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Bangkok Garden review

Tried out Bangkok Garden last night as I was curious to see what it was like since they re-opened late 2006. The interior is basically the same - the only changes I noted were a refinished wood floor and ,I think, new paint. It was reasonably busy for a Wed night. The manager came over to our table a couple of times and was very friendly- trying a bit too hard maybe, but they clearly want to get back on the map after their long closure. He told us that the menu has gone back to their more traditional menu of the 80s. There was lots of variety. We had:
Apps: tiger shrimp rolls - yummy flavourful shrimp each wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and fried. Very tasty.
Green mango salad - mango a little too yellow and the salad was a bit too sweet for me, but it was fresh

Grilled sea bass - served deboned in a banana leaf with a yummy sauce on the side. It was excellent - very flavourful and spicy without being too hot

Pad Thai - very good - nice balance, big shrimp, fresh veggies

A mixed veggie dish - very fresh and nice, light sauce

Emerald Chicken Curry - basically pieces of chicken in a coconut curry flavoured with lime, basil and chilis. There were also pieces of eggplant and another squash. The flavours were really well balanced and delicate. Really, really good.

Warrior's beef - A spicy red curry dish of beef and green beans . Again, excellent.

Rice was extremely fluffy and fresh. The servers brought a large bowl to the table on a regular basis and served everyone - a nice touch.

Service was attentive and helpful. It's not cheap (~$180 for 4 with 6 drinks total - 3 martini
's, 3 beer), but the atmosphere is nicer than 99% of Thai restos, the service was really good (if not a bit too eager, but I think they are really trying hard and they are doing a good job), and the food was fresh and the sauces varied and well-balanced.

So, I'd definitely go back when I want a nice Thai dinner. They are doing a good job turning out nice dishes with fresh ingredients. The portions are not huge, but I prefer well-prepared fresh food over huge platefuls.

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  1. Thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading it. I'm adding this to my list of places to try.

    1. Agreed. Thanks for the review; given their prices, I was wondering if they were worth the cost. I'm not sure I can justify spending $30+ per person on Thai food, but perhaps one day I'll cave and try it.

      1. Thanks for the review. I've been meaning to go back and try their dinner menu. I was there over Christmas for their lunch buffet and absolutely love their noodle soup bar. I'm not a fan of buffets but the quality of their spread was very good. Freshly made with a good variety. A bit pricey ($15.99 a person I think) but fair for the quality. I loved the fresh lichees for dessert. I agree with jcanncuk about the service, very attentive but borderline too eager. It's a beautiful space for a meal.

        1. I have never been but was thinking about recommending it to a friend who needs to take some visiting work colleagues out for dinner. You mentioned that the atmosphere was nice, would you say it is "cozy", i.e. not cafeteria looking?

          1 Reply
          1. re: cello

            It's absolutely NOT cafeteria like. There is a lot of wood (floors, walls, beams), a little pond/stream near the entrance with a bronze serpent statue, a few other Thai art pieces here and there. Mostly, it's a pretty calm and relaxed space that is tastefully decorated. Not funky nor old school. It's totally appropriate for a work dinner and if they ask for a quiet table, they will be able to put them into one fo the spaces just off the main dining area which adds some privacy and quiet.

            1. Bangkok Garden has a nice relaxing atmosphere...lots of running water, plants, natural wood...a good selection of thai dishes all nicely spiced and well presented...not a place I go to a lot, but one which out of town guests (i.e. especially folks from places that don't have good thai restuarants) seem to appreciate. Worth a yearly visit...too bad its sister restaurant Thai Sensations (the cafeteria underneath Bangkok Gardens) closed...same quality of food at a fraction of the price...their Spicy thai soup was the best in Toronto bar none

