Bangkok Cuisine's staff from left: Tony Sertt, Samart Sutthiprapa, Sompis Sutthiprapa, Pranee Finlayson, Fissamai Laothong, Jirawadee Jomputta, and Siriya Sutthiprapa. Photos by Ralph Stewart
Taste of Thailand in Oak Bluffs
The storefront at 67 Circuit Avenue remained empty nearly all summer. But by mid-August there were signs that the Thai restaurant that was rumored to be opening might actually arrive. Sure enough, Bangkok Cuisine, one of three other restaurants owned by a Thai couple off-Island, became a reality for Vineyarders who crave the unique, flavorful palate of Thailand.
Bangkok Cuisine, open for lunch and dinner daily (except Sunday when it is open for dinner only) year-round is a welcome addition to the Island dining scene. Located on Upper Circuit Ave. in a light-filled Victorian building, the small, charming restaurant offers an extensive menu of traditional Thai appetizers, soups, entrées, and desserts at moderate prices. You can specify how spicy you'd like your food, and items that are already hot are marked on the menu.
The ever-so-colorful array of soups and entrees offered at the restaurant.
On a recent weeknight, my dinner companion and I lucked into an empty table at about 7:15 pm. The restaurant was packed and, as is typical in the off-season, filled with familiar faces. The manager and other staff were extremely gracious, our server offering an explanation of menu items and making recommendations for our order. We started off by sharing a combination platter of spring rolls, chicken satay, fish cake, chicken wings, dumplings, tofu, and several other traditional Thai appetizers. It was a great way to sample a wide variety of finger foods without filling up. There was something to please every palate, the flavors a pleasing mixture of sweet and spicy.
Thai food, for the uninitiated, is a mixture of five flavors - spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. The country, divided into regions, features different types of cuisine, some emphasizing heat from chili peppers, others relying heavily on lime juice. The food is derived largely from Chinese and Indian cultures with influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, and French. The result is a combination of baking, grilling and stewing, frying, stir-frying and deep-frying. Herbs and spices are mainstays, as well as fish sauce. Rice is a main ingredient, accompanied by different spices, curries, stir-fries, chilies, lemon grass, and lime juice.
A full Thai meal typically consists of either a single dish or rice with many complementary dishes served concurrently. Fragrant jasmine rice is indigenous to the country while steamed rice is served with curries, stir-fries and other dishes. Noodles are often served as well, accompanied by meat or vegetables and tofu.
The char-grilled Salmon in a tamarind sauce is decorated with flower-shaped carrots.
Entrees at Bangkok Cuisine are served with your choice of tofu and vegetables, chicken or pork, beef or seafood and priced accordingly. The menu features noodle dishes, fried rice, curry and house specials ranging from salmon tamarind to stir-fried shellfish with mixed seafood, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and basil leaf.
I chose Pad Thai with chicken, a signature Thai dish with rice noodles stir-fried with egg, chicken, shrimp, scallions, bean sprouts, ground peanuts, and Thai spices. The flavors were subtle yet pleasing, the dish filling but not overly so. My friend selected Masaman Curry with chicken from the list of seven curries on the menu. It was zesty but not overly spicy, a generous portion of chicken, onion, bell pepper, tomato, potato, carrots, and peanuts. The food was flavorful and fresh; the service prompt and gracious. We had heard of slow service during the restaurant's first weeks of operation, but we did not experience that problem, despite the crowd.
While the servers may have the timing down, Bangkok Cuisine did run into some trouble recently. They were instructed to close their doors for an afternoon last month per order of the Oak Bluffs board of health. The technical violation was issued on Oct. 25 because the restaurant failed to have a certified food handler on the premises while they were serving meals that afternoon. The lunch diners were asked to finish their meals and leave. The eatery reopened for dinner that evening.
The Bangkok Duck, one of the menu's many highlights, comes with an assortment of vegetables in a delicious sauce.
We topped off our introduction to Bangkok Cuisine with a dessert of lychees, tropical fruit from South East Asia that is peeled, seeded, and canned in syrup for export. While my friend decided they were an acquired taste, I enjoyed their sweet distinctive flavor. Our server then offered us a complimentary sampling of rambutan, a relative of the lychee that is slightly more acidic in taste. I found both fruits to be a light, refreshing ending to a satisfying meal.
Judging from the lack of empty tables and the volume of take-out orders that seem to be pouring in, Bangkok Cuisine seems destined to find its niche on the Vineyard. A heads-up: the restaurant currently has no liquor license and the town of Oak Bluffs does not allow patrons to BYOB. So, for the time being at least, diners will have to enjoy the rich, exotic flavors of Thailand accompanied by non-alcoholic beverages only.
Bangkok Cuisine is located at 67 Circuit Ave. in downtown Oak Bluffs. It is open Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm; Sunday 4 pm to 9:30 pm. Take-out is available. Appetizers range from $5.95 to $9.95; Entrees from $9.95 to $25. Phone: 508-696-6322. Major credit cards are accepted.