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Mystery Diner: Bangkok Restaurant a top choice for Thai food

GENEVA – Just like finding a go-to pizza-delivery joint or Chinese takeout place, Thai food is quickly joining the ranks of other ubiquitous order-out options in the Tri-Cities.

Whether it’s a weeknight curled up on the couch while venturing into the world of reality TV or a night out on the town, Bangkok Restaurant in downtown Geneva is my new go-to place for Thai. Did I mention that it’s BYOB?

Bangkok Restaurant is a neighborhood joint. Not quite a hole-in-the-wall, but it’s clear the restaurant owners don’t agonize over trendy design features or eye-catching opulence because they don’t need to; their customers keep coming back for what really counts – great food.

The unassuming red shop-front, located at 119 W. State St. in Geneva, can be easily missed when driving by since the only signage exists on the eatery’s front window pane. Peering through the glass before entering, I could see the restaurant was getting busy around 6:30 p.m.

Hanging framed photos of popular travel destinations in Thailand, along with a smorgasbord of Buddha statues and elephant trinkets embellish forest-green and yellow sponge-painted walls. The otherwise worn carpeting and outdated sets of tables and chairs are slightly uplifted with blue elephant-stitched tablecloths.

The service was a little slow, but I would recommend using that time to indulge in your brought beverage of choice.

With 55 items on the menu, the options are seemingly endless.

To start, we ordered the Shrimp Rolls ($5.95), triangle-shaped deep-fried spring roll wrappers filled with shrimp with a side of sweet and sour sauce for drizzling.

A few of the more traditional Thai dishes on the menu include Tom Yum Goong ($3.95/$8.95), a spicy shrimp and mushroom soup flavored with lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves; Pa-Naeng curry, a thick and spicy red curry sauce mixed with coconut milk, bell peppers, basil leaves and a choice of meat; and, of course, the ever-popular Pahd Thai ($7.95), one of the more complex stir-fried noodle dishes that put Thai food in America on the map.

I ordered my go-to Thai dish – the Gang Ga-Ree Gai ($8.95), a yellow curry dish with coconut milk, onions, peapods and hunks of beef that can be ladled over white rice. Make it as spicy or mild as you like, and the curry and coconut teamed with chunks of beef gave the stew-like substance a salty, sweet infusion of flavors and textures.

My dining companion was all over my yellow curry like white on rice.

After reaching for yet another spoonful of my Gang Ga-Ree Gai, he said, “I don’t normally like curry, but it’s really good.”

“Yeah, yours is pretty good, too,” I said with a sly grin on my face as I leveled the playing field by stealing two overflowing scoops of his Kao Pahd Combo ($9.95), Thai fried rice with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, eggs and onions.

The shrimp wasn’t overcooked and appeared robust in size, not the skimpy portions you’d expect to get in a dish like fried rice. The saltiness of the Thai fried rice complemented the sweetness of the curry dish nicely.

Even though we ordered separately, the dishes became fair game for both parties. And, together, we wiped each plate clean.

Bangkok Restaurant is about sharing. Share a bottle of wine (which you can conveniently pick up from SavWay down the street), and order more dishes than there are people at the table. The portions are manageable, so if you order three dishes for two people, you’ll probably end up with leftovers. That will also allow those who only recently jumped on the Thai cuisine bandwagon to stray from the popular Pahd Thai and sample other dishes that I am willing to bet are just as good – if not better.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

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