Thai-ing Up Great Food, Service

Jo McGarry
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Friday - March 31, 2006
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Julie Phakeovilay, Alex Martinez and Vithaya “Thai” Thaimountha offer great service and excellent food at Bangkok Thai
Julie Phakeovilay, Alex Martinez and Vithaya
“Thai” Thaimountha offer great service and
excellent food at Bangkok Thai

There are a couple of things I always like to know before I check out a new restaurant: Does it have parking, and how’s the wine list? At Bangkok Thai on Kapahulu Avenue, it really helps to be aware of the parking details before you go. At first glance, the restaurant seems bereft of a place to leave your car, until you learn that there’s easy, free parking just a couple of blocks away in the Bank of Hawaii lot.

Once inside the restaurant, you’re in for a treat.

The food is excellent and as good as any Thai food in Honolulu. The atmosphere is warm, the restaurant small enough to be intimate, and the staff is incredibly friendly. Service is unhurried and efficient, leaving you lots of time to enjoy the food, without feeling as if you’re being rushed. It’s refreshingly low key and unpretentious, which somehow makes the expertly prepared food even more of a delight. Spring rolls, green papaya salad and eggplant with basil are some of the things I always order in a Thai restaurant to get an idea of the level of spice, attention to detail and presentation. All of these dishes came speedily to the table and were excellent. Green papaya salad varies at almost every restaurant. At some, the “medium” is hot, while at others the “hot” can be quite mild. A Thai chef told me once that the simple reason for this depends on the size of the chili peppers. A recipe may call for two or three peppers, but often fails to give an amount other than that, so if you order a “hot” salad on a day when the peppers at market are large - well, watch out.

At Bangkok Thai, a “medium” green papaya salad has enough spice to have you reaching for a sip of cold beer or chilled wine, but it’s not threatening.

We had the Bangkok Jungle (Pad Phet) hot - and it didn’t seem as hot as the “medium” papaya salad - which was fine with us.

The chefs came originally from two of Honolulu’s most respected Thai restaurants, Phuket Thai and Keo’s, and they have brought with them a wealth of experience. Vithaya Thaimountha was head chef at Phuket Thai for many years, and Kathy Syxomphou, who owns the restaurant with her fiancé Harvey Morimoto, has the help of her family (one daughter is a waitress, and other relatives help in the kitchen) in running this charming spot. The food is both flavorful and attractively presented, and is really well-priced. Try the Pla Lad Prite (fried whole fish) if you want to see immediately how good the food is. The restaurant is BYOB - which I love. Thai food is always fun to pair with wine. The delicate combination of herbs and spices mean that a wine has to work well to compete - yet not overpower - the highly fragrant ingredients. When it works - as in the case of a great Riesling or an India Pale Ale - it’s a magical combination.

We took a bottle of Theo Minges Riesling Halbtrocken (about $11 for a 1-liter bottle) and while I don’t think it’s a wine I would particularly enjoy drinking on its own, it just paired fabulously with the food. So, grab your favorite beverage, head for the parking lot at Bank of Hawaii and then enjoy the short walk to this wonderful Thai restaurant on Kapahulu. Local residents are fortunate to have it on their doorstep, and for the rest of us - it’s well worth the trip.

Bangkok Thai 829 Kapahulu Ave. 735-6338

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