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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.

                    1. I've gone here once and that was enough. It was just boring Thai food... Maybe I got the bad cook! =D

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: The Chemist

                        So do you have any recommendations for unböring Thai food in town, or is it that you generally find the couisine boring?

                          1. re: celfie

                            If you have a opinion. Do you find the Vietnamese food at Vietnamese restaurants in this city to be pretty good overall? I don't travel enough to compare Vietnamese restaurants to what's available in big cities in North America(personally I'm happy with the selection of Vietnamese restos in this city). I know my friends in Hong Kong, have complained about the bad Vietnamese restaurants in HK.

                            1. re: BLM

                              I have visited Vietnam (2 separate trips) for a total of over 5 weeks in 2005 and 2008. In my experience the Vietnamese restos in Montreal faithfully reflect the high quality of meals served in that wonderful country. The pho soups here are generally at least as good as those available in Vietnam. My favourite spots for pho are Nguyen Phi (6260, chemin de la cote-des-Neiges, (514-344-1863) and Pho Bac 1016 Boul Saint-Laurent (514.393.8116). For non-pho dining Nhu Y, a BYOB at 134 Jean-Talon West ( 514-948-8884) is my fav.

                              1. re: BLM

                                I do like the vietnamese food and the various chinese options (lately). I don't think that we have great thai options in this city. ive had decent meals at thai grill but i am more interested in authentic and cheap family style asian restaurants. it's all just ok - bangkok included.

                                1. re: celfie

                                  I'm guessing the quality of Vietnamese restaurants in Montreal is high, due partly to Montreal being a French city(Vietnam a former French colony, & people coming over here opening restaurants know they can operate in French). Substantial number of people in Vietnam still speak French.

                                  1. re: BLM

                                    Papaya Verte was great back in the day. The shrimp sweet potato fritters were wicked. It closed a couple years ago. Optimum downtown was also really good. Also closed. Ginger Tofu Hot Pot, I miss you.
                                    Vietnamese restaurants make the best deep fried rolls. Spring, Imperial, whatever you want to call them, they are the best. By miles. Both those two restaurants served up incredible rolls.

                            2. re: emerilcantcook

                              I really like Thai food, but I haven't found anywhere in Montreal with a great example of it yet. To be fair, I haven't been looking that hard. Some people like Chuch but I find it to be horrifically overpriced. It's one of those things that I tend to be able to do better at home for much cheaper, so I haven't tested the waters as much as maybe I should.

                          2. I've been going to Bangkok at Faubourg more or less since it opened.
                            Only complaints: since the move they have not been able to streamline their order->production->serving process, which often causes pandemonium in the lineup, and they seem to have been steadily cutting back on the pricier ingredients. Case in point: back in the day, shrimp pad thai came with 5 shrimp, now it's 3. They had to make a note of it on the menu cause I imagine some of the regulars complained.

                            I noticed someone mentioned they pulled the duck dishes? Heard people got way sick after having duck there, many times.

                            The mother used to have a street foodcart in Bangkok. Or so I was told.

                            The dad is a weird character. They stopped offering chopsticks at one point years ago. When i asked him why he went off on a tirade about how he got sick and tired of people demanding chopsticks for free "because chinese food is meant to be eaten with chopsticks!"... he flipped, 'cause a) it's thai and b) thai's usually use fork and spoon... so he pulled the 'sticks. I actually went and bought a big pack of throwaways and kept them in the car just for my visits there. Obviously he eventually relented and started offering them again. haha :)

                            I've cut back my visits for a few reasons: mild instability in quality (tho to be honest I think I was only ever disappointed once in all the years), terse service (dammit people would it kill you to smile?), and just the overlall clusterf**k that the Faubourgh has become. Used to be I could go and do groceries at the same time, maximising the trip (I live on the Plateau)

                            Personal note: all the green lamps at the Faubourg were made by my dad's company. I remember working on them when I worked on the assembly line as a summer job. That contract paid for part of my education i think. :)

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: bopuc

                              The dad got mad at me once after I asked him about one of his dishes. Got turned off by one of his family members(I'm guessng one of his daughters), when I was dining at his Bangkok restaurant across the street 2 years ago.

                              Bangkok Faubourg has always been skimpy with their shrimps(their seafood dishes means just one shrimp).

                              1. re: bopuc

                                I got used to going after the lunch hour or dinner rushes during the week, because a) there was less confusion in the line-up, and b) the woks are already seasoned for the day, which meant that everything is considerably more flavourful than when I'd get the same order during lunch or off-hours.

                                I guess I've had good luck with consistency - I tend to stick to the curries, satays and seafood dishes (I just don't like Pad Thai), and the only problems I've ever had are related to the spice level. Sometimes I'll get an XX and other times an XXXX, and it would seem like the two are interchangeable depending on who's serving.

                                I've never had problems with the service either - the girls would always smile at me. ;)

                                1. re: stevenmansour

                                  Hi Steven
                                  Seasoning a wok/pan is something that is done once, when it is first acquired, to make it non-stick.

                                  While sure a bit of residue from all the meals they may prepare in an afternoon may be left, it won't have a huge impact on the flavor of your meal. They do wipe the woks down between uses ;


                                  Also, weren't you one of the Bangkok duck victims? I seem to remember a week long food poisoning incident a few years back?

                                  Nice to see you here! :D

                                  1. re: bopuc

                                    I know about the initial wok seasoning. In retrospect I shouldn't have used that word... I can swear, though, that the dishes I get from CB later in the day tend to be "punchier" than the ones I get when they first open, much like a pizza oven gets better as the night goes on: http://www.chow.com/videos/obsessives... .

