September 16, 2009 > Restaurant Review: Banh Thai
Restaurant Review: Banh Thai
By J.D. Wolfe
"Sir, you can wake up now. We have arrived at SFO. Thank you for flying Thai Airways."
"Oh, yes, thank you. I was dreaming about the great Thai meal I had back in Thailand. It was at a very nice restaurant called Banh Thai. I can't wait to go back."
Actually, Banh Thai is a lot closer than Thailand... it's in Fremont. Very easy to find, Banh Thai is at the corner of Fremont Boulevard and Mowry Avenue, near Noah's Bagels and Barnes and Noble Bookstore. There is plenty of parking.
Entry through tinted doors reveals a pleasant surprise. The restaurant is well laid out with plenty of seating and authentic decorations; owner Joanne Chao has done a beautiful job. The staff is friendly and the Thai cook has mastered preparation and presentation of excellent Thai cuisine.
We began our meal with two recommended appetizers. First, grilled chicken on wooden skewers with a peanut sauce to die for (Sa-Tay). For the uninitiated, Thai peanut sauce is incredibly delicious. The other appetizer was also exceptional, grilled prawns wrapped in ground chicken and fried in egg roll batter (Kung Hom Pah). Dip one of these in the sweet and sour sauce that comes with this dish and you are hooked!
Spicy squid salad arrived as our second course and it is a generous serving containing several mini-size steaks of squid marinated in a vinegar-style dressing surrounded by lots of fresh veggies - tomatoes, shredded cabbage and more. This was a very pleasant surprise. By this point of our meal we were feeling satisfied and started to regret ordering additional dishes. However, when the third course arrived at the table, doubts disappeared.
Our third course started with Banh Thai Fried Rice. Stuffed in a hollowed-out pineapple, it was impressive. A gentle and flavorful hint of fish sauce used in many Thai dishes is present. Delicious!
The second dish in our third course was sweet and sour pork. It was fantastic and not heavily fried as it is in other cultures. This is a dish I would recommend eating with plain rice so the sauce can add its flavor to it. This is as enjoyable as the pork and veggies.
Barbecued beef - Thai Style arrived at the table and we knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that we had ordered way too much. Served with the same sweet and sour sauce that came with the appetizers, there was enough meat on this plate to feed an army. We sampled a few pieces with and without the sauce. The meat is marinated and well cooked. The sauce enhances the dish but is not necessary. Either way, it was just amazing.
We were just starting to relax when our server strongly suggested the mango dessert and sweet rice. I wanted to say, "Thanks, maybe next time" but my wife said we had to go for it to complete the meal. A few minutes later, our fourth and FINAL course arrived.
I would need an entire review just to describe how good this dessert is. The rice is soaked in syrup and mixed with crunchy little beans. This dessert takes complex starches to a new level. Fresh mango is sliced and surrounds the rice. Those who know me know I am a chocolate man through and through. This ranks as one of thee absolute best desserts I have ever eaten and it had no chocolate. I wonder... no forget it, chocolate is not necessary.
Needless to say we had take-home boxes for just about everything.
This is a must-go-to place!
Reviewed September 5, 2009
39060 Fremont Blvd., Fremont