Bangkok Kitchen: A Hidden Treat
By: Lindsey Crane, November 29, 2012
While the humble visage of Bangkok Kitchen Thai Restaurant on Barnstable Road in Hyannis may admittedly not be the establishment’s selling point, as the clichéd adage touts: Don’t judge a book by its cover. For if you do, you may be remiss on relishing some of the most authentic—and reasonably priced—ethnic eats that the Cape has to offer.
Upon closer inspection, passersby may note the restaurant’s frequently overflowing parking lot and tiny dining room, which seats twenty, jammed to capacity. Nestled between Salon at 339 and Rotary Collision, across from the Airport Plaza, a cheerful beckoning of pastel pink, green, and blue—complete with a twinkling neon sign—lures the culinary curious.
Venturing into the petite space on a recent weekday evening, the dining crowd began as sparse. Soon enough, however, the room brimmed to a respectable level—especially for the Cape in the off-season.
Diners are often greeted by the amiable proprietors Sam and Nid Chaisit, who have owned the restaurant for six years. When they are not seating customers, the Bangkok natives can be found answering the onslaught of to-go orders via phone, offering a bottle opener or wine key (the restaurant is strictly BYOB) to the thirsty, or manning the wok in the fully visible kitchen.
The couple, who has been in the states for the last fourteen years, does it all with aplomb seven days per week.
Bangkok Kitchen Thai Restaurant
339 Barnstable Road, Hyannis
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m.
Phone: (508) 771-2333
Reservations not required, but recommended for larger parties. Take-out service is available.
After having sampled Bangkok Kitchen’s cuisine several times, it is clear why the eatery has accumulated such a loyal following. On this particular evening, my dining partner and I began with the fresh rolls ($4.95), a staple appetizer in Thai cuisine. The delicate morsels, wrapped in softened translucent rice paper, burst with the freshness of cucumber and carrot slivers, crisp romaine lettuce, subtle rice noodles, and a zap of fresh basil. The accompanying sweet and sour sauce adorned with fresh chopped peanuts, a taste sensation on its own, imparted even more delightful crunch to the rolls.
Incapable of straying from my usual soup choice, the tom yum koong ($3.95), which is also referred to as tom yum goong in Thai cuisine, arrived next. Bangkok Kitchen’s rendition of this traditional sweet and sour prawn soup includes lemon grass, fresh lime juice, sliced mushrooms and tomatoes, a precise sprinkling of red chili pepper specks, and—of course—the shrimp. While I keep longing for the addition of tart cherry tomatoes rather than slightly bland beefsteak slices in the tom yum koong, it’s a minor quibble. This addictive blend has just enough spice to make one’s nose run.
If you are in the mood for a somewhat richer amalgam, try the tom ka kai ($3.95). In this case the classic Thai chicken soup is created with a base of creamy coconut milk, peppery galangal (a type of root similar to ginger and commonly used in Asian cuisine), and lime juice. The concoction, finished with a garnish of sliced fresh mushrooms, is an ideal synthesis of richness and tang.
Needing a beverage to temper the spice? As mentioned, Bangkok Kitchen does not have a liquor license, by choice due to the space limitations of the restaurant. However, diners are welcome to bring their own beer and wine. And, for those who did not happen to bring libations along, Luke’s Liquors is conveniently located just a few doors down. In fact, during my recent visit, I witnessed a fellow diner leave mid-meal and shortly return with a Cisco Brewers ale. Casual interruptions are no big deal here, and are even part of the restaurant’s charmingly kitschy appeal. As far as non-alcoholic beverages go, try the house-made ginger tea or the indulgent Thai iced tea.
Moving on to the main entrées, the green curry, rated with one star on the menu to indicate a medium level of spiciness, appealed to me on this blustery night. To this dish, typically the only Thai curry base made with fresh rather than dried chili peppers, I added tofu for a total of $7.95. I was not disappointed with the medley of Asian vegetables and soy curd—which is sautéed to an irresistible texture that may sway even opponents of the health food product—swimming in a base of chili-laced coconut milk.
While the complex green curry boasts an appropriate level of heat for someone with a moderate spice tolerance, it, along with several other dishes, may be a tad racy for the spice intrepid. However, the kitchen here is accommodating and can tone many of the meals down a notch to suite a more sensitive palate.
“We can do every taste,” assures Mr. Chaisit, who simply goes by the moniker Sam since he explains his Thai name is “too long.”
Following my advice, my friend opted for my usual favorite: the spicy Thai eggplant entrée ($7.95), which is also given one star for spice. As pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste, this vibrant dish showcases Thai variants of the nightshade, which the Chaisins purchase on their weekly excursion to markets in Boston’s Chinatown.
The main dishes are more than ample, but if you happen to be craving a Thai confection in culmination of your feast, authentic desserts (plus a few with an Americanized twist) such as ginger ice cream, fried coconut ice cream, and sweetened sticky rice are available.
Once you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Bangkok Kitchen, you just may come to affectionately regard it as an understated—yet deservedly proud—diamond in the rough of the otherwise bleak, winter Hyannis stretch (and perhaps an exotic reprieve from your T.J. Maxx ventures). Heck, you may even become a regular.