9 of us converged upon Bangkok 54 on Tuesday the 26th to take part in the third stop in a series of Thai outings. Bangkok 54 was tied for first place with Thai Square when I conducted a poll of local chowhounds early this year. We had decided to visit fairly late in the series to let the hoopla following a Post review fade.
Labacchante, who is no stranger to Bangkok 54, took the lead on ordering. We had:
Salt & Pepper Calamari
Green Papaya Salad
Green Curry (chicken)
Crispy pork with chili basil
Five Spice stewed pork
Spicy roasted tofu with basil
Pad Phrik Khin Jae (mixed vegetables)
The Salt & Pepper Calamari was well received and people commented about the tenderness of the squid.
The Larb was, in my opinion, the best version we've had at the three restaurants so far. The ground chicken was almost fluffy and the sauce was spicy but not so overpowering as to overwhelm the red onion and other ingredients.
The Green Papaya salad was another standout. While it was amply doused in an assertive fish sauce, the sauce was well balanced and the vegetables fresh and tasty.
The Sator shrimp came with a generous supply of sator beans. These are large green beans that look a lot like favas, but have a slight bitterness to them. People had mixed reactions to the beans themselves, but the shrimp and the chili sauce were big hits. We had a similar dish at Rabieng and I think the beans were less bitter there.
The green curry was a fairly classic presentation, with long strips of bamboo shoots in a green coconut curry sauce. The coconut wasn't too powerful in the sauce.
Crispy pork with chili basil was a pork belly dish. That means there was plenty of fat in the meat chunks. I thought the frying at Thai Square was better and provided a stronger contrast between the crisp exterior and the soft fat than it did here. The crispy basil leaves were nice but again, I think Thai Square's were better.
The 5 spice stewed pork was considerably better here than it was at Rabieng. Here, the meat was in tender chunks well seasoned with 5 spice powder. At Rabieng, the meat was swimming in a 5 spice sauce. This is a comfort food dish.
The spicy roasted tofu with basil was probably our most controversial dish. I believe some liked it not at all, while others liked it a lot. I was in the second camp, though I am still suspicious that we got wheat gluten rather than tofu. The texture seemed more like gluten to me. In any case, the "tofu" was dry and covered with seasonings, enough so that people thought it was a meat dish.
The Pad Phrik Khin Jae (is that the right dish?) was a mixed vegetable stir fry that was very good. We had a bit of trouble making it last the whole way around the table.
On the whole, I thought Thai Square was a bit better, but the larb at Bangkok 54 was better than we've had elsewhere.
The interior at Bangkok 54 is sleek and modern, with plenty of Thai art items on the walls and on shelves. It would be a good place to take someone who is a bit aprehensive about trying Thai food. The woman's bathroom (yes, me and my bathroom fetish) was clean and had attractive fixtures in line with the overall decor of the restaurant.
FoodieJudy noticed that Bangkok 54 participates in the Washington Post discount card program, which gives you a whopping 25% discount off the bill. After tax, tip, and discount were taken into account, the tab was a staggering $9 each.
Of note: Bangkok 54 has a lunch special list at $5.95, which is chock full of real Thai dishes found elsewhere on the menu. The larb, green papaya salad, 5 spice pork, crispy pork and green curry were all options for the lunch special.
Many thanks to Labacchante for organizing the meal.
Now everyone else can chime in and tell you what the food was REALLY like.