Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati

What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!

You Just Can't Trust a Spring Roll

Bangkok Bistro3506 Erie Ave • Cincinnati, OH 45208 • (513) 871-0707

His Take

As faithful readers might recall, we first sampled the fare from Bangkok Bistro at Taste of Cincinnati last year, and our experience with their veggie spring rolls was pretty disappointing. But after several readers posted encouraging comments about Bangkok Bistro, we decided to give it, and its spring rolls, a second chance. The good news is that we’ve seen the light and had a wonderful meal (not to mention leftovers) at Bangkok Bistro; the bad news is that our original take on their spring rolls continues to be spot on.

Bangkok Bistro is a larger than expected restaurant on the edge of Hyde Park (or Hyde Park East as some call it). You can tell from the aroma outside the restaurant why nearly every table was full on a Saturday night. Our experience that night had some high highs and low lows, but you’ll have to keep reading for the details.

We arrived at Bangkok Bistro hungry, nay starving. And as we have a habit of doing in such circumstances, we knew right away we needed an appetizer. We had made a reservation, but unfortunately were running about 20 minutes behind schedule. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem, and we were seated immediately when we arrived.

This leads us to our first low-point of the evening. We sat at our table studying the menus as we took in the organized chaos of the tables and servers around us. Ten minutes later, when we hadn’t met our server or even received water glasses, we knew something was amiss. And did I mention we were hungry? We politely grabbed one of the busboys walking by to inquire about ordering some food.

This is where the evening took its first turn. Normally, I expect someone else’s server/busboy to tell me “I’ll see if I can find someone...” and disappear again. This gentleman’s immediate response was “I’ll find out who it is; in the meantime, I can at least get you some water.” As a former management student, the idea of a restaurant employee being so proactive was surprisingly refreshing.

Anyhow, a moment later our server appeared. She was very friendly and apologized profusely, while explaining that the manager had forgotten to write down that we were seated. I gather our server’s tables were elsewhere, so she didn’t know we were there. Whether the story was true or not, we were happy to finally have someone’s attention and a chance to order food!

As I intimated earlier, we started our meal with the veggie spring rolls. We had initially wanted soup because it was mighty cold outside, but none of their soups were vegetarian -- even the vegetable soup, go figure. The spring rolls arrived about 5 minutes later and looked, well, like spring rolls. There were two in the order (ignore the missing one in the picture, like I said we were really hungry). The spring rolls were about as boring as boring can be. They tasted like a pile of lettuce with some bean sprouts and no seasoning. Even the sauce was very watery and had minimal taste. For two hungry people, this was a disturbing sign, but the smell of the restaurant gave us hope for the next course.

My main dish was a new menu item: Green Curry Pasta Salmon. The dish is basically a large salmon filet served over a mountain of angel hair with vegetables and a green curry sauce. When it arrived, I was impressed by the enormous serving size. Note to self: this is easily a dish to feed two or three people if you want to split it. All of Bangkok Bistro’s dishes can be ordered on a spiciness scale of 1 to 10. I went with 6 tonight, and the dish had enough kick to leave my mouth tingling afterwards, but not enough to make my eyes water and nose run. Overall, the dish was very tasty. The salmon was cooked appropriately, and the green curry sauce was delicious. I would have gladly traded some of the pasta for some more vegetables, but overall I was very pleased. As much as I enjoyed it, I think I’m more of a rice than pasta person when it comes to curry, so I’ll probably go back to one of the curry dishes next time. And despite the initial service and the spring rolls, there will be a next time. Thanks to all our commenters who stood by this place! We enjoyed our visit.

Bangkok Bistro on Urbanspoon
Her Take

I, too, was skeptical about trying Bangkok Bistro after our disappointing Taste. But since they’re nearby and we had heard more good things about the restaurant than bad, we decided it was worth a real shot.

They initially were below our (admittedly low) expectations. The man who seated us led us wordlessly to a table, put down the menus and walked away without a word. Unfortunately, as described to my left, his silence was not exactly a mark of rushing back up front to let our waitress know she had a new table. At first, we pondered the menu happily. We had never been to the actual restaurant, so it was fun to see what they had, how they described (or didn’t describe) their different curries and other dishes, and to figure out exactly what we wanted to eat. Except that once that was done, we were ready to ask questions, order, and eat. And drink some water.

Once our waitress finally arrived, she was good! The non-vegetarian soups (including not only a chicken-stock-vegetable, but a chicken-stock-miso!) were disappointing, but we figured it gave the spring rolls a chance to redeem themselves. The waitress was also helpful with other questions about dishes, happy to make substitutions (tofu and veggies for chicken and shrimp) and made sure that we knew that substitutions were doable on any dish. Except the soup, obviously.

For my main course, I ordered the drunken noodles: flat noodles with a brown sauce, basil, tofu, and veggies, spice level 5 on a scale of 1-10. She informed me that 5 was about the level of Tabasco. Since I don’t really ever use Tabasco, I nodded my head. The dish was great. There was tons of tofu, and lots of vegetables. I was bummed that I forgot to order mine minus-the-broccoli, but luckily Michael doesn’t mind being the receptor of a pile of rejected broccoli. If their spicing is consistent (which at many restaurants it isn’t), I would probably order a 4 next time, but spiciness is probably even more subjective than, say, opinions of spring rolls. The dish was very good, as were the leftovers the next day for lunch!

My one comment of our waitress (after her eventual arrival) was probably not her fault. We didn’t see her at any of the tables nearby ours, so we got the sense that her tables were pretty spread out. She came by to make sure we were enjoying our food, and again at the end of the meal. We didn’t really need anything else, but the fact that we didn’t see her much after we had food also meant that if we had needed anything, it would have been hard to find her. Not a terrible complaint, simply an observation.

My overall impression was that the food (aside from the spring rolls) was good, and the service was decent (once they realized we were there). I’m psyched to have found another good restaurant nearby, and I’m sure we’ll be going back again!

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