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Apr 20, 2008 11:30 PM

Bangkok Garden, Bethesda

It's been here much longer than I have -- more than 20 years, I think -- but I had never tried it until reading the raves here about the Columbia sister restaurant. Ordered carry-out this evening and must say, on the basis of this one meal, that it may very well rival Ruan Thai and Thai Square. (I haven't yet tried Nava Thai.) I asked the proprietor to select some items for me off of the Thai menu (which unfortunately is not translated -- there's a project for someone here!). He chose a pork belly and beans dish, a squid with crispy basil, and a "country curry" with chicken. All very, very good. I have no idea whether this meal was at all representative of what the kitchen can do -- or of the English-language menu -- but it was far, far better than any other Thai I've had in Bethesda.

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  1. Bankok Garden in Bethesda has been one of my favorite (and most consistent) places for twenty five years, although I don't get there much any more. Interestingly, I had switched to Ruan Thai over the past few years and declared that my favorite. However, the last meal I had there was not good. The lemon grass seafood soup was downright awful, bitter and tasteless at the same time. And it was odd because the seafood was fresh and plentiful, but the broth was awful, as was the pad thai, which was greasy and tasteless. I couldn't eat it. The whole fried fish in chili sauce was the only thing that was good. I hope that's not a sign of a downhill alert or a new chef. I'm going to go back to BG for a comparison soon.

    1. I love that place! I was just there for Thai Restaurant Week last Friday. The food is always good and the service is so attentive.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DCDeb

        Any other recent meals off Bangkok Garden's Thai language menu? Does it in any way resemble the Specials menu they have on their website?

        1. re: crackers

          I have always eaten in but got takeout last night, mostly from the special menu. Yom Pla Grob is a standard appetizer there. I've always loved theirs and it was even good by the time I got home to eat it. The papaya salad was fine but I've had better elsewhere. We got the drunken noodles with chicken. I thought they were meh but sis loved them. I seem to recall them being much better but i haven't had them anywhere in years. We also shared the shrimp and asparagus in oyster sauce, which was good and fresh but the sauce was a bit thin. From this experience, I'm not sure the Special menu on the website is any better than the regular menu. I'm also thinking it's definitely a better place to eat in than it is to take out. I want to go back and try the Thai menu a la Steve's post.

          1. re: Ellen

            Thai food is always better when eaten as soon as it comes out of the wok rather than as take-out. This probably extends to all stir-fried food. Noodle dishes particularly suffer from any delay in the eating.

      2. I'm a Thai linguist and will be glad to translate the Thai menu if you can provide a scan of it.

        1. Five Chowhounds got together to explore the Thai language menu at Bangkok Garden. Since there is no explanation or transliteration of this menu, we were completely dependent on our patient server to explain it to us.

          We made it very clear we were not afriad of spiciness, that we were interested in items not on the regular menu, items a Thai family would order, and that we wanted to know about any exotic ingredients.

          With that in mind, we started off with the country curry that Marty L had - this time with shrimp. This was a spcy red oil curry with clusters of green peppercorns still on the stalk. The best dish of the day. We also went with a duck curry in a coconut base. I imagine this is on the regular menu, but maybe less sweet. Very delicious.

          Another successful dish was a Pad Thai made with cellophane noodles. Unlike the ubiquitous melted-peanut-brittle pink Pad Thai found in most joints, this was served with a condiment tray of pickled peppers, soy pickled peppers, red chili powder, and a chili sauce. This was very good and fun.

          We also had frogs legs, deep fried it seems with lots and lots of crispy basil and a chili sauce for dipping. Nice and moist.

          The next dish that came out was crispy pork with chinese broccoli. In some places this is a jerky, but here it was chicharones, deep fried pork belly.

          Lastly, we had a whole flounder with a chunky chili sauce. I thought this was a touch sweet, so I was not too pleased, though others liked it.

          Overall, I'd have to say this is a menu worth exploring. Mostly less sweet than I expect from Thai food, and I look forward to finding other gems on the menu.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            I am surprised w/ the rave reviews about Bangkok Garden. I am glad you all enjoyed your meals! My experience was unfortunately not as positive. I got takeout there once. It was a curry w/ lamb, and I found the pieces of meat very fatty, and the overall dish, not very good. I went to Thai Corner in Bethesda, last night, which I think is better.

            1. re: chicken kabob

              Warning about BKK Garden - the main Chef (and owner's son / co-owner) does take a day off (I think it used to be Wednesday) so the quality of the food will probably fluctuate if his sous chef is in the kitchen that day.

              Just ask the hostess when you are phone ordering / being seated, she should be willing to tell you (I don't think what day the Chef takes off is a secret).

          2. Hey, folks...

            In case you were looking for the translated menu, it's been taken down. Due to a miscommunication, what was posted was a quick ten-minute rough draft including personal notes that weren't meant for publication -- which is neither fair to the restaurant nor to the translation's author.

            Hopefully it can be reposted if completed, but in the interim, thanks for your understanding, and sorry about the confusion.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Dmnkly


              Does anyone know if the translation of their Thai menu is available yet?

                1. re: OscarTehGrouch

                  They now have most of the the Thai menu translated, altho it doesn't always help..