff is all "mainstream" Thai.  Frankly, this is what everyone was introduced to back in those early 90's days.  Now that Thai is so well-known in America, I can't believe the lunch offerings are still so rudimentary.  It was a disappointment.

The server irritated the #*&%! out of me.  She's one of those hurried people that rushes up to you and immediately says something charming like "What do you want to have?"  I asked her if we could get a lunch size curry and she said "yes." Great!  I proceeded to order a Panang Curry with Shrimp.  As I saw her write on her pad a figure that started with '12',  I asked her again.  This time she said, "no."  Well, that's what I just asked you lady!  So, I fell back and punted with the Pad Thai.  After all,  I'd remembered that their version was good.

Well, disappointment again.  The shrimp were nicely cooked on the grill, but the dish just plain lacked flavor.  I know the peanuts were there because I could feel them, but they had no taste whatsoever.  That can only mean they weren't fresh.  The green onions were cut into 1 1/2" pieces, cut right across the scallion.  So, they were like green onion stalks.  Not really edible that way.  The bean sprouts tasted completely raw.  I can eat raw sprouts; my mom used to grow them in a dark kitchen cabinet.  But in a dish, they should be at least slightly cooked and warmed.  Overall, this pad Thai just tasted bland and honestly, looked bland too.  Thumbs down.
Just didn't cut it!

Next, Neil's dish:  he decided to go the Chinese route and ordered pepper steak and asked if they could make it extra spicy.  As you all know, he likes EVERYTHING spicy!  Really spicy.  So, when he asks if you can do it and you say yes, then do it.   Well, you guessed spiciness at all!  Pepper steak is pretty straight forward; bell peppers, onions, thinly sliced steak.  Neil reported that the entire dish was merely "okay."
No color: bell peppers are green but they are hidden in this mess

To wrap up, we both decided that we're taking Bangkok off our restaurant radar.  When it comes to Thai food in Columbia, we just have no restaurant that measures up to Mai Thai.  They have our loyalty.  

Bangkok Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi Elizabeth
    Do you mean Heidi C? She and I went to grad school together at USC.

  2. That's the one! You were in MIBS?

  3. Yes, I was in the Portuguese track and Heidi and LLoyd were in the German track. I lost complete track of her. What is she up to now?



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