The tasty secret’s out about Bangkok Bay in Solana Beach
By Kelley CarlsonTucked into the Mercado del Sol shopping center, near the corner of Via de la Valle and Coast Highway, is a small oasis of a restaurant known as Bangkok Bay. And because of its location, it almost seems like it’s a secret, manager Varinda Jinatongthai said. Yet the family-owned establishment is well known enough that it attracts regulars with its soothing, tropics-like atmosphere and a variety of Thai entrees. Oftentimes, customers become known by their first names and dish preferences.
Upon entering, guests are put at ease by a bubbling fountain, surrounded by plants, baskets and other Asian-influenced pieces. Additional eclectic furnishings surround the high-back red booths and the deep brown wood tables of the dining room, including parasols, paintings and rectangular mirrors.
At night, the lights become dim and candles on the tables are lit, creating an intimate setting. Piano-based music — the kind frequently heard in Thai spas — plays quietly in the background.
It’s not long before patrons notice the aromas of chili, ginger, garlic, curries and special house sauces.
Around the corner from the main dining area is the recently opened party room, which can seat up to 25 people comfortably at its two long tables with chairs and benches. Here, within the softly glowing golden walls, customers will find another fountain, along with bamboo and cattails, and foliage in every corner.
Guests have the option of beginning their meal with “appe-thai-zers” such as Chicken Satay, marinated in a mixture of herbs, spices and coconut milk, and served with Thai peanut sauce and cucumber chutney.
For other “lighter” fare, there are soups, including Seafood Po Tak, with lemon grass, mushroom, basil and chili in spicy, clear broth; and salads, such as the Green Apple, which also contains carrots, onions and tomatoes, all tossed in a spicy lime sauce and topped with cashews.
Among Bangkok Bay’s specialties is the Roasted Duck Curry, consisting of duck from Maple Leaf Farms prepared with pineapples, tomatoes and basil in a creamy red curry concocted from coconut milk.
Other signature entrees include Hot Basil with Thai chili, garlic, onion and bell peppers; and Pad See Ew, featuring thick rice noodles with egg, broccoli and carrots in a sweet soy sauce.
Jinatongthai noted that the restaurant receives compliments on all of its curries, but a particular favorite is the Kang Ka Ree, a Thai yellow curry with coconut milk, potatoes, carrots and onions.
Bangkok Bay’s food is served family-style, and gluten-free options are available. Lunch specials (two-thirds the size of dinner portions) are offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Jinatongthai recommended couples share an appetizer, an entree and a curry. She also suggested they request booth C4, which has a curved end and provides a extra separation from other guests. Table B5 offers privacy, as well.
Bangkok Bay is very popular on Fridays and Saturdays, so reservations are recommended. To avoid crowds, dine between 5 and 6:30 p.m. most days, and then business tapers off again, 8-9:30 p.m. Sundays are busy from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Address: 731 S. Highway 101, Suite 1B1, Solana Beach
bangkok-bay.comThe Vibe: Elegant, casual, relaxed
Signature Dishes: Roasted Duck Curry, BK Bay Ribs, Chicken Satay, Hot Basil, Pad See Ew, Drunken Noodles, Pad Thai
Open Since: 2005
Patio Seating: No
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: No
• 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday
• 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Friday
• noon to 3 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Saturday
• noon to 3 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday
On The Menu RecipeEach week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Bangkok Bay’s Chicken Satay