Bangkok Garden, Sacramento


In the seminal ’80s classic “One Night in Bangkok,” Murray Head’s new wave chorus belts, “One night in Bangkok makes a hard man crumble!”

I prefer a twist on the original, adding in two well-deserved syllables every time I venture out to my favorite Thai restaurant in Sacramento.

Because it’s true. One night at Bangkok Garden will make a hard man crumble—at this Buddha-dotted altar of exceptionally good food.

Camoflaged between a Starbucks and a Jim Boys Tacos in a Natomas strip mall (stay with me), this place is like a secret club. Those who know of it are ardent fanatics, eagerly trying to convert the uninitated with tales of plate-licking curries, drunken noodles and plum-sauce-drenched goong hare.

Those who haven’t heard of Bangkok Garden (and I wouldn’t blame you—this culinary oasis doesn’t even have a working website) are in for a treat.

I’ve been going for a couple years now. Regularly. In addition to the food, I look forward to the ridiculously friendly service from every single member of the staff and the eye-catching wall temples with their ornately dressed figurines. And be sure to listen up or you’ll miss the soft-rock soundtrack featuring traditional Thai instruments that play the likes of Celine Dion, Simon & Garfunkel, and Credence Clearwater Revival. I’m obsessed.

I’ve got my usual fare from which I rarely deviate. But for you, I ordered up a few different entrees to share. So consider this your invite to join one of Sacramento’s most exclusive clubs. Just don’t tell anyone else.

Appetizer: Goong Hare

A harmony of textures, this elegant app consists of marinated shrimp wrapped in egg noodles, deep fried, and served with a savory-sweet plum sauce. They’re fun, filling, if not a little difficult to eat. Consider it a great ice breaker for a first date or a shameless, mouth-shoveling good time with your one true love.

Entrée: Eggplant and beef sauteed with onion, bell pepper and basil in coconut milk and chili paste 

Meet the dish that haunts my dreams. I’m not kidding when I say that I literally think about this several times per week. The sauce alone—so coconutty and savory!—deserves its own mention. But when paired with the soft, ample slices of eggplant and tender strips of beef (I always order extra), this will easily convert any non-believer into full-fledged Bangkok Garden fanaticism. Be sure to order sticky rice so you can mop up every last bit of sauce, too. Because your only other option is to lick the plate. And even then, I wouldn’t judge.

Entrée: Basil chicken with chili paste, sweet basil and bell pepper

 Another fan favorite, I like to order this one with a little extra spice and serve it over a snow-white bed of steamed rice. The sodium profile is pretty high, but I love that sort of thing. Especially when I always get hints of a welcomed bit of tanginess at the end. That’s my palate’s reaction to sweet basil, and this dish has plenty of it.

Entrée: Sauteed green bean chicken with onion, bamboo shoots, bell pepper and chili paste

There’s that chili paste again! I love the way they sneak this into my favorite dishes without overpowering the taste profile of the other ingredients. This is another hearty plate, though the green beans and bamboo shoots help break up the intensity with some welcomed fibrousness. This also holds up well in your refrigerator for lunch the next day.

Entrée: Drunken noodles with chicken, sweet basil, chili paste, onion, bell pepper and tomato 

Another fan favorite, these pan-fried flat rice noodles carry a nice lightness to them that mixes well with this entrée’s perfect heat level. One of my favorite things about Thai cuisine is the unusual and often-striking flavor combinations, too. The addition of tomato adds a welcomed burst of character that almost makes you think of salad (no doubt bolstered by the bed of lettuce on which the dish sits).

Dessert: Ube ice cream

Did I have room for dessert? You tell me:

Baskin Robbins may have 31 flavors, but it doesn’t have this: Ube. Ube, also known as the purple yam, is a vegetable root indigenous to the Asian tropics. Bright lavender in color, it’s used in a variety of desserts, including this game-changing ice cream you have to save room for. I’m not kidding. If you like coconut (and even if you don’t!), this delicious reprieve cleanses your Thai-spiced tongue and serves as the perfect way to cap-off your one night in Bangkok Garden.

Though undoubtedly, you’ll be back for more.

Bangkok Garden
3230 Arena Blvd.
Ste. 215
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 285-0608

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