Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bangkok Bistro

Bangkok Bistro
3506 Erie Ave.
Hyde Park

Friends know I love a good, spicy curry, and they also recognize my love for vegetarian sushi, so for my birthday this year they surprised me with a visit to Bangkok Bistro, located in the little square that also houses Cumin and Haps Irish Pub. I’ve been to this block of restaurants and shops dozens of times, yet for some reason I’d never really even given Bangkok Bistro a thought.

The restaurant is bigger than it appears from the shop front, comprising a bar area and two dining rooms, yet still has a cozy, intimate vibe. There are some nice touches; the menus are wrapped in rich golden organza, an antique hutch is filled with intricately detailed china, and dragon sculptures textured with glass seed and bugle beads decorate the space.

Perusing the menu, I noticed that they didn’t have a separate vegetarian area, nor were any of the dishes marked as specifically vegetarian. So I asked. On the appetizer menu, the spring rolls, vegetable tempura and edamame are vegetarian. One of my friends had never tried edamame, so we ordered it to share.

The edamame was delicious - but it's difficult to mess up steamed soy beans, isn't it?

Sadly the restaurant’s spicy hot & sour soup has a fish base, as does the miso and egg drop soup, so those are best avoided. I opted against getting a soup on this visit, but I’ve filed away the vegetable coconut soup to try another day. It and the regular vegetable soup are safe for vegetarians.

The restaurant has an impressive sushi list, including six vegetarian rolls: cucumber, avocado, seaweed & cucumber, tamago (egg), asparagus, and vegetable. Each order comes with six rolls, so for $4.25-4.95 that’s a pretty good deal. We chose the vegetable and cucumber rolls as our sushi course. With sushi, presentation is key. I found the Bistro’s to be a little messy, and the rolls didn’t hold together as well as they should have. On top of that, I thought they skimped a little on the pickled ginger, but perhaps that is because I really love the stuff and could eat my weight in it. Still, the rolls were tasty, and that is ultimately what matters.

Vegetable rolls and cucumber rolls

Bangkok Bistro offers a variety of noodle, rice and curry dishes, most of which feature seafood or duck, although a few list tofu as an option. I wanted to get my heat on, so I ordered the Thai Green Curry, which ranges in heat from 1-10. To be “safe,” I ordered a 7, since I’d never eaten there and wasn’t sure what to expect. It was pleasantly hot without searing my tongue to a crisp, but I am pretty sure they use shrimp paste in the base, even though I was told it was vegetarian. It certainly smelled “fishy” the next day when I reheated the leftovers. Luckily it didn’t make me ill, but next time I will question the staff more thoroughly than I did on this occasion.

Thai Green Curry w/ tofu: not as vegetarian as it sounds!

Appetizers (including soup and salad dishes) range from $4-$9 and entrées run $11-$17. Bangkok Bistro also has a good selection of saké and wine, and a better than average list of beer, including Asian classics Kirin, Sapporo, Tsingtao and Asahi. My non-veg husband fell head over heels for their crispy paad-thai, which comes with shrimp and chicken and isn't available as a vegetarian option.
Bangkok Bistro on Urbanspoon


Cincinnati NAMjA said...

Last time I was there I was not too impressed with the curry.

Veggie Option said...

Yeah, maybe I should try something else besides curry. Do you have any recommendations?