Flavors of the Month

Flavors of the Month

September is reportedly the best month for family meals in Bangkok. It’s a rainy time when street food is on the outs and home cooking is in.

Aiming to capture that feeling is September in Bangkok, a Thai restaurant located on State Street at the corner of Bradley Street. (For good measure, September is also the birthday month of owner Winyu Seetamyae.) It’s designed for eating in, with sunny seating near large windows overlooking a spacious patio criss-crossed with strings of lights, a tempting prospect for upcoming summer evenings. Despite the I-91 exit ramp just across the street, the space is set back far enough from State and located on an otherwise quiet corner, offering a tucked-away sense of relative privacy. There’s also cozier indoor seating on a darker, lower level as well as a small bar serving up some Asian-inspired cocktails along with the usual suspects, plus hot sake and beer on tap including Sapporo.

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But it was too early for a drink. Instead I began my lunch with an order of Home Made Pork Dumplings ($7 for six), a good staple for testing how September in Bangkok would hold up to the local competition. The dumplings, ordered boiled, passed with flying colors. Their crimped dough skirts were light, and their centers were filled with nicely textured pork. Dressed with a spicy Glazed Ginger Soy sauce, these were a sign of good food to come. I had mine boiled, but a fried option is also available.

Next I sampled the Gra-Pow Kai Dow ($12), a classic Thai dish. This generous bowl of piping hot rice was topped with chopped pork, sweet with a little bit of chili sauce. On top of that was a fried egg, crispy at the edges (the kai dow part of its name). Thai basil (gra-pow) is the key to this dish, and my bowl included several large, bright leaves. Onion, red pepper and scallion, with a pretty garnish of sliced yellow and red pepper, rounded things out. I split open the egg, letting the yolk spill over.

Though “Bangkok” is in the restaurant’s name, the menu also says “Burma,” explained a staffer named Jirawat. He explained that food in Bangkok is a mélange of Chinese, Indian, Burmese and other influences. But food from Burma itself (also known as Myanmar) has maintained some of its original identity, and it tends to be less familiar to Americans. So, for example, instead of the soy-based tofu many of us might recognize, Burmese tofu is often made of chickpeas.

On Jirawat’s advice, I tried a Burmese Tea Leaf Salad ($10), which arrived as a pretty pile of lettuce with cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. No surprises there. But the salad was garnished with tiny fermented tea leaves, giving it a subtle, earthy bite offset by slices of sweet mango. In addition to the tea leaves, there were crunchy bits of toasted coconut, sesame and fried shallots. Lightly dressed with just enough oil to give the vegetables a shine, the effect was delicate and summery. In Burma, you might be served straight-up tea leaves with something crunchy—the second-most important element of any tea leaf salad, I was told.

I finished with a familiar order: Pad Thai Veggie ($13). As with the dumplings, I wanted to see how the popular dish held up to others. This generous serving of slender noodles came with crunchy, fresh string beans, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, bean sprouts and a juicy wedge of lime. It was as good as any pad thai I’ve had in the city.

The lunch menu serves up eight appetizers and salads ($5-10) and an impressive 18 entrees ($10-18), with a $1 charge for adding a fried egg, sausage rock (deep-fried sweet sausage), boiled egg, smoked tofu, eggplant or peanut sauce. Requests for special accommodations are welcome, with the restaurant “open vegan suggestions” and gluten-free items available. The dinner menu is more extensive, with appetizers and salads ranging from $6-10 and entrees from $15-28—unless you want to spring for the $50 Full Moon Party for 2, a seafood extravaganza including grilled sea scallops, prawns, salmon and mussels. A separate menu column of a dozen vegetarian options runs from $13-15.

So there are plenty of ways to make it feel like September in Bangkok year-round in New Haven.

September in Bangkok
754 State St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm & 5-10pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am-10pm
(475) 234-5239

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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