Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bangkok Delight: Today's Best Restaurant in Howard County

Today, I think the best restaurant in Howard County is Bangkok Delight just off Rte 108 in Columbia.

I already posted that I normally can't even rank my Top 10. But Wednesday night Mrs. HowChow and I drove to Bangkok Delight for dinner, and I ordered three entrees because I honestly couldn't pick just two. The Malaysian brown curry with chicken. The drunken noodles with tofu. And the special eggplant vegetarian stirfry, which was pricey for vegetables at $17 but absolutely delivered.

Bangkok Delight qualifies as a best restaurant because the food is beautifully cooked and because it is subtle and wide-ranging enough to compete with any other kitchen around. The vegetables were exquisite. Stirfried with a light sauce, but they were mostly delicious because someone cooked them perfectly -- cooked through, but still firm. Eggplant. Zucchini. Onion. A few hot peppers that really carried a wallop.

This isn't mere shopping center food. Thai hot peppers are disaster in unskilled hands, but Bangkok Delight serves up just enough for zip and flavor and serves them on pretty plates with a carved-vegetable flower decoration. That skill crosses a broad menu -- laab with its minced chicken and lime flavor, soups that balance lemon grass and coconut milk, stirfries, noodles and curries. Bangkok Delight serves five curries, and they're each unique. This week's brown curry tastes of coriander, cinnamon and cloves in a sauced tinged with coconut milk and peanuts. At the other end, the green curry leads with hot peppers that bring the perfect fire -- except for the few times that it has actually been too hot for me. This kitchen shares the skill and range of places like Iron Bridge Wine Company -- a yardstick for great dining around here.

On top of all that, it's pretty with paper umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. This isn't the gravity of Jordan's Steakhouse or even the decor of Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro. But it's pretty enough for a date, and it's perfect for a night out or to please visitors who love food. All at prices below almost every other great restaurant around. (We spent $50 on a dinner that would have fed three at least.)

In the end, I blew the budget Wednesday because I couldn't pick just one dinner. The eggplant was a special. I wanted a curry. I was amused by a wing appetizer, enticed by some duck options, and finally couldn't leave without

noodles. But pad thai or drunken noodles? We ordered three entrees, then packed a meal's worth of leftovers into containers so that we would still have room for the mango sticky rice. Mrs. HowChow has it every time. Like the kheer at Akbar, Bangkok Delight's sticky rice converts humble grains into a rich, sweet pudding. Simple, normal enough to please even someone without an adventurous palate. And the perfect way to end the best meal in Howard County this week.

(Update:  In 2010, I wouldn't say this is the best restaurant.  We had a few less-perfect meals.  It's nice, but it didn't make my Best Restaurants list for 2009.)

If you like Thai, you should also check out Bangkok Garden in Oakland Mills in Columbia. If you want other Asian, try Korean at Shin Chon Garden or Mirocjo. Click here for my take on the best restaurants in Howard County. Click here for my prior post about Bangkok Delight and how it captures the authentic flavor of Thailand.

Bangkok Delight
8825 Centre Park Drive #A
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: The Giant off Rte 108 just west of Howard High School and east of Rte 29. Bangkok Delight is in the shopping area just north of Giant. Look for the Burger King on the corner.


DAS said...

I don't know if I'd say this is the best restaurant in Howard County — it could be, but I haven't eaten at them all — but it is definitely well above the average area Thai restaurant. I love a restaurant that believes you when you say you want it hot. The decor is nicer than most as well.

HowChow said...

I only claimed it was the best for the day. I can't ever really decide. Thanks for the comment. Please add your thoughts about any of the places that I mentioned.

Anne said...

I love this place too. There is never a wait when I go, even at the restaurant rush hour, which is a huge bonus on top of the good food.

Anonymous said...

best restaurant in HOCO? ABSOLUTELY! I live in Gaithersburg, and I still go back to Columbia to get the chicken w/green curry at Bangkok!

Pavlina said...

I think this was some of the worst Thai food I have ever had. Maybe it was an off day, but I swore I would never go back. I am sorry to say I don't remember what we go, but it was probably Beef Ka Prow, Tom Yum Soup, a curry (maybe yellow) that kind of thing. I was so dissapointed i this restaurant, and when I heard it was so highly regarded, I started cooking my own Thai food at home. I am spoiled though, I lived in Chicago and they have some great Thai food there.

Anonymous said...

I love the food, but I do have one complaint:

I like spicy food. I generally order my food "native Thai" and the waiter always asks me if I'm sure. Then I get the dish and it is never spicy enough. I am always forced to ask for extra chili on the side to add to my own dish. I just feel like they see a white guy and figure no way can he handle the heat.

Lyss said...

My hubby and I have been faithful patrons for years. However, our visit this week left me disappointed. Has there been a change in chef? I ordered their standard basil chicken and it was just not quite right. It had a different sauce, different bell peppers, and practically no basil. The lemongrass soup was almost too lemony and too sweet. I think we'll have to try one of your other recommendations.

HowChow said...

Lyss -- It is strange that you raise these questions. I have loved Bangkok Delight, but my last visit was not inspired. I wrote about how I got an incredibly hot curry. In contrast, the special appetizer was blah. I don't know anything more than that single meal, but I didn't feel like rushing back soon.

Stephanie Hughes said...

It's one of our favorite restaurants in Columbia, it is tied with Sushi King. Love Love Love this place and we can always get a table, never a wait.