Just when Thai cuisine in this town was on the verge of settling into a shiny bowl of complacency, along comes Tang’s to revitalize a scene that, in my opinion, was getting about as stale as a day-old spring roll. You won’t find an interior subjected to overzealous ornamentation, or one made to look like a set from The King and I. Here, the square dining space is graced with just enough feng shui savoir-faire to impress its upper-crust clientele, and a suffusion of warm orange furthers its aim of refined relaxation.
Chef Eddy Phooprasert, a product of the Orlando Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program, certainly applies a bit of that Gallic flair in his first-rate take on Bangkok’s eaten path – everything from preparation to plating to price differentiates his dishes from those served at other Siamese sit-downs in the city. That’s not to say pretense supersedes palatability here; it doesn’t. The presentation of the short ribs massaman ($24), decorated with an edible orchid, almost made it too pretty to eat, but tearing into this beautifully packaged dish yielded perfectly braised beef sautéed in a sweet chili paste sweetened further by tamarind, bell peppers and coconut milk. A tableside rice service offers a choice between white jasmine rice and, depending on when you visit, either yellow curry rice or herbaceous green basil rice. The latter proved to be my favorite of the three.
Aesthetics also play a part in the delightful plaa lad prig (market price), which tonight was a plump filet of Chilean sea bass pan-seared in a garlic-chili sauce, baked to a delicate crisp and garnished with shaved parsnip. Textural contrast was provided by zucchini, carrots and bell peppers. Velvety chicken red curry ($16) was infused with the essence of sweet basil and came adequately spiced without my having to ask.
Chicken pad thai ($16), conversely, failed to excite. Two grilled shrimp impaled on crackers sat atop the mound of noodles, with sprouts, crushed peanuts and a lime wedge sharing space on the square plate. A shiitake-soy reduction gave the barbecued skirt steak ($14) a glossy sheen; each sesame seed-flecked strip proved irresistibly succulent. An accompanying puck of rice was served over a bed of carrots and cabbage; I just wished the dish came with more medium-grilled strips of beef. Curry puffs ($7) resembled miniature empanadas, and though the flavors of chicken, garlic and onions harmonized nicely inside, the pocket itself was a tad oversaturated with oil.
Bite-size morsels of pillowy, sticky doughnuts ($6) were as comforting unadorned as they were when coated in a sweet pastry sauce of vanilla-tinged condensed milk. Chocolate mousse cake ($9) masked its density well, and artful drizzles of raspberry coulis and crème anglais once again played up the importance of visuals.
I’ll admit I’ve been a little burned out on Thai cuisine, but after dining at Tang’s, my enthusiasm for the cuisine has been rekindled, and all it took was a chef with a delicate hand and a determination to defy the status quo.