57 East Main Street
Westborough, MA 01581
New restaurants are always fun to check out. Westborough’s Bangkok Thai (at the former Mandarin location on East Main Street) was a place I wanted to try from the moment their opening sign went up. Today is opening day, and I had to check it out.
Entering the restaurant was familiar…the architectural “bones” of the Mandarin are still in place, including the curved entrance hallway, some false exposed beams, the fish tank, and some of the booth seating.
Quickly seated, I ordered a diet Coke and began to take the place in. It’s clear they’ve repainted, replaced the carpet, and brought in new tables. Some of the finer decorating touches have changed, giving the restaurant a more welcoming feel.
My server, Jay, quickly wanted to take my order. I went with my go-to Thai dish, the ever popular Pad Thai. Regular readers will recall Pad Thai is number 5 on CNN’s list of the world's 50 most delicious foods.
I asked if the owner was around, and Jay’s opening day enthusiasm had him running to bring the owner to my table. Opening day is fun; ask to meet the owner of an established restaurant and you may be greeted with the, “what’s wrong” look….not on opening day when pride is at its highest.
Boungnong Bounphasaysonh (who goes by “B.B.”) quickly appeared. BB is very personable and was pleased to share his story.
BB met his wife in 1986-7 in Southbridge, Massachusetts, and moved to South Carolina where they owned a small Thai restaurant. Six to seven months later, his Two kids later, the restaurant idea went to the back burner, BB works as an electronic technician and his wife is an inspector in a major company.
When his wife recently lost her job, and with two kids on college, they decided it was again time to get into the restaurant business. They selected Westborough as a great place to open a Thai restaurant.
His partner in the business is BB’s nephew and his wife.
BB has taken traditional Thai offerings and modified for the market. He commented his Thai food may be sweeter than what is often found in Boston which he characterized as dry. He is anxious to please, and you get the idea if an entrée isn’t perfect he’ll modify to request. He stresses how the food is healthy, and fresh. Bangkok Thai uses vegetable and soybean oil for frying, not peanut oil. His food is fresh, receiving multiple deliveries every week.
Investing his personal savings in this restaurant, he’s making a bet the restaurant will be successful. He put a lot of money into the kitchen, and he was pleased to show it off when I asked for a tour.
The kitchen was a beehive of activity, with the wait staff still bundling “brand new” knives and forks for dinner. The kitchen was absolutely spotless.
BB is asking the people of Westborough and local areas to come and try his restaurant. He wants people to know how good the restaurant is and to let him know what they think (he is consciously trying to meet every diner and greet them, gaining feedback.)
BB commented Pad Thai is a famous Thai food. It’s a specialty of Bangkok Thai’s chef, and BB boasted how he thought the Bangkok Thai’s Pad Thai is better than anyone else in the area.
At this point, BB was comfortable with our conversation and really opened up for an enjoyable conversation. His dad was from Thailand and his mother from Laos. BB was raised in Laos, coming to the US in 1980. When asked why a guy from Laos is running a Thai place, he shared how people would know Thailand and not be as familiar with Laos (officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west.)
BB proudly introduced me to his wife, Alise, who continued graciously hosting me. She asked BB why I wasn’t having Thai Iced Tea. BB quickly asked if I would like to try Thai Iced Tea. I didn’t have the heart to say I didn’t care for tea, and it’s good I kept an open mind. The Thai Iced tea is delicious.
Since Bangkok Thai is BYOB, I can confidently recommend the Thai Iced Tea. It is a very dense specialty Thai tea, with a sweetener with a splash of cream. The secret is the tea.
At this point, BB and Alise were hosting me like I was “in their home,” quickly suggesting Vegetable Thai Rolls as an appetizer. The Vegetable Thai rolls are made with carrots, celery, cabbage and vermicelli, accompanied by a sweet chili sauce.
Gazing at the enormous menu, I asked what the specialties are. At this point, another family introduction: Mary, BB’s niece, highlighted some very special entrees.
For lunch, Mary suggests the Meat and Vegetable section of the menu, where for $7.50-$8.00 chicken, beef, duck, pork, tofu, scallops or shrimp are paired with a vegetable - baby corn, broccoli, garlic, ginger, sweet-n-sour (pineapple, onions, peppers and carrots), snow peas, string bean, rama, bamboo shoots, basil leaves, pad prik khing or zucchini.
Mary let out more family insights as she chatted. It turns out BB is one of 11 children, and his mother is an “amazing cook” and the father a “great chef,” cooking into his late 70s.
Mary went on about how their Pad Thai is very sweet and universally enjoyed. The Red Snapper is one of Mary’s favorites.
She cautioned not to be frightened away of Thai food, because so many people think it is automatically spicy. Bangkok Thai has a level system of 1-5, with five being the spiciest. Items on the menu indicated as Hot and Spicy (Chili Pepper) are 0.5 on the 1-5 scale…in other words the chili pepper indicates there is some spice in the dish.
Everything on the menu is custom prepared, so they are happy to “spice it up” or down.
(Pad Thai has a spice rating of zero – no spices.)
The Fisherman’s Basket includes shrimp, scallops, squid, crab meat, mussels and assorted vegetables steamed in a foil display. Mary continued, “It looks like a turkey in the oven. It’s cut open in front of the guest, and pushed out. Great for impressing a first date.” (Note: Mary must be in marketing. She paints a vision better than anyone.)
Another favorite is the Three Flavored Fish (with a chili pepper). It can be ordered without spices.
Mary went on how Thai Curry has a creamed coconut base, for a sweeter taste than many Indian curries. Mary was still talking, as I began to enjoy the fresh, hot vegetable Thai rolls…crisp and hot. “We cater to everybody. We have the vegetable Thai rolls for the vegans, Thai rolls with chicken meat vegetables and noodles, and Bangkok Thai rolls with Pork.”
I commented on how tasty the Thai rolls are, and Mary summed it up with a knowing single word, “Fresh.”
Mary continued, “They want their business to be a sit down, family and friends, enjoying the meal. Take your time. This is not part of the fast food industry. We promote freshness.”
I asked who’s idea it was to open a restaurant now, in this economy. Alise and BB exchanged glances, and Alise acknowledges it was her idea. Her employer left the area, they’ve been saving for 20 years, and with the kids in school it was the right time to open the restaurant.
The Pad Thai is then served and is delicious. It is sweeter than ’s Pad Thai and just as fresh.
Their South Carolina restaurant was substantially smaller, a three table affair mostly serving take out. Bangkok Thai also does take out, although the website is not up as yet (BB’s son has that duty).
You quickly learn the entire restaurant is family. They are employing nine local people in this new restaurant, including many family members. It turns out my server Jay is BB’s nephew, “I’d be working at McCafe on the MassPike eastbound if this didn’t open,” and is a full time student at Quinsigamond.
Frankly, I entered the restaurant as a stranger, met many family members, and felt welcomed and embraced. This is the epitome of a proud family restaurant.
The people are friendly. The food is good. BB and his family have been saving for this for 20 years and have put all their savings into the restaurant.
Bangkok Thai is a great addition to the Westborough restaurant scene.
Monday – Wednesday 11:30 A.M. - 9:30 P.M.
Thursday- Saturday 11:30 A.M. – 10:00 P.M.
Sunday Noon – 9:00 P.M.
Bangkok Thai gets a GREEN LIGHT…go and enjoy.
About the RAG scale:
Green Light – Go and enjoy
Amber Light – Use caution
Red Light – Save your time and money