Bangkok Thai Garden
Thai cuisine has to be one of my favorites. I love the curries, the salads and especially the noodle dishes. I find the balance of sweet, saltiness, sour and spicy so refreshing compared to the often cheese laden meals other restaurants offer. My favorite Thai restaurant in Pensacola shut down years ago and I haven't been able to find something comparable since. My friends had only good things to say about Bangkok Thai Garden so I got a group together for an early dinner on a weekend. We ordered a lot of food so be prepared for a rather long post.
We started out with several appetizers. Chicken satay is one of the classic Thai appetizers. It's chicken skewers that are grilled and served with a peanut sauce as well as some pickled vegetables. The chicken was moist and seasoned really well. I want to say I tasted some coconut flavor in it so the meat may have been marinated in some coconut milk before grilling. The peanut sauce was much thinner than I anticipated but it wasn't too salty. It was a perfect accompaniment to the chicken and the pickled vegetables balanced everything out.
|Thai beef salad|
I love Thai soup. There's just something about the coconut milk with usually a chicken based broth that I love. I ordered a bowl of the Tom Ka Kai soup which consists of chicken, mushrooms, onions, coconut milk and a whole bunch of other things. I thought it was a very balanced bowl of soup. The coconut milk make it rich but you can definitely still taste the chicken flavor and there was a hint of lime flavor that's very refreshing.
|Special dinner: Duck|
After some prodding from my friends, I ordered the Duck with Panang sauce in the "special dinner portion" of the menu. It's described in the vein of deep fried half a duck with vegetables and served with sauce of choice; green or red curry, panang and basil. It's served with steamed rice. I was expected a deep-fried duck on a bed of vegetables with sauce drizzled over the top. What I got was basically a big bowl of soup! The duck did appeared to be deep fried and it tasted like it was battered in something too. The result a gummy texture surrounding each piece of meat. While it didn't taste bad, the texture threw me off. It also tasted a little greasy which I did not like at all. I did like the panang sauce and all the vegetables though. I think my friends and I ended up eating the sauce and leaving most of the duck behind.
Pad Thai is to Thai food like hamburgers is to American cuisine. In much of the U.S., this dish is what's considered representative of the cuisine. Done right, it's the perfect balance of sweet, savory, sour and spicy. I have to admit Bangkok's Pad Thai is better than other places in Pensacola but it's far from the best I've ever had. The noodles are cooked just right. There's a great ratio of egg, meat and noodles. There's just enough sauce to soak the noodles but not enough to pool at the bottom of the plate. However for me, the balance of flavors just miss the mark. My brother actually ordered the dish and we asked for "hot." There was virtually no spiciness that we could detect. We also had to add more fish sauce for saltiness. I thought it needed a lot more bean sprout too. The bean sprouts add freshness and a bit of a crunch to what could be a mushy textured dish. Regardless of the shortcomings, I would order this again. I would just ask for the restaurant's spice rack so I can doctor it up a little more to my liking.
|Pad See Saw (Chicken)|
I can understand why so many of my Pensacola friends like Bangkok Thai Garden. While there was some hits and misses during our visit, a lot of the food was very good or at least shows promise of being better than average. I liked the noodle dishes, all three appetizers that we ordered and would like to try a curry the next time around.
The service is adequate considering it's a mom and pop restaurant. We went around 5:15 for an early dinner and there's was one waitress along with the owner. We were on a time limit since one of my friends had to go to work at 7. It took the waitress a minute to even get our drink orders much less our food orders. After calling her over for the third or fourth time, we were able to put our order in and the food came out in a timely manner. The owner actually brought everything out and not the waitress. We also had to ask to get our drinks refilled which for me is a sign of bad service. However, I tend not to be so critical when it's a locally owned shops. I think we were able to get out of there by 6:30. The prices were very good here. The only thing over $10 that we ordered was the duck special dinner. Everything else hovered at $6 to $8. There was an extra charge for shrimp in one of the noodle dishes but I don't recall how much. I would definitely come again.