I didn’t start this blog to review restaurants but as my food interest gains momentum, I find myself wanting to blog about my experiences in various locations…whether they were amazing meals or not! The other night, I had a wonderful experience at a last-minute, randomly chosen restaurant and I decided to share it here.
A couple of nights ago, after running some errands, my friend Jen, and I were in downtown Toronto looking for a place to eat. It was just after 4pm and we both had to work at 6:30 in the Yonge/Queen St area so we didn’t want to stray too far for dinner.
As we drove, we discussed what kind of food we were in the mood for. She was much more familiar with the area than I, so I was the one throwing out suggestions and Jen would try to remember whether a restaurant in the area matched. At one point, I suggested Thai food. I hadn’t had any since my birthday in January and I realized as it came out of my mouth that, yes, I was REALLY in the mood for Thai! Luckily, so was Jen but neither of us knew of any nearby restaurants. Out came the Blackberry and we began to search the area. In a couple of minutes, I came across a listing for Buppha Thai Restaurant. I mentioned it to Jen and she said that in the years she had spent in the area, she had never eaten there. So we decided to check it out.
From the reviews online, we didn’t expect the outside of the restaurant to be overly striking. Many people said that the outside didn’t do the food and service justice so we followed their examples and overlooked it.
Buppha Thai Restaurant 110 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON
There were no customers in the restaurant when we entered so we were able to sit wherever we wanted. The server was kind and attentive, bringing menus to us pretty much immediately and taking our drink orders.
First things first…I glanced at the list of available beverages and I saw…a 6 oz glass of house red wine for $3.70! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a cheap price before!
I wondered about the actual size and quality of the wine I would receive but figured, what the heck, and ordered a glass.
Sadly, I neglected to ask what wine it was but, regardless, it was a nice dry red that went well with my meal. Not so dry that I found it tart (I generally dislike extremely dry reds) and low enough in alcohol content that it didn’t set off the spice of the food overmuch.
Thai Spring Rolls
We were given as much time as we needed to peruse the menu and we decided on a couple of appetizers to start. First, we ordered the traditional Thai spring roll. We received 3 rolls for $3.95 that were described as follows:
“Glass noodle, mushroom, carrots, bamboo shoots, wrapped in Thai pastry, served with sweet and sour sauce”
They were delicious. They arrived hot and freshly made, wrapped in a delicate, crispy pastry with perfectly cooked vegetable stuffing. I have tried many spring rolls in many places. I’ve had scary rolls that seemed mushy or overcooked and I have had awesome ones that make me desire a second order! If I hadn’t already pre-ordered my meal…I may have considered another order of these lovely little appetizers!
Coconut Soup w/Chicken
We also decided to split on an order of Coconut Soup with Chicken.
“An aromatic blend of coconut milk, lemongrass, galangale” $6.95 (with Chicken $7.95)
When the soup arrived, I thought it looked absolutely gorgeous. It had a somewhat creamy scent with spicy undercurrent and I couldn’t help but inhale deeply of the fragrance as I spooned out my serving. The soup was chock full of chicken! Happily, I noted that all the chicken was white meat and quite tender. (Not a big fan of dark meat if I have the choice).
The broth was lovely, especially if you’re a fan of coconut, which I am! Quite creamy at the start with a slightly tangy mid-taste from the galangale and a splendid lemongrass finish at the back of the palate.
I tried both a piece of the galangale and the lemongrass; the former tasted at first bite similar to a carrot, which quickly evolved into a piece of ginger and the latter was as you would expect, a lovely bouquet of lemongrass, but stalky and fibrous.
Soup Cast-offs: Galangale and Lemongrass
I asked and the waitress told me that some people eat them, but I took the time to remove them from my bowl after my initial taste. Their addition to the broth rounded out the dish nicely but on their own, I didn’t really like the texture or taste of either.
In hindsight, the only improvement I might have made to the soup would have been to add more vegetables.
For our main course, we both ordered Pad Thai. Jen noticed they carried both regular Pad Thai and a Curry Pad Thai. Being a curry fan, she didn’t think twice about ordering the latter. I spent a few minutes perusing the menu and eventually settled on the regular Pad Thai…since I’d been going on about wanting it for an hour at that point!
“Pad Thai: Thai rice noodle with tiger shrimp, tender chicken, tofu, eggs, tamarind sauce, sprinkled with roasted peanuts, served with bean sprouts and lime
– Mild, Medium or Hot” $9.95
Yummy tiger shrimp!
It was delicious! The chicken was the same as the chicken served in the soup…all white meat, quite tender and well cooked. The pieces of tofu were perfect, wrapped delicately in a thin, crispy skin and the shrimp were quite large! (Each pad thai came with two shrimp.) The noodles were cooked as I like them…not too chewy but with a nice texture and slight firmness rather than being mushy.
I chose the medium spice and it too was perfect. I’m not one for a lot of hot spice and the medium remained a light burn or warmth on my tongue. Just enough to set off the flavours.
“Curry Pad Thai: Fried rice noodle with chicken and shrimp, egg, tofu, green onion, peanuts, served with bean sprouts and lime in yellow curry sauce” $9.95
Curry Pad Thai w/Chicken
The two dishes were pretty much identical minus the sauce. Jen loved her meal and upon having a bite, I understood why. The curry was light, not overpowering and as already mentioned, the shrimp were large and well cooked, the chicken was tender and the noodles were a wonderful texture.
The desserts weren’t mentioned in the menu at all so I asked our server what they had to offer. The moment I heard the words “deep-fried banana”, my mouth started watering and we ordered a plate to share. We received six golf ball sized banana spheres for $5.95.
Their version of deep-fried banana wasn’t the best I’ve had…but it was still pretty damn good! And to be fair, it was the texture that I didn’t appreciate…another may love it! I found the banana centre a little mushy and the crispy outside a little greasy…I get the sense that had they been removed from the deep fryer just a tad earlier, all would have been great! Regardless though, as I said, they were slightly incredibly yummy…a soft, light banana flavour drizzled with a light coating of honey. Heavenly!
Deep Fried Banana
So, overall? An incredibly delicious, filling experience! The servings were a good size, I had pad thai for lunch the next day. (It reheats it quite well for the record!)
Feedback and room for improvement:
a) They were playing some random radio station over the sound system. Personally, when I go for cultured food, whether it be Thai, Indian, what-have-you…I prefer to eat while listening to authentic traditional music. My meal was somewhat tainted by random interruptions of hip hop and rap.
b) Around 5pm, I noticed that the server, there was only one, was dealing with a number of phone orders. People were arriving fairly consistently to pick up their orders and that caused us to have to wait both to ask about dessert and to get our bill. So, if you go, be aware that they do get busy, even if there are no actual customers on site.
Overall though, a pleasant experience in a nicely decorated, clean establishment. We split the bill, each paying about $25…not bad for the amount of food we received! I would recommend Buppha Thai as a cozy, casual place to go for some above average kick-ass food!