Classy Atmosphere But Affordable Food In Bangkok City Restaurant
By Sie Hendrata Dharmawan
Bangkok City Restaurant
167 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
My not-so-busy summer schedule has encouraged me to venture out more often and try restaurants across the river. One particular restaurant recommended to me was Bangkok City Restaurant, located on Mass. Ave. near the Berklee College of Music. It turned out to be a nice Thai restaurant with good food and reasonable prices, a place that I would frequent often if I were a Berklee student.
The restaurant has a classy, regal atmosphere; the carpeting, wallpaper, and decorations — golden ornaments — make you feel like you are in a Southeast Asian palace. They even have a special elevated seating area where you can sit on the floor, similar to those in many sushi places. The waitresses, dressed in semi-formal attire, are polite and approachable. The service is generally fast, though it sometimes slows down when the restaurant is crowded.
Lunch at Bangkok City Restaurant is really affordable. The dishes range from $5.95–8.50, and for an additional $2.50, you can add any appetizer and a bowl of the soup of the day. My favorite dish is the Massaman Curry ($5.95–7.50, depending on what kind of meat you get; I would recommend pork). The greenish coconut milk is thick and tasty, and the cashew nuts and pineapples in it offer an interesting mix of tropical tastes. The menu lists this curry as moderately spicy, but I don’t find it spicy at all.
Another good dish is the Pla Preow Wan. The menu lists it as crispy catfish filet with mixed vegetables in sweet-and-sour sauce, though the sauce ought to be called sweet-and-not-so-sour sauce. Nevertheless, the taste of the sauce is good and rather appropriate for the vegetables in the dish (mushrooms, pineapple, pepper, baby corn, cucumber, and tomatoes). The fish, cut in small pieces and buried under the vegetables, is disappointingly sparse given that this dish is the most expensive lunch choice.
The dish that you shouldn’t get is Yum Nua. It’s a sliced flank steak mixed with salad, but it tastes like fruit salad with unnecessarily sour dressing. It is also quite spicy, though not unbearably so. It’s too bad, because the steak would have been delicious without the salad.
As for the appetizers, my top pick is Shrimp Mermaid. Imagine a fried shrimp meatball, shaped like a submarine, on a skewer. The tenderness of the “meatball” combines perfectly with their cucumber dip sauce. Another top choice is the beef satay, a grilled beef skewer. The accompanying peanut sauce is so good that I can eat it even without the satay. Chicken satay is also good, but beef is better.
If you come when the soup of the day is Tom Kah (coconut milk soup), then you’re in luck. The coconut soup is full of taste — sweet, not sour — and packed with chicken bits and vegetables whose texture fit the soup perfectly. However, if the soup of the day is Tom Yum, you may not want to get the combo. Tom Yum soup is supposed to be sour, but this restaurant makes it too sour and spicy, not to mention with too little content.
Dinner at Bangkok City starts at 5:00 p.m. during the weekdays and at 3:00 p.m. during the weekends. It’s a bit pricier — around $8–10 per person, more if you get appetizers and desserts. But with the dinner menu, you have more choices. One notable addition is the Papaya Salad, which includes assorted vegetables, roasted peanuts, and, of course papaya. The dressing is a unique mix of sourness and peanut taste, with a strange spice that I can’t name, that is quite good. If you can’t take spicy food, though, I wouldn’t recommend it.
If you don’t know what to have for dinner, you can’t go wrong with the Chef’s Specialties list. Some of the better dishes there are Shrimp Paradise, Bangkok Duck, and Crispy Duck. Don’t worry about picking the ones listed as spicy. With the exception of the previously-mentioned Papaya Salad, most dishes here are not as spicy as the menu implies. For those who prefer traditional Thai dishes, there is a special section on the menu with dishes more faithful to original Thai food. I’ve never tried them, but I’ve heard that unless you grew up in Thailand or have lived there for a long time, you may want to stick with the Americanized version, that is, the rest of the menu.
Bangkok City also offers a wide range of desserts, the highlights of which are Fried Ice Cream and Golden Banana. The Thai Fruit on Ice is good too, and you can choose lychee or rambutan (a tropical fruit, somewhere between lychee and longan) on your ice. Sometimes, though, they give you lychee when you ask for rambutan or vice versa.
Apart from the food itself, the presentation and atmosphere deserve a standing ovation. The plates, bowls, and silverware are intricately ornamented and surprisingly well-matched with the regal interior. Rice comes with a slice of orange, and water comes with lemon. I even like the candle holders on the tables. The only out-of-place aspect of the atmosphere is the music, which consists of American hits from the 70s and 80s. Overall, Bangkok City probably has the best atmosphere among the restaurants near Symphony Hall. Even when crowded, it still feels peaceful and calming. That, combined with the great food, makes for a pleasant visit.