Restaurant Review: Bahn Thai Bistro

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Ever finish eating at a pretty good little mom-n-popperand, after collecting the check, flashone last look around its lackluster and liquor-license-lacking environs, and think, "If I come back, I'll probably just get takeout"? Yeah, me too. Well, Bahn Thai on Henderson Road isn't one ofthose restaurants.

With character - and chili pepper power - to burn, plusapatio (albeit strip-mall-situated) and refreshing adult beverage service, Bahn Thai provides you with more reasons to visit than just solid and affordable Thai food.

I'll start off with its eye-jolting,more-is-more, all-over approach to interior design - call it go-for-brokeAsian baroque. In other words, Bahn Thai's semi-cramped space looks positively wild.

First of all, there's a penchant for high-test color. This finds expression in ethnically appropriate knickknacks, doodads, curtains and valances, plus a large artwork depicting a decked-out lady surrounded by faux gold leaf.

There's also a striking lineup of pastel-hued parasols hung along a row of windows above squat tropical plants. There's other stuff, too - like neat, carved wooden things - but suffice it to say Bahn Thai clearly abhors a vacuum.

The menu is also packed. It supplies voluminous reading, which I suggest you peruse while sucking back a Singha Thai-made brew. But if theabundant verbiage getsoverwhelming, you could alwaysfast-forward to the "special dinner for two" (which would actually feed three, andprobably four)for $42 (it'sa terrificdeal considering it'll be enough for lunches tomorrow).

The $42 twofer starts off with soups. From these, I was a fan of the bold Tom Yum chicken ($4.25),which was full of poultry and fragrant with cilantro, fish sauce and lime. The similar Tom Kha chickenwas fine, but its heavy coconut-milk component was overly dominant.

A Thai salad is also included - I went with the stunningly huge Tiger Cry ($9). Above a bed of romaine lettuce was a ton of served-cold seared beef strips tricked out with cucumbers and fire-starting jalapenos. Dressed with a fish sauce, sugar and lime juice amalgam, the salad - like several items I tried here -was big and good if not as nuanced as those from the absolute top Thai placesin town.

The dinner for two also comes with the gargantuan Combo Appetizer ($11), which I suggest you get even if not going the special meal route. Served with three dipping sauces (two cucumbery ones and a sweet andspicypeanut-buttery one) were a preponderance of: Tod Mun Gai (juicy, spongy and fun ground chicken lumps); plump, smoky-grilled satays; cabbagy spring rolls; and good, sausage-filled fried wontons.

Entree wise, my Pad Pedd ($10) was an inspired stir fry of crunchy bamboo shoots, baby corn, green peppers, mushrooms and a protein (I went with shrimp) in a rockin' chili sauce with arousing garlic, sweetand fish-sauce aspects.

I also dug the smoky notes and variegated textures of the Pad Kuay Tiew Khua ($10). Big, fat, high-heat-seared noodles were complemented by crushed cooked peanuts, egg, onions, cilantro, lots of sprouts and cooling lettuce.

The Kang Dang (red curry, $10) was pretty good, if another instance of coconut milk overwhelming other elements. Otherwise, I liked its mild Thai aromatics (like basil) and loved its use of Asian eggplant.

The most interesting dessert was the delicious Bahn Thai Custard ($2.50). Reminiscent of a semolina cake, I preferred it without the traditional, if unusual (to me) toasted shallots on it.

For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog, Under the Table, at

Bahn Thai Bistro

1932 W. Henderson Rd., Northwest Side


Hours:11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily