Friday, January 22, 2016

Another Year Older and Another Thai Restaurant

Bhan Baitong Thai Cuisine
23808 Mercury Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630

I guess we now have a tradition with David, my friend at work. His birthday rolls around right after the holidays, and the last three years we have taken him out for his birthday. David is a great worker, and he makes my job infinitely easier than it would be without him being there. I always ask him where he wants to go for his birthday dinner, and he always makes me pick. The life of a food blogger, I guess. This year I picked a place none of us had been to, Bhan Baitong Thai Cuisine in Lake Forest.

This restaurant is located in the same shopping complex as quite a few other restaurants. Sammy's Original, Nory's Peruvian, and Tutto Famigilia, are some of the food places that have piqued my interest in this out of the way shopping center. For those of you that are still lost, it's in the same shopping center as Boot Barn, and where the Black Angus used to be off of the 5 Freeway.

I picked this restaurant because I know that David likes Thai food, and they get a pretty high rating on Yelp, 4 stars with over 300 reviews. At first I thought I had made a mistake with my pick, as when we walked in at 6, the place was deserted. As the night wore on though, the phone rang non stop with to go orders, and when we left at 7:30, the restaurant was packed with hungry customers.

The menu at Bhan Baitong is pretty much what you would expect from a Thai restaurant. There are a good number of appetizers, curries, noodle dishes, soups, chicken and beef entrees. I had a hard time deciding what to order here, as I do not really have a go to favorite at Thai restaurants. I kind of just let what I'm feeling on a particular night kind of guide me. Let's see if this would be the night that I found my all-time favorite Thai food item.

Over the three years that we have gone out for David's birthday, he always starts with a Thai Iced Tea ($2.75). He enjoyed this one, and made it last all throughout his meal. He's not really much into being too descriptive about his food, so I assume this was to his liking.

David's a pretty big eater, so two appetizers were definitely in order, the first of which were these Fried Wontons ($5.95). These were not very remarkable. They were fried nicely, with a decent crunch to them, but there was nothing to the insides. There was a small amount of chicken inside, about the size of a dime, and it of course did not make an impression. The best part of this was the provided sweet and sour sauce, which added some flavor to the fried wontons. This appetizer was a miss for us on this evening.

What wasn't a miss for us, was this Chicken Satay ($8.95). This chicken was flavored wonderfully, grilled, and placed on a stick, the way that all food tastes better. It was served with one of the better peanut sauces I have had. They did not skimp on the amount of chicken here, like they did with the wontons. A much better appetizer choice.

Katie wanted something to warm her up on this rather chilly evening, so she tried the Tom Yum Soup ($5.95). I have a sneaky suspicion that this was not the soup she had wanted to order. After our trip to Lotus of Siam in Vegas, she has been searching for an equally great OC version of their Tom Kha Soup. This soup was good, came out volcano hot, and had some chicken included in this slightly sour soup. Good, but she'll probably get the Tom Kha here next time.

We might as well start our entrees off with the birthday boy's selection, the Mussamun ($8.95). David had this curry which contained potatoes, onion, carrot, beef, and peanuts. He really enjoyed this, but would get this spicier next time. He had this medium spiced, and it contained no kick to it at all. It's always a crap shoot when you are eating in a Thai restaurant for the first time, and they ask how spicy you want things. Some places are really tentative about adding spice, while others really over do it. I'd say Bhan Baitong is like the former, where they add spice sparingly, so you can feel safe going up a spice level, and still enjoy your meal.  Lesson learned David.

A lot of people on Yelp were talking about this Pumpkin Curry ($8.95 plus $2 for a cup of Brown Rice), so it was not too hard for me to choose what to have on this evening. The most difficult part was deciding on having chicken or beef in it, and the beef won out after seeking the advice of the waitress. This pumpkin curry was delicious, with a real smooth texture, slight pumpkin tinge to it, and some pretty tender beef. I asked for this spicy, and it came with the perfect amount of heat. Not overwhelming, but still enough spice to have you notice it. A very delicate balance to achieve. A balance they did not achieve here was the amount of rice to the pumpkin curry. I would have asked for more rice, but did not feel like paying four dollars for two cups of rice. A little outrageous in my opinion. Probably the best entree of the night that we had.

Last but not least is Katie's dinner, the Pad See Ewe ($9.95). This beef and flat noodle dish came with a brown sauce which Katie thought was a little on the thin side, as compared to the ones she has had in the past. I liked this dish, but had hoped she would have gotten this with more spice than her requested mild spice designation. A good sized portion for under ten dollars though.

David's birthday dinner was a complete success. We got together outside of work, and had some pretty good Thai food. Bhan Baitong is not the best Thai food we have had, but it's definitely worth a visit if you are near the area. The dining room is well lit, has a modern feel to it, and makes the patrons feel comfortable inside of it. Service was a little spotty on this evening, as they were pretty busy with just two servers, so drinks did sit empty for stretches at a time. I still have not found my perfect Thai food item to eat, but I look forward to exploring more Thai food in the future, and not just on David's birthdays.

Out of five elephants, (because this large animal is one of the national symbols of the country of Thailand), five being best to zero being worst, Bhan Baitong Thai Cuisine gets 3 elephants.

For more information about Bhan Baitong Thai Cuisine, go to their website here:

Bhan Baitong Thai Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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