Alibi V.28 No.41 • Oct 10-16, 2019 

Restaurant Review

No Ordinary Venue Menu

One night in Tokyo Bangkok made Hosho humble

Gryffindor Roll
The Gryffindor Roll is arguably one of the most colorful rolls we’ve ever seen.
Eric Williams Photography

Built around the menu highlights of the now shuttered Sushi King & Asian Kitchen, Tokyo Bangkok set its sights on the dinner-before-the-movie crowd in the food corridor near our local multiplex. The cool, inviting industrial space is done up simply but with a subtle and intentional style, and it's large enough to feel spacious even when busy. With gorgeous umbrellas hanging upside-down and lit up like chandeliers, the decor spans multiple Asian countries—a move that mirrors their expansive menu. Instead of settling on a single region's cuisine, Tokyo Bangkok takes its stab at multiple Thai, Chinese and Japanese staples in a jack-of-all-trades vision. It's a risk, of course, opting for the hard road of getting each individual regional cuisine's details right—but only if they can't pull it off.

Starting with the appetizers, the Red Chili Dumplings ($7.99) are basically chicken gyoza served alongside a sweet and spicy sauce, over a bed of fresh greens, cabbage and ribbons of carrot. The bright tangy sauce makes the bite more sweet than spicy, but ultimately it's a balanced and textured beginning. The moist chicken filling is well seasoned and the greens-plus-garnish makes for both an appetizer and a simple salad in one. If you're looking for something more substantial, look no further than the Heart Attack ($8.99). Think jalapeno poppers meets sushi—a pepper stuffed with a mix of spicy tuna and crab with cream cheese thrown in to dampen the heat. Be it the spice or the deep-fry—they'll certainly get your blood pumping.

As for the sushi, I tend to search for two things: How a spot handles standards, and what they do differently than the rest. In Tokyo Bangkok's case, it's the latter that wins out. They offer a whole host of rolls I haven't seen before, including a few Harry Potter-themed specialties. The Gryffindor Roll ($17.99) is a big bite built around shrimp tempura, with salmon, tuna and at least two different kinds of roe on top—an approachable roll with crowd-pleasing flavors throughout. It's a mouthful, to be sure, and a generous roll—but at that price, you'd better have J.K. Rowling money if you're going to order it over and over.

As for entrees, the cabbage, carrots and celery soak up the simple heat of the Spicy Jungle Noodles ($11.99). The stir-fry gives the flat noodles all the garlic and glisten typical of the dish, with the protein and the broccoli standing front and center proudly. There's sriracha on the table if, like me, you prefer a bit more heat, but that's not meant to suggest that the chef shies away from flavor. The surprise of the Kung Pao Chicken ($11.99) is that it's served far wetter than your typical Kung Pao, approaching a soup-like texture. The spice is mild, nothing for timid tongues to worry over, and the vegetables are prepared with precision—arriving consistently in each bite while the protein, luscious bits of chicken thigh in this particular case, was the star without overpowering other ingredients. Obvious chunks of mushroom, the crunch of peanuts and the brightness of fresh herbs each add texture and layers to the subtle heat and soy of the sauce. The generous portion and large side of rice makes for a nice leftover surprise: Toss it all together when you're ready to go, and your leftover rice soaks into the liquid remnants—making for another half-meal after your movie is long over—enough to fill in the cracks. If you're looking for a substantial veggie as a feature of your meal, the Pad Eggplant ($11.99) certainly fits the bill. Big-bite chunks of eggplant pan-fried with basil, onions and garlic makes for a rich and sturdy dish, with or without added protein. As a vehicle for a dish's strengths, eggplant remains underrated as a way to freight flavor while adding a fulfilling gravitas to each forkful.

If you want a one-and-done order, look to either the combination plates or the bento boxes — with food enough to skip appetizers, and never even consider dessert. The Pad Kee Mow ($14.99, with seafood combo) is a fajita flavors-meets-broccoli affair, with carrots, the punch of fresh basil and garlic sauce clinging to flat noodles. Pick your protein, and if you know you like spicy—ask them to ramp it up, as the default setting was too cautious for me. Still the flavors are big, and the dish (my first time trying it anywhere) is certainly one I'll go back to. It comes with your choice of soup, some steamed rice and a couple egg rolls so you definitely won't leave hungry. So too with the Bento Box ($13.99)—delivering a quick tour of most of the menu. With a couple pieces of sushi, a few gyoza, and two—count them—two salads (green and seaweed) plus a bowl of rice for good measure, it's a big dish that satisfies. The soy and ginger of the teriyaki sauce tangle as each looks to dominate, but ultimately the burnt sugars win out, in a smooth and luscious drizzle over strips of grilled chicken breast. Jumping back and forth between all the different bits, it's a dish that is easy to love and hard to finish in one go.

While you might be able to jaunt all over town, comparing apples to apples in region-specific restaurants and scaring up a superior treasure here or gem there, what Tokyo Bangkok delivers is a baseline, default setting of fresh fish, quality ingredients and a true, workmanlike competence across their entire ambitious menu. They've made their spot inviting and a friendly, well-trained staff displays an effortless attention to detail—all the way down to the tiny origami rose atop your drinking straw. If there's a downside, it's that the prices are higher than average here. That's not always a deal-breaker for me, but it certainly does play a part in the overall experience of a place. But with such quality and variety, it's definitely a something-for-everyone spot that gets all the big pieces right.