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Jan 31, 2009 08:52 PM

Rolling the dice at Bangkok

I don't know if I've had bad luck or not, but this Montreal institution seems to have become decidedly hit or miss. I've been eating there for the last 13 years and within the last six months or so (maybe longer, sometimes it takes awhile before you click in) the kitchen seems to have gotten quite uneven.
I'll give you examples. On Thursday evening I ordered my regular dish, shrimp/eggplant with extra broccoli. Extra spicy (that's xxxx). When they brought it to the counter it was shrimp/eggplant extra eggplant. It looked great (the son had cooked it) but was not what I'd ordered. The counter people did their usual dance trying to convince you to take, and pay for, their mistake. I sent it back because, although I love eggplant, doubled up it's way to much.
When it came back, the shrimp and broccoli were fine but much of the eggplant had been burned in the recooking process. The plate was a visual mess as well. 10 bucks down the drain.
Having said that I think the patriarch (for lack of a better word) is the real weak link in the kitchen. It's gotten to the point where if I see him back there I cross my fingers he doesn't cook my order. I ordered the same shrimp/eggplant/broc xxxx dish 3 weeks ago and it came from his wok. There was literally zero spice in the xxxx order, the eggplant wasn't burned but was instead a soggy mess. I think that comes from "steaming" the food instead of frying it.The shrimp from him never have the flavour clinging to them that frying brings. Instead the bite is fine but the shrimp is totally bland.
Sorry, that's a long post. I've had more bad meals from them too recently but that can wait. They still hit the mark a lot, especially if you get the matriarch whipping things up. She's never dished up anything bad this way.

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  1. I presume you are talking about the Faubourg location and not the sit down restaurant on Ste-Catherine?

    1 Reply
    1. re: hungryann

      Yeah, it's the Faubourg location. Does anyone actually eat at the sit down restaurant? My office Christmas lunch was there in 2007. The place is huge and we (about 15 people) were the only people there until a couple came in and sat at the front. It felt like we were eating in the Big Owe. Huge and no ambiance. Not to mention the prices are about double those at the Faub.

    2. I had really amazing dishes there, and really meh ones; and I have been trying to figure out if this has anything to with the person at the back of the counter. I think you are right. You never go wrong when the young gentleman (so he is the son?) or the mom cooks your meal, for sure. You also get very varying service depending on who is guarding the cash that day. I had a few dishes that came out wrong (with wrong meat for example) and even though I was hundred percent sure that I ordered them right, they would not correct their mistake and insist that I ordered this instead of that and refused to take their dish back.

      My real beef is that I think they put way too much MSG in their food. I have recently developed MSG sensitivity (I know I know some people think this is a myth), and even though I can tolerate it it some of the Chinese restaurants, I get really uncomfortable for the rest of the day, every time I eat there.

      5 Replies
      1. re: emerilcantcook

        Then you can ask them, to omit MSG.

        1. re: BLM

          Umm I don't think that is technically possible. Most of the time, it is added during the pre-prep, such as the sauces and broth. I once saw the father carrying a gallon of red sauce in a plastic jug, which I speculated that was for the Pad Thai or one of their curries. I can't ask them to Brita that one out out can I?

          But alas, if they also keep a shaker of it next to the wok station, I might at least ask them to skip that step.

          1. re: emerilcantcook

            OK, they put so much MSG so liberally. Then that's a big turn off for me on Bangkok. Otherwise it's pretty much a given that all Asian restaurants use MSG(even the finest Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong).

            1. re: emerilcantcook

              I dare you to ask the dad, how come he uses so much MSG at his Bangkok establishment.

          2. re: emerilcantcook

            In a completly different part of town, Talay Thai, at the angle of Côte-Sainte-Catherine and Côte-Des-Neiges takes pride in offering a MSG-free cooking, and their food is quite tasty.

          3. Bangkok is severely overrated. The cantonese and taiwan places in that food court are much better and their menus are more interesting.

            8 Replies
            1. re: celfie

              I know the Taiwanese counter, but never tried their food (their bubble tea was very meh though). I must say it always looked interesting, especially the non-English menu items.

              However, I never realized that the Chinese counter was a proper Cantonese place, it always stike me as one of them Panda Express joints.

              Now that I am intrigued (not to mention, I eat lunch every day) can you care to elaborate and perhaps recommend dishes that are more interesting than those offered by Bangkok?

              1. re: emerilcantcook

                well at noonish just compare the two lineups. can you guess which place is a lineup of giggly chinese students? i don't know about you but the picture menu at the cantonese place makes my mouth water. i've enjoyed the chicken with honey, the fried rice dish with beef and fried egg among other things. most of their food is made to order (I'm not talking about Le Wok). They also make a great wonton soup with big pieces of shrimp in a thin wonton wrapper. As for the Taiwan place, it's been a while for me, I just pick something at random from the pictures. It's food court fare but I prefer it to bangkok because I find most of their offerings are just greasy with overwhelming garlic and ginger flavour. I also don't like their rice very much or the fact that they charge for chopsticks. They do have the best springrolls in the mall though and I do like their chicken soup spicy with coconut milk - but again, heavy on the grease.

                1. re: celfie

                  I too have found that the food at Bangkok has slipped markedly of late, becoming very hit and miss when it was once quite reliable. I still “roll the dice” and swing by frequently, but I’m grateful for the leads on other places at the Faubourg worth visiting.

                  On another front, well outside the purview of this board, except to the degree to which environment influences one’s enjoyment of a meal: Is anyone else as dismayed as I about the state of advanced dilapidation that has beset the Faubourg St-Catherine? I mean really, it’s like East Berlin after the war. A near deserted, creepy, down-at-the-mouth ex-mall - Soon to become another “abandominium” blighting a part of Montreal that grows seedier by the year. I think we can consider it a minor miracle that the food hasn't slipped to the level of the building that surrounds it.

                  1. re: erich wiess

                    I agree, it's sad and disturbing what's happened to the Faub. I was by there recently and just shook my head in disbelief at what's become of it.

                    1. re: kpzoo

                      Me too: actually was at Bangkok for lunch on Saturday with some galpals and the padthai was NOTHING to write home about. And it was mama and a younger fellow at the controls. I guess I should have ordered something else.

                    2. re: erich wiess

                      i find the neighbourhood itself is becoming a culturally rich jewel.

                      1. re: celfie

                        The Faubourg's been a real dog's breakfast from the beginning. But agreed, it's gone from being really bad to really really bad. I don't know who has owned/managed it but it's a remarkable monument to incompetence. It's literally beyond belief how a huge downtown commercial property could be so poorly run for so long. There's a Gazoo story in there if anyone's "listening".

                2. re: celfie

                  Agree that the cantonese place (not Le Wok) has some good and very well priced food! Favourites are the minced beef & egg (can have it raw on request) on rice, the beef stir fried with flat rice noodles and the salt & pepper squid! Yum yum and friendly folks at the counter.

                3. I swung by last Wednesday and thought to myself, "That was one of the best phad thai plates I ever had here". Seriously. Sorry to hear your experiences have been so inconsistent.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: riboflavinjoe

                    My last two or three meals there -- all cooked by the young and now goateeless guy whose face moh associates with great squid -- have all been first-rate too.

                  2. I went to Bangkok for lunch today had me some seafood eggplant. I think it was overall pretty good. My only complaint is about the brown sauce, too salty to my taste.