I had lunch there today, Tom Sietsma's review yesterday notwithstanding, as I was craving it. I always have mixed feelings when a restaurant I like gets a good review. Just selfish I guess.
I ordered the crispy pork with chili-basil from the lunch menu ($5.95). It turned out to be the pork belly that he mentioned in the review. I was surprised, as the dinner menu calls it pork belly but the lunch menu calls it crispy pork. Whatever you call it, it was as good as he says in the review: both crispy and meltingly soft, with some strips of green bell pepper and the basil. Yes, it was fatty, but meaty as well. I nodded in response to the waitress' question whether I wanted it spicy. It was fairly high on the thermometer, since it made my eyes water in addition to the runny nose, which occurs at lower levels. But then, I did eat the peppers. In addition to the slices of both red and green hot peppers, it was stir-fried with the hot pepper paste that you get sometimes on the side in Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, and that may have added to the heat. I was very pleased with the dish. My lips burned for a bit after I finished.
The only glitch was that I wanted to add a spring roll to my order (possible at lunch for an extra $1), but was informed that they had just run out (close to 1:00). Then, the man who came in just a bit after me ordered it and got it. Oh well. It was fine as there was more food than I really should have eaten anyway.
I've posted on Bangkok 54 before, but to recap: over the last 4 months I have stopped in, it has been consistently excellent. But then, three stars is unusual for an Asian restaurant. On a half dozen lunch visits, we have now tried: spring rolls, spicy roast duck salad, roast duck noodle soup, bamee noodle soup with roast pork, wonton and bamee noodle soup with roast pork, pad thai, and crispy squid with basil, in addition to the crispy pork. The only real disappointment so far was the pad thai, which we found too sweet, as indicated in yesterday's review. I may prefer the duck salad at Thai Square, but it was still just fine at Bangkok 54. I really like their crispy squid with basil, although I like it a lot at Thai Square, too.
I've tried two desserts: bua loi and meh wan. Normally I do not like desserts but I find that Asian and Middle Eastern desserts are so different that they are intriguing even if too sweet for me. Both help to cool down the mouth after a spicy dish. They come in very large servings.
If you don't know it, bua loi is kind of heavy, as it consists of is little taro pudding balls in sweetened coconut milk. Bangkok 54 serves it warm, although I prefer it cool, particularly as it was high summer when I had it. I don't know if you can request it cool, but I may if I order it in the future.
The other dessert consists of fruit with cracked ice. I have had this in various forms ranging from canned fruit cocktail with ice cubes to fresh fruit with cracked ice. In Thailand, order it at your peril unless you trust the water supply for the ice. At Bangkok 54, it a somewhat spectacular presentation consisting of a glass bowl with a large serving of largely unidentifiable (at least to me) Asian fruits, seeds, and jellys, much of which may be canned but what the hey--they are in Thailand too. Over this are two layers of shaved ice with different flavors. The top layer is sprinkled with a neon red sweet syrup like grenadine; the under layer is dark with a subtle flavor that I can't identify but is very good. Over top was sprinkled what was probably sweetened condensed milk like is used in Thai iced tea or coffee. I can see going in on a sweltering Washington day in July and getting just this dessert.
According to the waitress, they are very busy for dinner, with a line to get in last Saturday night (folks must have read their Sunday Post magazines). My advice is to go for lunch or wait until the hordes follow Tom Sietsema to another restaurant. But definitely go.