by Alice Levitt
2403 Shelburne Rd., Shelburne, 497-3288
Remember Bangkok Bistro Thai Steakhouse? I do. Following Amigo's, Little Saigon and Pattaya, the quirky steakhouse was the next short-lived restaurant to hit 2403 Shelburne Road back in 2006. I loved its marinated steaks, vegetables stir-fried in ginger, and bizarre domes of bright-blue sticky rice.
Why the trip down Memory Lane? Bangkok Minute Thai Café is the Chompupong family's return to the same address.
But where Champ Chompupong turned his restaurant into a dark, zebra-print-bedecked speakeasy, his son Bobby now brings a youthful, casual air to the restaurant.
Part of that is enviably low prices. Few dishes are much more than $10, though some ambitious cocktails are nearly that. Indeed, the sign at Bangkok Minute promises pad Thai and martinis, so it seemed only right that we try a sip or two.
On a hot evening out on the restaurant's pleasant front deck, just far enough away from the road, I couldn't resist a milkshake-like Thai iced tea. We also leaned toward tea on the boozy side, with a cocktail called the Bruce Lee. Composed of green tea, lemon and vodka, it wasn't as serious as a martini, but was an ideal refresher on a sticky Sunday evening.
When a fellow outdoor diner lit up a series of cigarettes, we decided to move inside, as close to a fan as we could. Soon after, dinner arrived. When I saw my chicken-noodle bowl, I was a bit concerned. Raw lettuce and tomatoes mixed with hot curried noodles?
Though it seemed ill-advised, the thick slices of iceberg barely cooked despite their steamy surroundings. Flavorwise, the tomatoes proved to be a delightfully acidic foil to the creamy, mildly spicy ginger-lemon curry sauce.
The sauce was delicious and complex, but a tad heavy on a hot day. The slices of chicken were grill-marked on one side, lending a nice charred taste. But I was particularly fond of the chewy rice noodles. Rather than the wide, flat pasta or vermicelli I usually see, these strands were round, like medium-thick spaghetti. The mouthfeel was surprising and highly enjoyable.
The same noodles appeared in the ultra-sweet pad Thai. Though heavy on the tamarind, a liberal dose of ginger mitigated its syrupy qualities.There was plenty of peanut, too, giving the dish a savory flavor that blended well with the scrambled eggs, chicken and puffy tofu.
Bean sprouts and a few raw carrots added a nice crunch. A big slice of lemon also helped to balance the flavors, though less-astringent lime would have been a better contrast.
We were full after our big noodle bowls and my milky, caloric iced tea, but I can never say no to mango sticky rice.
In this case, I wished I had. Though it was a huge portion — big enough for two or three people — the dish fell flat.
The mangoes, which hadn't quite achieved ripeness, were hard and not quite sweet. The rice was also under-sweetened and not as glutinous as it should be. The dessert is usually bathed in coconut sauce and sesame seeds, but this one was dry and bland.
Still, I hope to return, particularly for the restaurant's inexpensive lunch deal. Fingers crossed this new place lasts more than a Bangkok minute.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to email@example.com.