Savoring the Sweet and Spicy

Digest Lite Bites

June 18, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Off Nimitz Highway, you can slip into an inviting, elegant oasis to get away from the hustle of downtown and enjoy a tasty Thai meal.

  • Thai Green Curry ($5.70)
  • Mango Salad ($7.25)
  • Tom Yum Goong ($7.95)
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Started in 2001 by the husband-and-wife team of Patrick Chang and Thai Sansane Pornchairattanakun, Bangkok Chef combines authentic knowhow with fresh ingredients from local farmers.

But what is now a successful restaurant chain — the Laotian couple also has venues in Nuuanu and Manoa — didn’t begin as a restaurant at all. “We started out as a produce market,” says Chang. “And there, we also carried some ingredients for Thai food.”

It wasn’t long before the two realized they could expand their market to offer delicious cooked meals. “We had all of the produce there, and the Thai staples that we were selling,” Chang says. “And the most important thing was that my wife is a good cook.

“We started from two tables, and then added another, and then another.”

And now, the three restaurants have lots of tables — and lots of customers to fill them. Even on a recent weekday, a few patrons still lingered at the restaurant, leisurely enjoying a late lunch, and many more shuffled in and out to pick up to-go orders.

“For one thing, customers like that our food is very simple and consistent,” Chang says. “And our prices are very reasonable.”

A customer favorite is Pad Thai ($6.25), he says. The green curry keeps people coming back, too. The curry features an array of thinly sliced vegetables including eggplant, bamboo shoots, pepper and garlic, all swimming in the tasty sauce with just a touch of spice. “We add just a little spice that really brings out the true taste of the food,” Chang says.

And for special occasions, Bangkok Chef has concocted a special dessert: mango ice cream over coconut-flavored mochi rice, bathed in a fragrant pandanus leaf. This treat isn’t always on the menu, but it’s offered on certain occasions, including Father’s Day.

After all these years, the restaurant hasn’t strayed too far from its produce market origins, as Bangkok Chef still serves up fresh, local vegetables from Oahu farms. “We typically try to use fresh, local ingredients for our dishes. The tomato, eggplant, shallot, mango, lemongrass, ginger and basil are all from local farmers,” Chang says.

Now that it’s mango season, you can stop in for fresh fruit in the Mango Salad ($7.80). The dish, which is one of Chang’s favorites, is mixed with parsley, cashews and red onions and is accented with a tangy, sweet sauce.

Bangkok Chef

  • Where
    • Nimitz
    • 900 North Nimitz Highway
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
    •  
    • Manoa
    • 2955 E. Manoa Road
    • Honolulu, HI 96822
    •  
    • Nuuanu
    • 1627 Nuuanu Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 536-8570 (Nimitz)
    • (808) 988-0212 (Manoa)
    • (808) 585-8839 (Nuuanu)
  • Hours
    • 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
    • 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
    • Sundays