Consider a trip to The Bangkok Thai Cooking and Bar as a kind of culinary survey course – Thai Cooking 101 – to anyone unable to distinguish between Pad Kra Prow and Pad Pak.
For the record, Pad Kra Prow (featuring ground chicken and fresh chilis) and Pad Pak (a mixed vegetable and garlic sauce sauté) are merely two of a striking 21 entrees The Bangkok offers as part of a mind-numbing series of dishes including 14 appetizers, 11 salads, seven curries, 11 noodle dishes, and 13 “Bangkok specialties.”
For any Thai food aficionados who happen to flock to Thai Select, Thailicious or Spice in Fort Worth or to Hudson Oaks’ Blu Jasmine, dining at the 6-month-old The Bangkok — the latest adddition to the local restaurant empire started by the Thanpaisarnsamut family —will plant you on familiar gastronomic ground.
In the mini-Thai chain’s first foray into north Fort Worth, it makes sure to cover all the protein bases along with a rainbow of Thai curries, accented by such Thai herbs as ginger, lemon grass and kaffir lime, all swabbed in luxuriant coconut milk.
And with prices topping out at $25 for the grilled rib-eye steak, The Bangkok certainly won’t bust your budget.
Fans of distinctive restaurant design will be sorely disappointed by The Bangkok’s standard-issue cool-surfaced interior — all taupe-tinted walls and cream-colored banquettes. Though it is worth touring the gaudily colorful series of authentic ceremonial Thai dance masks, in the shape of gorgons and tusked demons, glowering from eight wall niches
Beginning my meal’s Thai “survey course,” I opted for the BKK Sampler ($15) as it constituted the most cost-effective, one-plate overview of around half of the individually available appetizers.
The two potstickers’ outer skin delivered a lovely crackle and crunch — reflecting the great frying expertise found in every appetizer sampled. While the stickers’ interior was a velvety smooth melding of mixed vegetables, I was a bit let down by the lack of tongue-tickling, spicy fire from either of the two accompanying sauces. Both the sweet-and-sour and the sesame variety tended towards the overly sweet.
The bamboo shrimp was another model of perfect frying, and though I had seen “crab Rangoon” on countless Asian menus in the past, my first encounter with it at The Bangkok was marked by the flawlessly fried exterior yielding to a pleasing, cream-cheese-filled interior. If the most familiar sampler item, the classic chicken satay, was disconcertingly chewy, the Thai crispy spring roll more than compensated with its Cuban-cigar-like girth that shattered with every bite, revealing a pleasing medley of stir-fried cabbage, carrots and pork in its center.
The Bangkok’s kitchen certainly knows how to calibrate its curry-delivered heat as my order of Massaman curry (with chicken for $12) delivered at a spice level of 2 (with 5 the hottest) — struck a truly remarkable balanced thrum from the dry-Thai-chili-pepper. It produced a slight sweat to the brow, but nothing more volatile than that. Likely the coconut-milk-infused cream sauce, along with the chunky bits of potato and flecks of cashew nuts, combined to calm whatever heat fires might have flared from the Thai chilis.
That same judicious spice application was on display in the Pad Prik Khing (with beef for $11), a classic Thai streetfood highlighting green beans and red bell peppers surrounded by the heat of dried Thai chili paste. The beef was succulent, with the overall spice meter modulated by a pyramid of brown rice, along with the red bell peppers whose crunch offered welcome texture.
Nothing says authentic Thai dessert than The Bangkok’s house-made coconut ice cream with a side of white and black sticky rice ($8). The pure coconut taste, accented by little shavings of coconut, was undeniable proof of its in-house origins. Meanwhile, the pleasantly steamed white and black sticky rice, which had the consistency of a neighborhood bake-sale brownie, played off the cool ice cream.
The inherent exoticism of The Bangkok’s expertly executed Thai cooking was offset by the knowledge that about 90 percent of the restaurant’s menu resembled what you would find at the four other restaurants that comprise this mini-circuit of Thai eateries.
All to say that when it comes to the vast menu of The Bangkok, familiarity breeds content.
The Bangkok Thai Cooking and Bar
3529 Heritage Trace Parkway Suite 147
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.