THE Bangkok Beat Bistro in Subang Jaya's Empire Shopping Gallery is a great example of an eatery that is constantly evolving to keep up with the times. This two-year-old restaurant is intended to present the livelier side of Bangkok. It is owned by Singapore-based Creative Eateries Group, and Bangkok Beat is the sister restaurant of the Bangkok Jam chain in Singapore.
What is slightly different is that Bangkok Beat in Malaysia has chosen the pork- and lard-free route, as opposed to its sister restaurants in Singapore. Thankfully, Bangkok Beat still retains that all-important trump card for any restaurant - in this case, a Thai chef hired from the central part of Thailand.
However, like all things Singaporean, change is the only constant - it decided to revamp 40% of the items on its menu last October, after it had been in operation for slightly more than a year.
"We usually change our menu on a yearly basis to ensure that we continue to provide our customers with the best possible selection," said Daniel Yong, Creative's associate CEO.
"We add items based on customer feedback, remove items that are unpopular and introduce new items to allow customers to try new things, like the durian panna cotta, for example. We have added more communal sharing items as we have lots of families dining with us and many have asked for a bigger variety of dishes for sharing."
The tomyams did not disappoint, whether one opted for the clear (or white) tomyam or the red tomyam.
The clear tomyam with seafood (RM15 [S$5.80]) was a winner, with its well-balanced flavours working in harmony to deliver a delicious soup, and with the spiciness kicking in only after a few spoonfuls.
Not far behind was the red tomyam with seafood (RM15), a soup that also delivered the spiciness that one normally expects from a tomyam.
Whatever your choice, Bangkok Beat finally got its tomyam right. If you had ordered the same a year ago, I am afraid that the tomyams were way too mild, to the extent that some could be called seafood soup with a hint of tomyam.
There were no shortcuts in the tomyams as well, as the seafood tomyams were filled with fresh prawns and fish.
Another good dish to try is the grilled chicken loin with lettuce wrap (RM19). The dish comes with fresh lettuce, which one should use as a skin to wrap pieces of fresh ginger, onion and roasted chicken. This was a light, yet fulfilling, dish. Then we had the hard-to-find som tum tod, or deep-fried green papaya salad (RM12.90). The dish was crunchy, sweet-savoury, and made for good finger food (if you are too lazy to use cutlery). This dish is recommended for those who still want their greens sweet and crunchy, though someone joked that it was probably the most "unhealthy" dish of the meal, considering that it was deep fried. However, the batter was thin, and therefore, oil would be the last thing that one would think of when eating this.
The aromatic prawn curry (RM25) worked rather well, with the freshness, juiciness and sweetness of the prawns remaining intact, even though it was bathed in a somewhat sweetish curry. This dish deserves to be given a fair trial.
The clear winner of the night was the fish head curry (RM43.80), made using fresh red snapper and a delectable combination of Thai herbs and spices. Everyone at the table agreed that it was a great dish (and not too spicy, so many can actually enjoy this). It is definitely different from the curries found in southern Indian restaurants that also offer fish head curry.
Also worthy of mention was the Thai fish cake (RM13.90), which combined well with the sweet-sour sauce.
And if "fresh" vegetables or fruit have to be part of your diet, then do not leave out the pomelo salad (RM18.90), which was nicely done as it was neither too sour nor astringent in taste.
We also tried the asparagus with sambal (RM18) and found it tasted quite run-of-the-mill.
The khao soi gai (Chiangmai curry noodles with chicken, RM16.90) was a bit too sweet for our liking. Another disappointment was the prawn sesame rolls (RM15.90) that we found to be too heavy on the sesame, and none of us could taste any prawn in it.
These minor niggles aside, the revamped menu is very appealing in its entirety.
The good vibes extended to the desserts, with everyone raving about the red ruby dessert with coconut ice-cream (RM13). The ice cream, contract manufactured by a Malaysian supplier, had an extremely smooth feel and was not overly sweet, thus lending to the overall enjoyment of the dish.
The mango and glutinous rice combo (RM16) worked well, with a touch of mildly salted coconut milk combining with the rice and mango to produce a nice savoury-sweet dessert, though the success of this dish depends a lot on the quality of the mangoes used. If the mangoes are off season, my advice is to avoid this as the mango will be neither sweet nor fragrant.
There are many ways of making a panna cotta, and Bangkok Beat has taken the bold move of using durian as an ingredient (RM17). The result is delightful, though there was debate among my dining companions on how the presentation should be, with one saying that the spoonful of glutinous rice was just an unnecessary distraction, while another remarked that the panna cotta could be chilled further.
Never mind the debates, the dessert worked as the durian flavour was not overbearing. In fact, this dessert could be a good way of introducing someone to fresh durians!
The fried banana with hot caramel sauce and ice cream (RM15) was a good combination of contrasts between hot and cold.
There are no alcoholic drinks on the menu, but that should not detract one from having a great meal. Try the blended fresh coconut (RM11), which is made by blending coconut flesh with ice cubes, resulting in a coconut shake. There is also lychee mojito ice blend with lemongrass (RM12), as well as an equally refreshing lychee mint cooler (RM12).
According to Yong, the final selection of the new menu was arrived at totally in house by taking into account customer feedback. "An extensive range of items was created and presented by our Thai head chef and the final selection was done by four members of the senior management who have extensive knowledge of Thai food."
Overall, Bangkok Beat delivers what its owners intended. This time, all of us perspired (and may I add, in the right amount too) after dosing ourselves with the wonderful interplay between hot, cold, sweet, sour and spicy.
Prices are subjected to 10% service charge.