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Bangkok Beat Bistro: Get with the beat

The honey roasted
sesame chicken is nicely
done. In Singapore, the
meat would be pork. The honey roasted sesame chicken is nicely done. In Singapore, the meat would be pork.

Bangkok Beat Bistro
LG32 Empire Shopping Gallery
Jalan SS16/1
Subang Jaya
Selangor
Tel: 03-5637 8488
www.bangkokbeat.com.my

Bangkok Beat Bistro puts a different spin on Thai.

WHAT would be your usual mental image of a Thai restaurant? Lots of wood panelling (somewhat reddish in tint), filled with intricate carvings as the main interior decor theme, and perhaps soft traditional music tinkling in the background?

Nothing could be further from this stereo-type at the Bangkok Beat Bistro in Subang Jaya’s Empire Shopping Gallery. This year-old restaurant is intended to present the livelier side of Bangkok and other contemporary cities, hence, its decoration is one that eschews all those usual elements found in Thai restaurants.

Owned by Singapore-based Creative Eateries Group, BBB is the sister restaurant of the Bangkok Jam (there are four in the republic) chain.

“We could not use Bangkok Jam in Malaysia because another eatery had already used that name,” said Creative’s associate chief operating officer, Daniel Yong, who found time in his busy schedule to host a food tasting.

What is slightly different is that BBB has chosen the pork- and lard-free route, as opposed to its sister restaurants in Singapore. Thankfully, BBB still retains that all-important trump card for any restaurant – in this case, it is still helmed by a Thai chef hired from the central part of Thailand.

Starting with the usual staple, we tried two different spicy soups (tomyam), the clear tomyam seafood soup (poh taek talay) and the usual seafood in red tomyam (tomyam talay). The former was not at all fiery, unlike the tomyam dishes that I am accustomed to. My friend, Lee, remarked that it was too plain.

“You can call it a seafood soup with a hint of tomyam, but I can’t really call it a tomyam. However, I would say that the mild flavour is somewhat compensated by the fresh prawns and generous chunks of fish,” he said.

Som Tum Tod is recommended for those who
want their greens sweet and crunchy. Som Tum Tod is recommended for those who want their greens sweet and crunchy.

The tomyam talay (RM12.90; prices are before tax) was pleasant enough, but still lacked the usual hotness that “heat-seeking” Malaysians are used to. But then, this may be a good thing for newbies to Thai food, or for those who yearn for something more soothing.

“I’m surprised you guys found it too mild,” said Yong, who added that the level of spiciness had been adjusted based on feedback received from diners.

The olive fried rice (RM16) did a commendable job of being my comfort food, though one of my dining companions did comment that it was somewhat overly infused with pepper. The pineapple fried rice (RM17) is sufficiently balanced, but it came slightly soggy, thus imparting a rather starchy texture to the dish. We believe that perhaps a tad too much water was used for this dish.

The kangkong with sambal (RM13) was crispy and spicy enough, but special mention must be made of the hard-to-find som tum tod, or deep-fried green papaya salad (RM12.90). The dish was crunchy, sweet-savoury, and made for good finger food (if you are too lazy to use cutlery). This dish is recommended for those who still want their greens sweet and crunchy, though Yong joked that it is probably the most “unhealthy”, considering that it is deep fried.

The spicy mango salad with cashews (RM15) was acceptable, not overly sour or spicy, and was suitable for those averse to spicy food as the chef did not appear to be too liberal with finely-chopped chilli bits.

The seafood phad thai (RM18) was decent enough, with all flavours blending together pretty well. “The succulent prawns and squid rings are fresh and fried just right. There is not a single flavour that overpowers the rest. I also like the fact that the chilli powder is served on the side instead of mixed into the noodle as I can adjust the spiciness myself,” said another friend.

BBB really shines when it comes to meat-based dishes. The fried chicken wings with fish sauce marinade, or peek gai tod nam pla (RM17), was a conversation piece for the night, as it ticked all the boxes of what fried chicken wings should be. Fragrant, correctly-sized, and most important of all, crispy all round. I could eat the entire dish by myself, if not for the need to let my dinner companions taste this dish for their evaluation (everyone else loved it too).

The green curry chicken (RM17) was nicely cubed, and the amount of basil in it was just nice. The meat was juicy, fresh and tasty, thus making this another recommended dish.

The massaman beef curry (RM22) might have been a tad too sweet, but all was forgiven the moment one bit into those beef cubes, with my wife remarking that it was by far the most tender beef she had tasted. Also noteworthy was the honey-roasted sesame chicken (RM16), which was another nicely done dish.

This Thai classic dish is done correctly, with the
crunchiness of the kangkung still intact, even
when it seems to be swimming in a pool of
cooking oil. This Thai classic dish is done correctly, with the crunchiness of the kangkung still intact, even when it seems to be swimming in a pool of cooking oil.

The good vibes extended to the desserts, with everyone raving about the red ruby dessert with coconut ice-cream (RM13). The ice cream did not contain coconut gratings, thus lending an extremely smooth feel. But what was great was that the ice cream, sourced from a carefully chosen Malaysian supplier (not one of the giant dairy companies), was not overly sweet.

“Many people make the mistake of making it too sweet, when it is the ‘in-between’ sweetness that makes it different,” says Yong.

The mango and glutinous rice combo (RM15) was a nice surprise. With a touch of mildly salted coconut milk, the combination worked well to produce a nice savoury dessert. Likewise, the fried banana with hot caramel sauce and ice cream (RM13) were also a good combination of contrasts when one felt the refreshing coolness of the ice cream right after chewing the sizzling banana fritter.

For those who like cold drinks, try the lychee mojito ice blend with lemongrass (actually a non-alcoholic at RM12). While I did not taste any lemongrass in it, my wife liked the drink as it was the first time that she had tasted fresh mint in the form of a drink. Another alternative is the strawberry and lychee ice blend (RM12), which worked well with a solid blend of strawberries in the puree.

My favourite remained the Thai hot milk coffee (RM10) as it was sweet and robust. The avocado milk shake (RM13) was a letdown, as it tasted milky rather than avocado-ish. For comparison, do order one when you are in Indonesia.

The lemongrass tea (RM9) is prepared daily by boiling fresh lemongrass, and is not from teabags. While I think it was slightly weak, Lee found it soothing and refreshing.

“It has a pleasant aroma of lemongrass that is full-bodied but not overpowering. I would have preferred it a bit less sweet, but overall, I have no complaints. It was a good way to end the dinner,” he said.

According to Yong, BBB’s concept originated in Singapore a few years ago.

“It is a modern take on Thai cuisine, which extends all the way to the interior decor as well as the cutlery and even plates. We aim for a modern feel, a bit of a raw look so that it is more ‘lifestyle-ish’ as opposed to the more traditional Thai restaurants.”

Yong is confident that Singaporeans and Malaysians will take to the concept, and is in fact planning to open one more joint in Kuala Lumpur this year. The outlet at Empire is the first, while another outlet at fahrenheit88 (179 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur; Tel: 03-2142 9002) opened last December.

None of us walked out of the restaurant sweating profusely, as is usually the case after a fiery Thai meal elsewhere. While the tomyam seems to have been toned down, this does not mean that BBB is too watered down to be considered Thai. BBB is still a joint worth exploring on any given day. Call it Thai with a refreshing twist.