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Nov 15, 2010 11:19 AM

Thai place near Grace Garden?

Has anybody got any scouting reports on the Thai place a couple of doors down from Grace Garden in the same strip?

I know, the first response is "If you are that close, why go anyplace other than Grace Garden?", but the contrarian approach might be to ask "If they are good enough to still be in business after a couple years with Grace Garden next door, maybe they are doing something right! If there's a terrific Chinese place in a location we'd never expect one, maybe there's an undiscovered Thai treasure there, too."

Has anybody succumbed to the same pangs of curiosity that I have, and actually tried that Thai place?

Grace Garden
1690 Annapolis Rd, Odenton, MD

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  1. actually, my response was more like: "I can't believe Warthog hasn't tried this place yet!" I usually pull up and mumble that one of these days I should peek in there to at least look at the (undoubtedly preedictable) menu, but then I get lured away by the thought of Szechuan pork belly and the fleeting impulse is forgotten.

    8 Replies
    1. re: crackers

      Warthog stoops, picks up a gauntlet.
      Crackers, did you drop this? ;-)

      OK, I went last night to "Take one for the team. Bottom line up front, if Grace Garden is packed, walk down a couple doors and try Bangkok Kitchen Thai. It might not rise to the "destination" status we have accorded Grace Garden, but it's actually quite a good meal.

      First, appearances. The decor is probably one step up from Grace Garden, and it's much larger. Unfortunately, it was also empty, other than one other patron, and a steady stream of customers for carry-out orders.

      What I had (I pigged out a bit in the interests of trying to get a better sample of what they could do):
      Yum Pla Meuk - squid, red onion, sliced celery, scallions, spices, lime juice, all presented simply but attractively on a couple of lettuce leaves. This dish did bring the heat (I had said the magic words "Native Thai" when ordering), but it was a nice contrast of flavors and textures, with the sort of fresh, light flavor impression one gets with good Thai and Vietnamese.

      Thoum Ka Gai: chicken in broth with galangal, coconut milk, mushrooms, lemon grass. Very nice rendition of a familiar favorite.

      Which brings to mind a point - has anyone ever had bad Thai food? As I think of it, most of the Thai restaurants I know of are clustered in a range between "good" and "very good". I've never been to one that stood far out from the pack in creativity or excellence of execution, and I've never had a really disappointing Thai meal. Most of the difference in my experience comes down to personal preference and "style points". YMMV.

      Now back to the meal.

      House special catfish: Crispy catfish fillets, stir fried with special house chili sauce and basil leaves. The only downside to this one was that either the oil temperature was off during cooking, or the fillets were in the oil just a bit too long. It was not oily or greasy, but the light breading on the catfish was a bit past optimal, and could see "burnt" on the horizon ahead. Even with that minor miscue, it was still a nice dish, especially for those who like it three star spicy on a zero to three star scale. The least successful dish of the night, but still good. Even had this been the only dish I'd had, Bangkok Kitchen would still have been in the "worth coming back to" column at the end of the evening.

      I still had room (I'm blessed and/or cursed with a big appetite), so I decided to get another entree, at least in part to be able to give a wider-ranging review. I chose to save the curries for another night, and went with a noodle dish to try that aspect of the menu. While I was tempted to go with one of the canonical dishes like Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, or Drunken Noodles, I went in stead with one I'd not seen before, Bamee Racha, which was shrimp, chicken, and egg stir-fried with thin (angel hair, vermicelli) egg noodles. If you've ever had "Singapore Noodles" at a Chinese restaurant, imagine it with chicken, egg, and shrimp, and you'll have a good idea of what it was like. A nice, simple dish, nicely presented, and very satisfying. On the basis of this one, I'd be very interested in exploring the noodle section further.

      Dessert: Sticky Rice with Mango. They have a fairly wide range of desserts, some of which go beyond the standards, but it was late, and they were out of several, so I went with the old stand-by. Not sure if it's possible to screw this up, and they did a fine job with it.

      On the whole, I'd say this place is deserving of some Chowhound love, especially if you live in the area and don't have a whole lot of Thai options closer to where you live. It's also a very convenient Plan B for those times when Grace Garden is full. Will it take your breath away with exhibitions of creativity and tempt you with Thai dishes you've never dreamed of before? Probably not. But they do seem to be capable of delivering high quality Thai at reasonable prices, in a location that is not exactly overrun with nearby competitors for your Thai dining dollars.

