Friday, May 19, 2017

The Bangkok Brings Tasty Thai & Vietnamese To Melrose

Good things something come in small packages.

The Bankgok is a small, new Thai/Vietnamese restaurant on West Wyoming Avenue, near the railroad tracks, in Melrose, that opened around mid-March. There are about five small tables, for two people, in the restaurant and they have room to put up another couple tables if they get busy. They also do take-out and delivery, though delivery may be limited to the evening hours. I've dined there on multiple occasions, mostly during lunch time, and including getting take-out one evening.

Their website has little information about the restaurant beyond the necessary basics, though you will find their full menu online. Some research indicates that corporate officers are also connected to Pho & Rice in Somerville and Thana Thai Kitchen in Arlington. In the near future, I will try to speak with the owners for more background on the restaurant but for now, I'll primarily deal with their food and service.

The Menu is extensive, with plenty of Thai and Vietnamese options, and is very reasonably priced, with no dish costing more than $15. The Menu categories include: Appetizers ($5-$7), Salads ($7-$8), Soup ($4), Vietnamese Pho & Thai Noodle Soup ($9-$12), Stir Fried Noodle ($10-$14), Fried Rice ($10-$14) Bun-Vermicelli ($9-$11), Rice Plates ($10), Sautéed ($11-$14), Curry Dishes ($11-$14), Bangkok Specials & Seafood Entrees ($11-$15), and Sides ($1-$3.50).

They don't have a liquor license but their drinks menu includes items like Bubble Tea, Smoothies (though it appears they are not available yet), Thai Iced Tea, Lychee Juice, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Coconut Juice, and more. It is nice that they usually bring a large bottle of water to your table, though you drink it out of a paper cup.

They have about thirteen Appetizers and I've tried several of them. The Roti Curry Sauce ($7) is a  Fried Scallion Pancake served with a Green Curry Sauce. The pancakes are fresh, light and flaky, and not greasy. They make an excellent vehicle for dipping into the sauce, with its tasty flavor combination of coconut, lemongrass and mild spicy heat.

The Moo Pbring ($6.50) are grilled skewers of lemongrass marinated pork, accompanied by a smoked chili and tamarind sauce. These were excellent, with lots of tender, moist and flavorful pork and the sauce added some sweet & spicy elements. Forget those dry beef teriyaki skewers you get at other Asian spots. These easily put them to shame.

The Gyoza ($5), which you can have steamed or pan-fried, come as either Pork & Chicken or Vegetarian, and are served with ginger soy sauce. I opted for the pan-fried Pork & Chicken and they were tasty, filled with plenty of meat, and fried just enough to add some crispness to the gyoza skin.

The Sai Grog Issaan ($6) states it is "Sausages fermented Pork and Glutinous rice" but appears to be sliced sausage with lettuce, cucumbers and peanuts. The sausage was tender and spiced well and the veggies were fresh.

As for the Soups, I tried the Soup Hoanh Thanh ($4), which are pork and shrimp dumplings gently boiled in clear chicken broth with lettuce, onion, scallion and cilantro. You receive four plump and meaty dumplings and the broth is clean and mild. This would be especially good on a chilly day.

The Pho Gar ($9) is a Chicken Noodle soup with shredded chicken, rice noodle, onion, cilantro, and scallion with aromatic chicken broth, accompanied by some bean sprouts, herbs and lime. The broth is intense with flavor and there is plenty of chicken within the soup. The noodles had a nice chewiness to them.

The Mi Hoanh Thanh ($10) consists of pork and shrimp dumplings, yellow noodles, sliced pork, scallions and cilantro in a chicken broth. This is a hearty dish, with several slices of tender pork and plump dumplings. The noodles are thinner than the ones in the Pho but still had a nice texture and chew to them. There was plenty of flavor in the broth making this a very compelling dish.

The Rice Plates ($10) come with Traditional Vietnamese Grilled meat (chicken, pork or beef) accompanied by steamed Jasmine Rice, fresh tomato, cucumber, sliced lettuce and their Fresh Homemade Sauce (Nuoc Cham). You can also add a Fried Egg ($2). Above is the dish with the grilled chicken and egg. Another excellent dish with plenty of tender, flavorful chicken, enhanced by the egg, and the veggies were fresh and crisp. There was plenty of rice below all of the toppings. A good value for only $10.

I enjoyed a few other dishes, but which I don't have photos. The Grapao Gai Sub ($11) is stir fried minced chicken with fresh chili and basil. A spicy dish, it was very good layered over some rice. The Com Chien Fried Rice ($10) is Vietnamese fried rice with a combination of shrimp, chicken, Chinese sausage and mixed vegetables in Vietnamese chef's special sauce. Lots of flavor in this rice dish as well as plenty of meat. It tasted very fresh. The Chicken Pad Thai ($10) consists of stir-fried noodle with egg, bean sprout, turnip, and scallion in a Thai tamarind sauce topped with ground peanut. A nice choice as well.

The restaurant has a special, second menu which you probably won't receive unless you are Thai. It's only written in Thai and they don't have an English translation though your server will explain it to you if you ask. You can see there are sixteen options, priced $7-$12.

Fortunately, Pai Chourattana on Facebook generously provided me a translation of their menu which will help you navigate this special menu.

Off this special menu, I tried Nheam Kra Dook Moo, sour pork ribs (#6 on the menu), which were accompanied by some cucumber slices and lettuce. You need to gnaw the meat off these small pieces of ribs, which have a mildly sour flavor to them. These would make for a nice bar snack.

Also off the special menu, at #16, is the Garlic Pork Over Rice, which also comes with a few cucumber slices.  It's a simple dish, pieces of slightly fatty pork with crisp pieces over garlic over white rice. But it is hearty and tasty, perfect for a rainy day.

The Garlic Pork dish also comes with a small bowl of soup, a slightly soup broth.

I'll be sure to try more items off this special menu as there are plenty of other dishes that interest me.

Service is very good, personable and attentive. Overall, I've been very pleased with the quality and taste of the food from The Bangkok. It is fresh, with clean flavors, and there is enough diversity for all preferences. I've already been recommending it to my friends and I'll also continue regularly dining there. It is a welcome addition to the Melrose area.

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