Dinner Out @ Bangkok Bistro

I honestly can't remember how it started, but Bangkok Bistro has been a go to restaurant of mine for almost as long as I've lived in Cincinnati (10 years).  For at least a couple years, I was a more serious regular - going once a week or every two at most.  Over the past few years though, it's become part of a long list of places Sarah and I go sometimes, but not all that often.  But, as with any old standard, I'm always happy when I sit down and order the same thing I've ordered for a decade that is always, always good.

The Food:  There are two regular dishes we always order.  First, the "General Fare" Thai Basil Sauce, which is stir-fried with broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, onions, and green peppers (although we remember to ask for no green peppers about every fourth time we go - nothing against Bangkok Bistro, we just don't like green peppers very much). You can get it with any meat, but we always get it with tofu.  Second is Laad Na Noodles, which is a flat, wide rice noodle that comes with chicken, shrimp, and vegetables (same as the Thai Basil, sans peppers).

At some point along the way, we also got into the habit of ordering sushi to start.  In general, Bangkok's spicy tuna roll has been a favorite of ours.  Unfortunately, I think it is suffering in the context of paying more attention to our sushi.  On this most recent trip the roll was not tightly wrapped and had an awful lot of rice.  It wasn't bad, but it's definitely been better.

Thankfully, the entrees arrived and made everything right.  The Thai Basil is the star.  They pack it wish basil and garlic, and no small amount of sugar, and it really packs a punch of flavor.  Tofu is cooked just right, and the vegetables all get a nice coating of the savory brown sauce.  Sarah probably had the quote that hits it most on the end - "there are flavors that hit you all over the place."  Next, Bangkok's laad na noodles are done differently than anywhere I've eaten them before or since.  Most places do some variation on the noodles with Chinese broccoli and a thick brown sauce.  I suppose BB's may be a more Americanized version, but I don't care what you call it, these are some tasty noodles.  Again, no shortage of sugar, and the crunchy carrots add a nice texture to the bites.  As is almost always the case (at just about any restaurant), the shrimp could be cooked less.  Overall, both the Thai Basil and the Laad Na Noodles are trustworthy standbys that I'm always pleased to put in my mouth.

The Ingredients:  There's nothing on Bangkok's menu about local or organic ingredients.  They did add brown rice a few years back, which is a nice, healthy addition.  But, beyond that, nothing I'm aware of.  Whichever is the first Thai place in town to jump on board the local train will probably win my heart for many years to come, so I'm hopeful Bangkok Bistro will be the one.

The Story, Setting, & Service:  As I said above, I've been coming here for quite a while.  My friend Ali, through whom I met Sarah many years back, and I would eat here almost obsessively.  It was about the only place I'd spend $15 an entree when I was 23 and I think it made me feel all grown up to be spending such a large amount.  Ah, the memories.

The service at Bangkok Bistro has been through a phase or two, but there aren't many places in town that I would say haven't.  On this visit, and the last several I can remember, the service has been pleasant and straightforward.  They've got a few folks on staff there who have been there for as long as I've been going, so they must be doing something right.

And as far as setting goes, this is one of the BB perks.  They have a small outdoor eating space in front of the restaurant, which gives you, the diner, a great vantage point to watch the comings and goings of what I call "little Hyde Park Square."  If you go during the day or early evening, you're only a short drive up the hill to beautiful Ault Park - which is a destination in and of itself if you haven't strolled through its gardens, enjoyed its vista views, or hiked its trails.  On a gorgeous night like the one we had, sitting outside as the sun is falling, it's a pretty sweet set up.  Inside, the restaurant is simple and calm, and there is plenty of space, so you never bump into anybody's chair.

If Bangkok Bistro keeps Thai Basil and Laad Na Noodles on the menu, we will always go back.  Every once in a while, we may even try something else.  As far as a consistently tasty Thai place that you can count on, I'd say this is a sure shot every time.

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