      In short, this appears to be the sort of "good value for good food" place that we on Chowhound like to support. As much as I like the folks at Grace Garden, I do hope that some of us give their neighbors some business, too.

      Grace Garden
      1690 Annapolis Rd, Odenton, MD

      Bangkok Kitchen Thai Restaurant
      1696 Annapolis Rd, Odenton, MD 21113

      Sticky Rice
      1224 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

      1. re: Warthog

        Kop khun mak krap for taking one for the team. I've never been to GG when it was full, but it's good to know there's another option nearby. What are prices like, out of curiosity?

        (Also, there is, in fact, bad Thai food. Thai Old Town in Alexandria, for example, is insipid at best. And there is also excellent Thai food; at the very high end of the scale, Arun's in Chicago is an amazing experience, with a tasting menu that rivals any of the ones we have in DC.)

        Thai Old Town Restaurant
        300 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

        1. re: sweth


          Most of the entrees are in the $8.95-$12.95 range, with the vegetarian options in the $6.95-$8.95 range, and a couple dishes that have the choice of meat go up to $14.95 if you choose the "seafood" option. Appetizers, soups and desserts are within the respective ranges that one would expect based on the entree pricing.

          Portions are not huge, but let's face it - most restaurant portion sizes these days actually are a little bit bigger (or in some cases, a lot bigger) than what is really good for us, so I would say that the portions here are well within what one should reasonably expect.

          Thanks for the rec on Arun's. I'm originally from the south suburbs of Chicago, and maybe I'll try it one day on a trip home. I've heard the name mentioned in favorable tones for years, but have not yet gotten there. you just pushed it up a few notches on my "to do" list.

          1. re: sweth

            ...and probably my favorite. Thai Lotus, situated in a deserted shopping plaza at the dead end of the Vegas strip. Outstanding native northernThai dishes closer to Cambodian. No need to beg for more heat.

          2. re: Warthog

            Thanks for the report - I might have to try that squid dish tomorrow for lunch.

            FWIW, I've never seen GG very full at all, though I usually go during weekday lunch time. If anything, most business seems to be carryout.

            And yes, I've had bad Thai. Busara in Reston Town Center has been the most recent, though there's one out near the Centerville Road clocktower that is shamefully bad.

            Busara Restaurant
            8142 Watson St, Mc Lean, VA 22102

            1. re: Dennis S

              Tara Thai is the mack daddy of bad Thai food.

            2. re: Warthog

              Tried it for lunch. At lunch they were fairly full, though most patrons seemed to be getting the food bar, which wasn't very robust or interesting.

              I just got a small meal.

              Yum Pla Meuk - the app that Warthog got. I wondered if it was similar to a dish at Thai Square and it's pretty close. At TS they simply call it Spicy Squid Salad or something like that. It's been awhile since I've been at TS, but I remember the sauce there being a little bit more full and nicer, but this version at Bangkok Kitchen "sparkled" with crispness and freshness. Very nice.

              Additionally I got a cup of Tom Yum. Not the best, but definitely a good take. They included 3 or 4 whole, tail-on shrimp in a CUP of soup. Nice value.

              There seemed to be a Korean place if you enter BK from the back. I didn't see the Korean sign on the front.

              Thai Square
              3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

          3. Bangkok Kitchen. I thought there was a thread on it but could only find this post from 2003. Based on this or another review elsewhere, we tried it a few years back. We're not Thai experts by any means, but even if the proffered menu disappoints, I would bet the kitchen could prepare dishes reserved for their Thai customers or others in the know. Can't recall any specifics other than to say we endeavored to communicate to our waiter (with the help of a regular at the next table) that yes, we wanted it Thai-hot. We've not been that way since, and our next visit will be to Grace Garden, but our one visit did not disappoint, and it is our plan to return. Sorry not to be more helpful.


            1 Reply
            1. re: tfbrennan

              Have definitely hat bad Thai - Once outside of Fort Rucker, Alabama and the second in Eatontown, NJ.

              Also, the thai restaurant in Las Vegas referenced above is called Lotus of Siam - And yes a very good place for Northern Thai Specialties. The walls are littered with pictures of Celebrities that have dined there. They also have a fantastic selection of Alsace and Germany white wines to compliment the cooking.