We’re often invited out to test new restaurants, check out the vibes of clubs and events, taste revamped menus and sip on cocktail concoctions from up-and-coming mixologists. But sometimes an invitation allots us the chance to rediscover a forgotten or overlooked gem; a chance at rediscovery, if you will. A couple weeks ago we sat down on the mezzanine level of Bangkok Garden – the restaurant attached to Toronto favourite Elmwood Spa – to sample some of the traditional Thai dishes that excite regulars but have eluded Khao San Road and Salad King-goers.
The restaurant – a mix of woods and Thai-inspired accoutrements – is a lovely combination of classic and slight contemporary, much like the menu. We started with perfectly-cooked scallops dripping with a tangy peanut sauce and pad thai – some of the best we’ve tried recently – served take-out style in mini red cartons. Both starters excited, and immediately we started reconsidering Bangkok Garden as a potential cheerful Friday night destination.
The trio of curries showcased the traditional dishes and the subtle nuances that differentiate golden, red and green curry. Our favourite, not surprisingly, was the creamy golden curry, an excellent mix of soft coconut with just a hint of spice.
The basil chicken was appropriately heavy on the namesake herb, with juicy morsels of chicken swathed in flavourful spice. The hit of the mains was the crispy tofu, too often found dense and more crunchy rather than crispy, but Bangkok Garden’s take was light and crackled gently, paired with smoky heat.
Chef William Thetsombandith has done an excellent job preparing dishes that pop and showcase traditional Thai food in a classic light. Take the pad thai, prepared laboriously from scratch. It may not be a dish with modern twists, but a dedicated focus on the traditional origins. This is where Bangkok Garden succeeds; its focus on the authentic. It was one of Toronto’s first Thai restaurants, and Chef Thetsombandith goes so far as to have spices flown in from Bangkok. With a warm and inviting atmosphere and friendly and knowledgeable service staff, Bangkok Garden is most notably worthy of rediscovery.
Images by Jacqueline Nicosia.