I have reviewed many great places to eat, but this is by far the most interesting restaurant with the most interesting menu I have encountered. For all of you Thai food neophytes, let me first try to explain what Thai food is. It is NOT just some glorified version of Chinese food or even Indian, though you will see some things at a Thai restaurant that look very similar to each of those cuisines. Yes, there are some familiar looking dishes for the timid, unadventurous diner such as fried rice, lomein noodles and curry dishes. But that is where the similarity ends. Authentic Thai food is in a category all its own, and I challenge anyone who has never tried it, to open their minds (and their mouths), and I promise, you will not be disappointed.
And some have the preconceived notion that Thai food is spicy. Well, it absolutely CAN be. But that is entirely up to you with each and every dish that you order. Owner and full-time Thai chef, Khanthong Kounlavong, grows her own Thai chili peppers right on the premises and can make your dish as hot as you can take it! But she also knows that some don't like it hot, and she is able to accommodate accordingly. Her “heat-scale” is 0-5, but I recently discovered that she can go much higher. I have gone all the way to #8, and believe me, I felt that all my body's impurities were gone afterwards. Khan, as her friends call her, is originally from Laos. And for those geographically challenged, Laos sits sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand in Southeast Asia. She began cooking at an early age. In 1998, she opened her first restaurant in Laos. After some success there, she decided to bring her skills to the United States, and in 2006 she began cooking for a Thai restaurant in Nashville. But she knew she wanted to open a restaurant of her own, and two years ago she seized that opportunity and opened Bangkok Pad Thai in Lebanon.
Located in a tiny little building on 104 North Maple right behind the Exxon station (across the street from Bank of America), Bangkok Pad Thai already has a VERY loyal following. Many people I run into tell me Khan's restaurant is their favorite restaurant, period. I spoke with one of Khan's regulars who informed me that he had actually worked and lived in Thailand for many years, and that this is the closest thing he has found to the food he had while living there; furthermore, he said Nashville has nothing that comes as close.
One of Khan's many “raving fans” is Paula Thielen. Paula is the wife of Martin Thielen who pastored at First United Methodist Church for many years. He and Paula are now living in Brentwood where he is the pastor at Brentwood Methodist Church. I ran into Paula at the restaurant recently, and she says she misses Khan's food so much that she looks for ANY excuse to come back into Lebanon so that she can eat at her favorite restaurant. She says that she has eaten at what were considered some of the best Thai restaurants anywhere around (especially when she and her husband lived in Hawaii), and that Bangkok Pad Thai beats them all hands down! Paula informed me that Khan will even come to your house to do Thai “cooking” classes. She brings all the ingredients and the cooking ware needed, and teaches how to prepare many of her tasty specialties (no “chef's secrets” when it comes to Khan). Paula got Khan to show her how to make one of her favorite things, the Fresh Rolls. These are very fresh, tasty spring roll wraps filled with shrimp, lettuce, fresh mint and cucumber. The secret to their popularity is in the special homemade peanut sauce that Khan serves with them. They are very delicious, and much healthier than the deep-fried rolls to which most of us are more accustomed. But every dish Khan makes, she does so with the freshest ingredients. Besides the aforementioned chili peppers, Khan grows fresh basil, lemongrass, mint and cherry tomatoes right on the premises – you can't get any fresher than that!
I would love to talk about my favorite dishes, but Angel and Becky probably wouldn't appreciate the length of my article. Suffice it to say, I have not found anything on the menu that I did not like. Everything REALLY IS good. There are so many different types of noodle dishes from Pad Thai down to Pad Woodsen, which are these very thin and tasty bean thread noodles. And I can honestly say, hers was the first menu I have encountered to have pineapple-fried rice – and of course, it is excellent! I do have to mention one of her many delicious soups – Tom Kar. This is a coconut milk soup with chicken, onion, mushrooms and other spices. My good friend Richard Moscardelli put me onto this, and I am very glad he did. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Thai tea and the Thai coffee that you will only find served here. I was warned that these are not for the faint of heart (I just did not realize how LITERALLY this was). These drinks have like double the caffeine and more sugar (this is not unsweet tea). They both also contain, believe it or not, half-and-half, which gives them a very creamy flavor that is unlike any tea or coffee I have ever had.
If you have not yet tried this great little restaurant, do yourself a BIG favor and go. You will not be disappointed. Khan is an incredible cook, but what I, and her regular customers love, is how genuinely nice she is. She LOVES to see families come through her restaurant's door.
Bangkok Pad Thai is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner (for you early lunch eaters, she opens her doors at 10:30 a.m.). The only day she is not there cooking her wonderful and varied dishes is on Sunday. I really hope to see you the next time I am eating there, which for me will be VERY soon