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Bangkok Restaurant (Closed)

7906 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK

Also see Older Review: Nov. 2008

Bangkok Thai Cuisine

Fred and Lida, the long time owners of Bangkok Restaurant, established a sizeable and loyal base of customers in a suburban Oklahoma City neighborhood that was largely known for its chain restaurants, fast food, and dumbed-down Tex-Mex franchises. The photo gallery on the wall attests to the fact that many people have felt the need to spice up their lives with flavorful Thai cuisine. The Evans family have become good friends to many of us, with the down-home atmosphere giving the feeling that we are being served from someone's kitchen rather than being treated merely as patrons at a commercial establishment.

In Spring 2006, however, what looked like the end of a favorite institution became the start of a new chapter in Bangkok Restaurant's history. Fred and Lida retired, but rather than closing the restaurant they sold it to a long time employee who took over as head chef. This led to a transition period when Lida's recipes continued to be served at Bangkok while Thai Stop, a second restaurant opened by the new owners, provided the same style of Thai food in a more modern bistro setting.

As of June 2009, though, a further transition took place when the current owners took over (and the previous ones began devoting their time exclusively to Thai Stop on N. May Ave.). The current owners have kept the original menu, but are gradually introducing new dishes (as well as gradually phasing out some of the old ones). When I last visited in September 2009 most of Lida's original dishes were still served, but I do not know how many of them will remain once a full transition is made to the new menu. I do know that Thai Stop intends to keep most of Lida's dishes on the menu.

Bangkok Restaurant wants to keep its old customers happy as well as attract new ones, but the food being introduced seems fundamentally different to me than the food that was served for the first 20+ years of the restaurant's existence. Bangkok was one of the first (if not the first) Thai restaurants to be opened in Oklahoma City, and it will always be a nostalgic favorite of many of us. Once I visited the west coast, Chicago, and other cities, though, I realized that much of the food served had been altered for American tastes. I loved Lida's dishes, but I especially liked the ones that were the most true to Thai cooking styles. Bangkok had an extensive list of non-spicy, sweetened, and American style Chinese and Thai food that was popular, but which were never my favorites at the "old" Bangkok.

My conclusion to all of this is that I certainly enjoyed some of the things served at the original Bangkok, authentic or not, but I have found most of the changes now being made to be for the better. This is not to say that the transition has been without problems, but for the most part it has been very good.

Thai style hot and sour soup
Thai style hot and sour soup

One item that I think will be continued from the original menu is Lida's famous Hot and Sour Soup made with 18 ingredients, served Thai style (this is very different from Chinese hot and sour soup). This dish, as much as any, exemplifies how Thai food can be flavorful without being incendiary. The soup is far from the dark, watery hot and sour soup served in Chinese restaurants, instead offering a light broth filled with the offsetting flavors of meat, tofu, and vegetables (it is served with chicken). The list of 18 ingredients will probably never be revealed to the public, but it is fun to try to discern as many as possible. I think the new owners have done a good job of following the recipe as I remember it, and I was not disappointed with the soup.

Lemongrass Tofu
Lemongrass Tofu

I always thought Lemongrass Tofu was one of the best items served at the "old" Bangkok, mainly because it had more of the Thai flavors than some of the other dishes. When I tried it in 2009, though, it did not taste the same as I had remembered it. The new owners explained that it was one of the "American style" dishes continued from the old menu, and they were not familiar with it as being a dish from Thailand. This is one of the dishes that was continued from the old menu so previous customers would find things that were familiar, but I think it points out some of the problems with the transition to the new menu. They are trying to cook the dishes from the old menu as customers remember them, but with varying degrees of success (the hot and sour soup seemed much closer to Lida's recipe than the lemongrass tofu).

Ginger chicken
Ginger chicken

Ginger Chicken is a non-spicy dish that I think is on the menu to provide the type of food that was served at the "old" Bangkok. I thought the food was good but not great, and was typical of what I have found from the "old" menu.

Pad pick khing
Pad pick khing

Pad Pick Khing is an example, though, of what is good about the new restaurant. Made with red curry (with no coconut milk), lime leaves, and green beans, this is something I kept requesting at the old restaurant but it was not on the menu. This is a traditional Thai dish that is served at many of the city's Thai restaurants, and I think Bangkok compares favorably to the other restaurants now that this dish is being served. The chicken was very good (something that is not the case at all restaurants), and the curry had a good flavor. The dish here, like many in other restaurants, was not enough to fill me up, but a large bowl of rice that came with it was more than enough. I ended up being pleased with both the quantity and the quality.

Pad Gra-Prao, made with chicken and basil, was another very good dish from the "new" menu. Actually the menu was a supplemental piece of paper inside the regular menu with a few authentic dishes, and I think it will expand over time. Items from the supplemental menu are the ones where the owners use their own cooking style, and from now on I think are the only things I will order at Bangkok (with the exception of the hot and sour soup).

I had some problems with some of the dishes I ordered being too spicy, but they were ones from the old menu that the new owners were trying to make "Thai style" (at my request), but I think they put too much chile. I have found that if I order their authentic dishes they know how to make it, and how to balance both the flavors and the spiciness. I had received e-mails from people complaining that the food at Bangkok was not right, and my experience was the same. Now I think, though, that ordering from the new menu will solve the problem. I have been more than impressed when the owners have served their own recipes.

This was stated earlier, but I just want to emphasize that the food from the "old" Bangkok is still available at Thai Stop. My recommendation would be to go there if you want anything from Bangkok's original menu (although the hot and sour soup has been good at both restaurants).

The Jasmine Tea is brewed with loose leaves, and is about as good as I have found in OKC. This is one thing I am glad they kept from the old restaurant.

The Thai Tea, however, is made from scratch, and is so good compared to the ones that most restaurants serve that it really should be experienced at Bangkok.

Home Made Ice Cream was one of the best items at the original Bangkok, but I have been somewhat disappointed with it since 2009 (not that there is anything wrong with it, but only that it was not as outstanding as before).

Fred and Lida built up a following of customers who have been fiercely loyal over the years, and for good reason. Now, though, I think there is the opportunity to experience a greater range of Thai flavors than was served previously. To me this is a change for the better.

Photos of  customers who have come over the years
Bangkok has photos of customers who have come over the years



Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (loose leaves)/ Thai tea
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer
Special Features: Lunch specials Mon.-Fri.

Most Recent Visit
Sep. 18, 2009

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Pad Gra Prao, Pad Pick Khing, Hot and Sour Soup

Special Ratings
Hot and Sour Soup:
Lemongrass Tofu:
Ginger Chicken:
Pad Gra Prao:
Pad Pick Khing:
Thai Beef Noodle Soup:
Thai Tea:
Ice Cream: