**Closed the Summer of 2011**
They say you find love when you aren’t looking for it. Those serial daters who go out night after night, looking for the love of their life on Match.com or OK Cupid, getting set up on blind dates by their coworkers (or worse, their mothers) are trying too hard and wasting a lot of time. If they lightened up a little, lived their life as they usually do, love just might come to them.
I think I might have fallen into that category when it comes to restaurants in Fort Collins. I’m continually on the search for the next restaurant that I will fall in love with – review after review, meal after meal – I keep my high hopes and end up finding a lot of mediocre food along the way. This time, life presented me with an opportunity where I could kill two birds with one stone – a meeting and a review all in one. I wasn’t thinking much about the place, other than readers have told me I had to go because it was very good. I wasn’t expecting to be enamored. I wasn’t looking for a restaurant crush. But, this is where I found the next restaurant I’ve fallen head over heels in love with.
The Bangkok Kitchen is the newest Thai restaurant to join the other five Thai-specific restaurants in Fort Collins, opening February of 2011in the space where Caribbean Food Shack used to be. Somewhat hidden in Campus West on Elizabeth next to Freakshow Tattoo, Pita Pit, and Tiger Lily – The Bangkok Kitchen is a very small hole-in-the-wall, except it’s not dingy or worn, but bright and comfortable with sunny yellow walls and beautiful solid dark wood seating (and a few picnic tables out front). For a new, small space with about six tables, they’ve done a fantastic job of making it feel like a place you want to stay and hang around for a while.
Chef and owner, Varee “Took” Dawson is a highly trained and experienced Thai chef with a multitude of awards and hours of training in Thailand. She also owns the Bangkok Asian Market on Drake and Shields. While she has an impressive set of culinary credentials, she keeps it clean and simple, “making the food your mom used to cook – if she was Thai, and if she was a really good cook,” as they claim on their website. They are committed to bringing quality authentic Thai cuisine to the Choice City, and the best part – if you don’t see your favorite Thai dish on the menu, ask and they will make it for you.
I had lunch one afternoon with a fellow Cohere member to enjoy a meal for the review and talk shop. After taking in the menu, we decided to start with crystal rolls and egg rolls. Both were lovely, but not quite the loveliest. From this point, my heart wasn’t completely captured. They were fine and delicious – the accompanying peanut and chili sauces were loaded with intense red chili flavor, but it was not cupid’s bow-type love.
Then we ordered entrees, and that all changed.
My friend, Ken had the Tom Kah -coconut soup made with chicken broth, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir leaves. Filled with mushrooms, chicken, and flavored with limes, fish sauce, and Thai chilies.
This was absolutely fantastic soup. So light and creamy, savoriness with a tangy sweetness – a rounded taste that layered together like a rainbow of flavors. It had a freshness to it that was unbelievable – crisp, distinct flavors with a tender firmness to the mushrooms and chicken. Incredibly simple, yet absolutely loveable.
I ordered the Pad Thai – classic Thai and a Fort Collins favorite. Stir-fried rice noodles with Pad Thai sauce, bean sprouts, chives, eggs, and tofu. It was served with crushed peanuts, chili, lime, and fresh bean spouts. I ordered shrimp to be tossed in the mix.
Just like the soup, this was a well-balanced dish with each flavor of sweetness, spiciness, sourness, and savoriness all holding hands in a delicious embrace. Strands of soft, chewy noodles twirled together with crunchy mounds of peanuts and snappy bean sprouts. The tangy Pad Thai sauce with spongy bits of egg filled my mouth with home-cooked love. I just wished there had been more shrimp in there to make it even more heavenly.
I came back again for dinner with the kids, ordering sesame chicken for them to share. This isn’t very similar in taste to any other sesame chicken in Fort Collins. Most are sickly sweet with a thick layer of oozy stickiness to them. This dish, while still deep fried and sprinkled with sesame seeds, was rather glossed with sweet and sour sauce that had a more nutty savoriness instead of sweetness. Mixed with the jasmine rice, it deepened that roasty essence and tantalized the bite with aromatic nuances. Different and divine.
This time for my entree, I knew I needed to try the Som Tum – papaya salad. It consisted of shredded green papaya, tomatoes, peanuts, garlic, chili, limes, and fish sauce. It was also served with three pieces of fried chicken and sticky rice. I ordered this with a medium level of heat.
Eating this on a hot summers day at that level of spice was like fighting fire with fire, getting flushed and breaking a slight sweat to cool down. It was a moment where I reminded myself of “no pain, no gain.” Heat in the dish slapped my taste buds with a stern sting, but made amends with a gift of tasty vibrant vegetables drenched in a layer of subtle salty kisses. The accompanying fried chicken is probably as close to real fried chicken as we get – the slightest bit greasy, with a crispy crunch – having the familiar soul of southern fried chicken but with the uniqueness of Thai spice. The sticky rice was pleasant, until it quickly dried out after unwrapping from the cocoon of tin foil that it was served in. Being in a hot and arid climate, I couldn’t hold it against them. The first few bites were nice and chewy.
When I came into The Bangkok Kitchen, I wasn’t really looking for one of the best restaurants in Fort Collins. I was expecting good, happy food, but instead I found morsels that turned me love-struck and set my heart aflutter. The combination of experience and quality of food, the care Chef Took takes to come out of the kitchen and ask every diner how their meal was, and the intense yet crisp balanced flavor that is wrapped in each dish – I have been swept of my foodie feet.
The Bangkok Kitchen
1232 West Elizabeth Street C-7
Kid-Friendly? No kids’ menu, but it’s easy to have the kids split an entree. There aren’t any high chairs, either.
Parking: Shared shopping center lot
Healthy Options? Many! Low-cal, and vegetarian and gluten-free options available.
Budget-Friendly? All entrees are under $10
Recent Health Inspection: Unavailable