              1. Sorry, I don't agree at all!
                I have been to Thailand many times so I know what authentic Thai food is like. Last weekend, I was really craving for Thai food and found this place. It's expensive so I assumed it's good. But all 4 of us were totally disappointed by it.
                First, the restaurant is not authentic. It has been "westernized" to suit the tastes of Canadians. The 5-pepper spicy items are not spicy at all according to Thai standards despite what they said on their menus. All of the dishes that should have lemongrass as ingredient are lacking in it, like the Tom Yam soup. We were smart to just order on to test it out before deciding whether we should get one per person. The soup was terrible in our opinion. Then simple Thai snacks like fish cake wasn't in the menu. Even the dipping sauces didn't taste authentic.
                The service was okay, not particularly helpful nor attentive. The price was about $240 for the 4 of us. We only had 3 beers and 2 bottles of sparkling water. It was not expensive if you consider that a fine dining experience but it was extraordinarily expensive for a Thai meal compared to other (more authentic) Thai restaurants in Toronto and the GTA.
                I would definitely not return. Too bad, usually the price should be proportional to the quality but in this case it was definitely not. I was so happy located this restaurant but my hope was totally crushed after being there for the first time.

                13 Replies
                1. re: jarusoba

                  Which "other more authentic Thai restaurants" do you recommend?

                  1. re: Edith S

                    No. I haven't come across any authentic Thai restaurants in Toronto, or Canada for that matter. That's why 2-3 times a year, my wife and I would make weekend trips to Bangkok just to satisfy our Thai food cravings.

                    1. re: jarusoba

                      I agree, Bangkok Garden is almost as unauthentic as you get, but there are some that come a bit closer. I have also been to thailand many times and took some cooking classes in Chiang Mai. Although it's Laotian, Vanipha Lana comes close to authenticity with a few of its dishes. I haven't been for a while, but salad kind used to hit the spot years back. If you are looking for higher end thai, I would go to Thai Magic up on Yonge south of Summerhill, more authentic, but still north americanized....I really like their steak bangkok (although, a bit pricey).

                      1. re: DDD

                        I still have Vanipha Lanna and Young Thailand (Dundas/Keele) on my must-try list. I liked Mengrai but really want something in the west end with palatable pad thai.

                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          Just had supper at Young Thailand and do not recommend it. Tasty beef salad, but everything else is below average (sweet pad thai containing only 2 shrimps, bland "spicy" eggplant, blah red curry pork with pumpkin with almost no meat). Bangkok Garden is much, much better. Young Thailand was "out" of ginger tea and Thai chicken wings.

                      2. re: jarusoba

                        You could save yourself the long trip and prepare your own authentic Thai food at home. Toronto's availability of Thai ingredients is quite good.

                        Incidentally, have you tried Mengrai Thai? What's your opinion of it?

                        1. re: jarusoba

                          Thai Angels on College west of Spadina serves "regular" Pad Thai and "Thai" Pad Thai. The owner (from Thailand) talked to me and said they were shocked when they first encounter Thai food here. I haven't been to Thailand so I can't compare, but the Thai Pad Thai is so much better than the orange stuff elsewhere.

                          1. re: Teep

                            If you want west end - you can try Mai Thai Kitchen on Bloor west of Royal York...pretty good pad thai.

                            1. re: DDD

                              Thanks DDD. Perfect location. Is it Thai Pad Thai (no ketchup)? Could you describe their other food? You're the only person on this board who has ever recommended Mai Thai (but I trust your judgment since you've been to Thailand!)

                              1. re: Food Tourist

                                So it's actually called My Thai Kitchen and it's beside Henry VIII pub and Bake Sale, at 3080 Bloor West (there is another location of My Thai at 552 Mount Pleasant). (Mai Thai is at 2364 Yonge.) I got My Pad Thai ($10.95) and Gai Penang (red chicken) $10.95 for takeout. Pretty decent food - savoury/salty pad thai (slightly overcooked shrimps) with no ketchup in sight. Also seemed to be missing tofu and cilantro, however. Very spicy hot chicken curry with coconut-peanut taste (lime leaves missing in action) impressed with lots of heat.

                                Overall, for takeout, I'm not sure you're getting stellar value for money but it was heads above other local Thai places in Etobicoke.