                                    I also tried to answer your other question but the moderators deemed it against the forum rules. ;)

                                2. re: kit

                                  i'd take chopsticks over fork at any opportunity
                                  theyre more efficient

                                  1. re: celfie

                                    Chopstick + rice on a plate --> limited shoveling of rice in mouth, no? I guess for noodles & some forms of cooking I understand..... BUT STILL! I mean I grew up with chopsticks and I'm a believer in its superior efficiency but not in all cases and then to insist on a business owner to stock them only because it's Asian food?!?! Come now....really?

                                  2. re: kit

                                    Doesn't it taste better that way? ;)

                                    1. re: Shattered

                                      Yes the woodiness and also added texture from the splinters. haha.

                                      1. re: kit

                                        I think chopsticks are a shortcut to give any asian place an air of authenticity. And as with any other affectation, it can takes on a life of its own, with customers coming to insisting on it for no good reason.

                                        1. re: johnnyboy

                                          Authentic sometimes, perhaps, except that they don't use chopsticks in Thailand.

                                            1. re: hungryann

                                              No, actually it's the the ethnic Chinese in Thailand who use chopsticks. Thais have always used forks and spoons. Like the Malaysians, it's traditionally a large-ish wood or bamboo spoon. When tourists ask for chopsticks in Thailand, they always have them on hand because of the large Chinese population, but the request always elicits snickers.

                                              1. re: bomobob

                                                Authentic or not, I find most noodle dishes easier to eat with chopsticks than a fork. Especially a plastic food-court fork. And that fork is nearly useless for big, firm chunks of food such as squid strips. The tines are too blunt and flexible to spear it, and the food is often too slippery to stay on.

                                                On the other hand, I've never eaten spaghetti, linguine, etc. with chopsticks. I'm not sure if there's something about the texture of those noodles that makes them more forkable, or if it's a purely cultural thing.

                                                I guess if I ever had spaghetti in a food court, I'd probably find the small, flexible plastic fork equally frustrating, and maybe even go in search of chopsticks!

                                                1. re: Mr F

                                                  What's even worse is when you look down and see one tine missing on the plastic, useless fork:)

                                                2. re: bomobob

                                                  Well, noodles were imported from the chinese immigrants in Thailand so we are essentially saying the same thing. I never saw anyone eating pad thai in Thailand with a fork and spoon but obviously chopsticks are not used for curries, rice, etc

                                    2. On the subject of thai food, I recently had take-out from Thai Grill and although I don't think Thai food fares well for take-out (except for the curries), I was quite impressed. My expectations were quite low but I really enjoyed everything I had. The spice level was low but maybe that's how it was ordered from my host. Do they still have a chef from Thailand? I am going to make a point of eating in the restaurant in the near future in order to assess the food better.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: hungryann

                                        On the subject of thai food: I've been in recent months to Thai Grill, La Thailande, Chao Phraya and Red Thai. Red Thai was humdrum, and Thai Grill borderline bad (twice). I would only recommend La Thailande and Chao Phraya. Chao Phraya doesn't have great ambiance or service (feels a bit like an upscale cafeteria), but the food is surprisingly well done and an excellent value. La Thailande has a bit better decor and ambiance, excellent food, a bit pricier overall but still quite affordable (and they do take out and delivery).

                                          1. re: johnnyboy

                                            That's too bad about Thai Grill. I was shocked by the take-out for the same reason, i.e. I have heard it's bad and I was expecting total garbage but it was decent. Who knows?
                                            I have never tried Chao Phraya. I agree about Red Thai and Thailande. Thailande is very good but too expensive to be obn the regular weekly rotation of take-outs.

                                        1. hit bangkok on sunday for lunch. it was disgusting. i ordered a shrimp dish. my shrimps were served on a bed of vegetables that were sitting on the counter when i arrived. after the shrimps topped the veg, the staff chit chatted for 5 min until i told them to give me my food. totally incompetent. obviously my food was cold but i was too post nuit blanche hungover to bother complaining. this happened my last 3 visits.

                                          1. I (and many of my once-avid fan of bangkok friends) agree with those who've assessed Bangkok's inconsistencies of late.

                                            I have never experienced welcome/friendly service off the bat either. And I too always cross my fingers hoping the mom will cook my order.

                                            Will anyone here dare give them this feedback?

                                            1. Hit Bangkok today for the first time in New Years. Serious sticker shock when I saw prices up by at least 15%. Ouch. With inflation running at about 2% this seems excessive. I'll think twice before going again.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: meagain

                                                This is an undeniably large price increase, though obviously influenced by more than inflation. We can guarantee that rent, energy costs (electricity+gas for stoves), taxes, insurance, and materials/shipping costs have probably jumped at least 10% in the last year. Perhaps they're also aiming to future-proof to some degree.

                                                1. re: Fintastic

                                                  Which one? The one in Faubourg or the one on Monkland? or both?

                                                    1. re: meagain

                                                      Thanks. Anyone know if the Monkland one has increased their prices? Are they owned by the same people as the Faubourg one?

                                                  1. re: Fintastic

                                                    I'm pretty sure that their business is down as well

                                                    1. re: Fintastic

                                                      I get the future proof deal. You don't want to be constantly raising prices small amounts. But everything else you mention should be covered in the inflation rate though, no? Or is the inflation rate different for business? Hard to imagine it could be.