Smile Politely

Bangkok Thai opens restaurant on Cunningham

If you’ve read my review of Y Thai, you have a basic understanding of how much joy and happiness Thai food brings me. So when I heard the owners of the well-loved Green Street Bangkok Thai and Pho 911 had opened an Urbana location minutes from home, we set our date-night sights squarely on the new spot.

If you are here because you love the Green Street restaurant, the menu is identical. But set in the old Uncle Martin’s Sports Bar on Cunningham, the ambiance is both refreshing and stale. Only a few months out from opening, you can tell this small building had served its past life as a dingy sports bar. Several unilluminated beer signs still hang around the room. Nevertheless, it projects a certain confidence, as if they were saying, “Our food is good. We don’t need to perform our identity for you. Sit down and enjoy.”

My heart skipped a beat when I saw spring rolls ($4.95) on the menu — they are my absolute favorite Thai appetizer. Not fried, these delicate veggie-filled rolls are wrapped in a clear spring roll wrapper and often accompanied with a brown sauce with peanuts. Sometimes they include meat, and Bangkok Thai’s rolls featured shrimp and barbeque pork.

While I wasn’t disappointed, the pork was fairly dry and didn’t add much to the roll. I easily solved that problem by dunking it in even more sauce, which added crunchy peanuts and a deep salty note to the fresh roll. The wrapper wasn’t too thick, making it easy to eat, and the veggies were fresh and crisp.

Our entrees arrived promptly. We ordered a variety of meals to sample: chicken pad thai ($8.95), Xe Lua beef pho ($8.95), and red curry with tofu ($8.95). Because we like flavor and not too much heat, we ordered pad thai and chicken at the “3” level (on a scale of 1-6). The pho (pronounced “fuh”) came an assortment of sauces to add a custom amount of spiciness.

My partner in crime loves pho, and this dish hit the spot. An earthy broth soup filled with your choice of meat and plenty of rice noodles, it warms you up on a cold rainy fall day. This particular pho included a combination of brisket, frank, omosa tendon, and eye of round. Our server couldn’t tell us what the last two were, except “tasty.” While we’ve had pho with a more pronounced flavor elsewhere, there were plenty of pieces of meat to satisfy. We’d recommend trying some of the sauces to add some extra flavor.

I had my sights set on the red curry, given this was my go-to as a student when friends and I ate at the Green Street location. Arriving in a dramatic bowl with a generous portion of jasmine rice on the side, the curry was just as delicious as I remembered. The coconut milk certainly was the most prominent flavor, adding a creaminess and sweetness to the dish. I had ordered mine with tofu, which came in delicate thin triangles and nicely absorbed the broth. I only wish there had been more green beans or bamboo shoots, because its sweet broth with the creamy jasmine rice developed a dessert-like quality after a few bites.

We love chicken pad thai, and have consumed the dish in a variety of locals, and sadly this pad thai was not my favorite. Although packed with flavors of chili, peanut and onion, the noodles were pretty dry and stuck together, making it awkward to eat. I understand some folks like drier noodles and some like more sauce, so don’t let this deter you: the flavors were there, and the “3” level of heat was a nice compromise between spicy and hot. I added some red curry to the noodles and chicken (which was also on the dry side) and was perfectly happy.

At $8.95 for the typical entree and around $3-5 per appetizer, we were happy with the amount of food we were able to eat for the price. With great service and a laid-back atmosphere, we achieved a pleasant date night and satisfied our Thai craving. We’ll be back to try some of their other dishes, like basil chicken, pad see-ew, or chicken satay.

Bangkok Thai Restaurant is open Monday through Friday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Also open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

All photos by Emily Cross. 

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