                                1. re: Food Tourist

                                  Just checked my leftovers and there are indeed minuscule cubes of tofu scattered in the My Pad Thai. Gai Panang (red curry chicken) does not contain anything other than slices of chicken.

                                  1. re: Food Tourist

                                    My Thai's Pad See Ew is quite good and pretty authentic, their neur num tok is also ok, their garlic shrimp can be good, (I've had 2 good and once it was just so-so)....they also have a good fish dish...can't remember if it's chili fish or sweet & sour (I will try to remember to check next time) - it's a whole fish fried (I believe it's a snapper). You're right, it's quite good compared to what's around, but certainly not the be all end all. It's not bad for a quick sit down meal either, the service is quite friendly and accomodating (not great for a romantic eve as their are sometimes families/kids)

                      3. re: jarusoba

                        Sorry you had a bad experience at BG, but it's been done to death on this board as basically food court level "Thai" food. It's near the Eaton Centre and people get sucked in by all the 80's decor.... I don't know, never got it.

                      4. Tried out Bangkok Garden after a massage at Elmwood Spa (same owner). I really enjoyed the eggplant dish - two chilli rating was accurate. Soya sauce fish was simple but tasty though nothing to rave about. Pad Thai was surprisingly good, with 3 perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp. Good service, elegant atmosphere. I would actually return to try a few other dishes, though it's definitely an expensive night out by Thai standards.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          Bangkok Garden is totally lame. Inauthentic. Overpriced. Food court level "Thai" is a more than generous description. Avoid this spot.

                          1. re: JonasBrand

                            I believe the owner (who lives out west) has an obsession for Thailand and took her (spa) staff there to train. Also, apparently the kitchen staff at Bangkok Garden is all Thai. I don't have any evidence to back up these claims but this place was definitely better than Salad King.

                            1. re: Food Tourist

                              Let me provide some collaboration. My room mate used to work at Bangkok Garden and all what Food Tourist says is true. I believe her name is Sherry Brydson, some relation to the Thomson empire. Lots of $$$ and brought several chefs from Thailand.

                              A few years ago there was a Canadian exec chef but upon re-opening I believe the position was passed to the Thai chef. Apparently lunch for staff was seriously good authentic Thai food, so you could probably propose to the chef to do make you something completely authentic.

                              I was very impressed with their larb / laab. For the record I have also spent about 4 months in Thailand (establishing my cred ;) ).

                              1. re: Mila

                                I was in Bangkok this morning.
                                When I worked there a few years ago I had a Thai colleague who traveled to Toronto on biz and said he liked Bangkok Garden. That's the only time I've ever heard a Thai person say something nice about a foreign Thai eatery.

                                1. re: koknia

                                  So jealous of you koknia. Have a great trip.

                                  1. re: Mila

                                    Hi Mila: Just to confirm my understanding of your post...Bangkok Garden's kitchen staff is capable of making authentic Thai, but the dining room fare is likely moderated for western tastes? If they know I want the "real" stuff, they may accomodate a special request?

                                    1. re: T Long

                                      Before I make any commitments I'm going to get in touch with my old roommate who worked there. My information comes second hand so let me verify it.

                                      He used to go on at length what delicous meals they made for the staff and we attempted to re-create many at home.

                                      1. re: Mila

                                        They were closed for years before reopening recently. If your old roommate worked there a long time ago, the info may not be applicable any more.

                                        1. re: Teep

                                          Yes Teep, I know that. That is why I am checking sources to ensure I post accurate information for you.

                                          1. re: Mila

                                            Okay, here is my Columbo sleuthing to date...

                                            William Thetsombandith, is indeed the head chef and is a native of Thailand. Dean Guerreiro was the chef previous to the renovation. I spoke with a woman at the restaurant who also added that the majority of the kitchen team are native Thai. My roommate (ex) tells me that William was one of the original staff brought over to open the restaurant.


                                            Ex -r.m. also expressed that the food is as Thai as North Americans are accepting of , but the food has improved a great deal with William at the helm. I did leave a message for the chef to confirm if he would do an "authentic" Thai menu. Will follow up when I hear from him.

