My husband and I love Thai cuisine. The mix of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy all on one plate is what makes Thai food different from other types of cuisines.
It’s something we got to experience firsthand in Bangkok, Thailand about a decade ago during our first visit to this Southeast Asian country. While we were there to sightsee, that trip was also when we really fell in love with Thai cuisine. A visit to the local floating market showed us Thai food is more than just pad thai, fried rice and tom yum soup. Thai food is very flavourful and thanks to Bangkok Garden on Elm Street, I was able to relive some favourite food memories last month.
Before the holidays, I headed to Bangkok Garden for lunch. It is one of Toronto’s longest standing Thai restaurants (it opened its doors in 1982) and one that I used to frequent when I worked in that area. Because of our son’s severe nut allergies, Thai food is not something my husband and I have often – we only eat it when the kids aren’t around.
Bangkok Garden shares the same historic building as one of Toronto’s popular spas – Elmwood Spa (you can read my full review here) and is right next to the Chelsea Hotel. My plan for my visit was to fuel up at their lunch buffet before heading to Eaton Centre (which is only a 2 minute walk away) to finish up some last minute Christmas shopping.
This Thai restaurant is easy to miss as the entrance is on the lower level of the Elm Street building. Once inside, guests are transported to Thailand and greeted by a warm wood interior, lanterns, a mini fish pond and contemporary furniture. This decor also crosses over into the main lobby of Elmwood Spa.
The Lunch Buffet at Bangkok Garden
Guests visiting for lunch can choose between dining à la carte or the buffet. I opted for the buffet so I could enjoy a variety of Thai dishes food in one sitting. I try to be efficient since my visits to Thai restaurants are few and far between. The dining area is split between two storeys. Bangkok Garden is very popular with the work crowd and the day I visited it was at capacity due to a company holiday party.
The lunch buffet offerings are varied and plentiful – I counted over a dozen different items on the main buffet table. Several salads, curries and rice and noodle dishes are lined up in large serving bowls and hot plates on one side of the hallway leading to the dining area and there’s a build-your-own noodle soup bowl station on the opposite side.
My favourite bites from the buffet included the mango salad (the crunchy slightly under-ripe mango tossed with a shallots, coriander and mint dressing was a good way to start lunch), glass noodle salad (an appetizer with some kick from chili paste and lemon juice), and red curry with chicken (I crave spicier dishes when it’s cold outside and this hit the spot).
The star of the lunch buffet, in my opinion, was the customized noodle soup bar. Guests get to choose their own toppings – everything from beef balls, cilantro, fish paste, chili in vinegar, and even sugar – and a staff member warms everything up in hearty soup stock. I could have had the lime and lemongrass infused soup broth by itself but I can’t say no to all those toppings!
I enjoyed it so much I went back two more times after the first bowl – each time adding more chili and red pepper flakes. I never added the sugar so I can’t comment on how that would have affected the taste.
There is a very small dessert section for lunch buffet guests. Plates of fresh fruit (watermelon, lychee, cantaloupe, pineapple), fried banana fritters, coconut jelly, and cassava cake are replenished often.
My belly was full from all the soup that I barely had space for dessert but I highly recommend the banana fritters if you have a sweet tooth. I practically rolled out of the restaurant and didn’t end up shopping. I opted to take a nap at home instead – sign of a good meal! 🙂
Bangkok Garden is worth visiting if you enjoy Thai food – it’s not often you come across a 30-something year old food establishment in a city like Toronto where there’s a new restaurant opening almost daily.
The food is delicious, the staff is attentive even on a very busy day and there’s enough variety on the menu to please every palate. There’s a Gluten Free Menu as well as a Kids Menu at Bangkok Garden.
Tips for Bangkok Garden Guests
- Seating is plentiful however the restaurant fills up quickly at lunch time during the week – it’s quite reasonably priced ($15.95/person) for those working in the area.
- Guests can reserve a table for lunch or dinner in advance on Bangkok Garden’s website.
- Parking is available on the street but is very limited. Dinner guests can park their vehicle at neighbouring Chelsea Hotel for $5 when you show your Bangkok Garden receipt.
- If arriving by TTC (subway), the nearest station is Dundas.
18 Elm Street