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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Fri 11:30am–10:00pm
Sat noon–11:00pm
Sun noon–10:00pm

Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

Upper Chapel Area
172 York St.
New Haven, CT
(203) 789-8684
Bangkok Gardens
Sit in the atrium, and you’ll survive—but time has left this decent Thai-American food behind

The aptly named Bangkok Gardens can be thought of as the date restaurant of downtown New Haven Thai: it’s the nicest looking (although that’s not saying much), and it’s compatible with even the most cash-strapped grad student’s budget. And it is something of an icon, serving the same Thai-American dishes that pass for authentic in most of the US—but at least these versions taste a bit better than average. But only a bit.

At a minimum, you can’t fault Bangkok Gardens for any shortage of options. The lunch buffet has a dizzying array of dishes. Hoa mouk, which features on the bargain-priced lunch menu, is a tender cake of chopped chicken, cabbage, basil leaf, and aromatic kaffir lime leaf, covered with a homemade sauce that includes coconut. It’s a totally authentic dish that you’ll almost never see elsewhere, but, sadly, we’ve slowly noticed the cake becoming drier and the sauce more scarce. While just about everything else on the menu—lunch or dinner—is at least reliable, we’ve noticed variability in drunken noodle and yum nua (beef salad infused with citrus and cilantro).

In spite of the slightly upmarket vive, there’s something unsatisfying about dining here. Maybe it’s the atmosphere; too much glass and the formal, blackbowtied waitstaff make you much less comfortable than you should be. Or maybe it’s the bland décor and starchy tablecloths. A sunny atrium in the front area of the restaurant provides warm respite from the day, especially welcome in winter. At lunch, when the sun is out, the room bustles with midday energy, and the price is right. It’s a good way to go if you are lucky enough to find seating in the atrium. In the evenings, the shortcomings of décor and lighting are harder to ignore, and prices are higher. Take-out is always an option.

But with Thai Taste having improved and better Thai now available—Rice Pot, The Terrace—the reasons to patronize Bangkok Gardens are vanishing.

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