                                            Sorry this took awhile but I do believe in trying to get all the facts.

                                            1. re: Mila

                                              Thx Mila for your efforts in getting this detailed feedback. Looking forward to any follow-up. Cheers.

                        2. I don't understand all the BG bashing personally. This is not Thailand. This is Toronto. Nothing is ever going to come close to authentic Thai. I also don't understand the research that goes into finding out where the cooks are from. Honestly, are we getting a little carried away here?

                          Back on topic before the admins delete this post.

                          I was at BG for lunch on friday, to try their buffet. I went with a superfluously mixed crowd (peruvian, mexican, filipino, thai, japanese, russian, black, indian, nepalese, spanish, white).
                          We spent nearly 1.5 hours at BG and devoured almost every dish available for lunch. No, it's not just good, on friday, it was pretty f'n fantastic.
                          The soup noodle bar was good but nothing great, what was bragworthy was the curries, the fried fish, the mango salad, the shrimp, chicken, and even the desserts: rice cake, custard cake, rambutans, etc.

                          I've been to thailand a few times, and I have to say, it is not purely authentic but it comes pretty close.
                          Maybe it's under new management, maybe people's expectations are high, but honestly, the food tasted really good, and for $14.99 it can't be beat.

                          1. I went to Bangkok Garden last night and was fairly disappointed.

                            I found the restaurant, itself, to have great ambiance. I was in a group of 4 and we were tucked away in a corner, away from the main area and found that perfect.

                            The 2 appys I tried were not too bad.

                            Mango Salad - surprisingly tasty
                            Glass Noodle Salad - had good flavour but a very small salad for $8

                            Pad Thai - Too sweet for my liking (and I like sweet pad thai) and not enough chicken, especially since we asked for no shrimp due to allergies
                            Steamed Ginger Fish - Take a look at the photo you will how disappointed I was with the greens that look like they were past their prime. The fish was fine although the flavours weren't exactly embedded into the dish. At least there was a lot of salmon for a $19 dish
                            Totsakan’s Revenge - I didn't try the dish but someone at the table had it. The menu specifically says theyy can sub deboned frog legs but when asked they said that was never a realistic option and should be taken off the menu

                            All in all, the ambiance was nice, the service was attentive but the food was overpriced and not that spectacular even if moderately priced.

                            My favourite thai spots right now are Pi-Tom and Bua Thai.

                            Edit: I couldn't figure out how to upload phtoos.. are the links:
                            Pad Thai: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26876284...
                            Steamed Ginger Fish: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26876284...

                            Bua Thai
                            150 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H8, CA

                            Pi Tom's Thai Cuisine
                            6 Alexander St, Toronto, ON M4Y1B4, CA

                            1. I didn't eat there, but there's a laotian-thai restaurant I was going to go to which is probably the closest to authentic Thai you'll get. 99% of Thai restaurants are serving Chinese-Thai fare, NOT authentic Thai.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Papaya9

                                Laotian-Thai (assuming that was an accurate description) would probably more accurately be described as Isaan food (North-Eastern Thailand) food, probably the spiciest corner of Thailand - recipes of note: Papaya Salad, and Larb.

                                I have been to the Bangkok Garden once after it re-opened and was actually quite disappointed - it did not compare favorably to what I remember of it before it closed (sometimes it is hard to live up to memories). I have to admit it is really hard to order pad thai from there - way to expensive.... and i find I make a better pad thai than any restaurant in Toronto (I spent around 3 weeks cooking it every day to perfect it ...).

                                Before the Bangkok Garden closed, the food was fairly close to Royal Thai Cuisine, when it reopened it seemed only to be attempting to be making regular Thai cuisine - but a little bland. Of course my memories could have been corrupted by actual Thai food in Thailand - which is what I am focusing on now (until Feb 26th).

                              2. Got takeout at BG in early December. Not impressed. Eggplant not as good as eat-in last visit, and fried rice was so disappointing.