Having travelled all the way to the original location of “Ban Chok Dee” before, I was excited to see if their new location would measure up to the pedestal that I put their Langley one up on. Though as much as I enjoy dining with them, the travel to is one I don’t enjoy making. Luckily my role as judge for the Vancouver Foodster sangria challenge demanded that I make the trip out. So here I was.
It is located in a strip mall, so already on first impression it is a lot more casual. Though it does still hold a candle to some of the more decorative elements the original location is known for. Like the jewel incrusted Thai deities greeting you at the threshold, the glowing crystal chandeliers caged in iron, and the rhinestone mandala that garnered your attention.
The place was packed this Friday night (the photo I took above was as one of the last guests leaving for the night). Every seat was sat, and there was a wait for more to free up by the entrance. We were seated at the bar, with a direct line to the kitchen.
Here I would be reunited with the head chef of both “Ban Chok Dee” location’s and their newest cooking school: Prinya. I have met her once before, so was delighted to have her cook for us tonight. For dinner she would spoil us with a six course meal from off the menu. She is known for her creativity and the specialty dishes that combine her expertise of Thai cuisine with all the cooking techniques that she has picked up through her journeys and learnings. Given her creativity and talent I can see her competing on Iron Chef Canada, but where would she find the time? As the owner of two successful “Ban Chok Dee” Thai cuisine restaurants, the teacher at her own cooking academy, a mother of two, and a fitness model who has competed locally, and will soon do so nationally. But despite inevitable fatigue she greeted us at our bar seats, and personally delivered us our plates course after course. She took the time to explain to us what we would be having as well as check in on how we were doing.
It is no wonder all the staff working for her were just as cordial. She has set the standard and they all followed with exceptional service and conversation. This was especially the case with their friendly bartender, and creator of their sangria contender: Kelsey V. She was as bright and cheery as her rainbow hair and wide grin. She engaged us and checked in between our sips of cocktail and wine. I won’t be covering her sangria in this blog post, as the competition is still going on, and I am sworn to secrecy. Instead, I invite you to return back to this blog after October 7th, where I will be reviewing the entire competition, the winners, and how I voted.
We began with a great tasting platter served on a marble board shaped like a cactus. It was an assembly that went well together with uniform tangy seasonings and crispy bites.
The flaky curry puff was filled with a sweet curry ground beef. It was the dressiest curry puff that I have ever had.
I liked the prawn wrapped in noodle. It offered a new twist to breading and deep frying your seafood. Here the crispy noodle strand wrapping the juicy shrimp gave it a great crunch and a unique flavour.
The prawn served with duck soy sauce was served wrapped in pandan leaf. I have never tried pandan leaves before, so wasn’t sure if you ate it and the prawn whole as the bite it was intended to be? Only through trying did I learn that the answer was, “no”. The leaves were too tough to even rip with teeth.
In the similar vein of utilizing non edible plants as holders for edible food, the shrimp cake was wrapped around some lemon grass. It was served looking like a drumlet that you can easy bite down on and pry seafood from “bone”. It was a little salty, but I loved the bounce in the bite of the cake and how crispy it’s breading was.
The next course was a chilled soup of cucumber, coconut, mint, and plenty of shrimp. It was served in a young coconut, and I wasn’t sure if you were meant to eat the coconut flesh with the soup, but I made sure to scrape it clean after my last sip. The soup was refreshing, like drinking a green smoothie, but savoury and more filling like a salad. There was nothing I didn’t like about this from its presentation to its taste, this was a great build up for flavours to come.
Next we had a scallop and crab salad with pomello, cherry tomato, cucumber, scallops, and greens. If all salads were like this one I would order and have more salads. It was great for those like myself who don’t actually like greens. It was fragrant with the strawberry, and herbaceous with the shisho leaves, peppery from the shallots, and sweet from the juicy tomatoes. This was another great start to build up the appetite with.
The lobster tail in red curry was an impressive plate. However the curry was so flavourful that it over powered the natural sweetness of the lobster meat. I wished for some noodles or a nice basmati to pair with it. Some thing carb-y to soak up the flavour, as I didn’t want to waste a drop of it, but it was too overwhelming to drink as a soup.
Our main was a deep fried cod fillet served with green beans and rice in a Penang sauce. The seasoning and level of flavours were similar to the dish above, therefore after the first bite it was too much for me. I would have liked the salad above just before this to give the palette a breath. Therefore, I was left wanting some pickles or a tartar-like cream sauce to balance out the drier fish. This dish could have also used more rice give the pool of sauce it soaked in.
For dessert we had two citrus flavoured panna cottas with butterfly pea flower jello. I preferred the orange blossom flavoured panna cover over the kaffir lime and lemon grass one. The orange offered a nicer contrast to the jello. This was a light finish to round off all the flavours above.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I came in a fan, and felt reassured in my declaration that “Ban Chok Dee” is one of my favourite places for dressy, modern, and fun Thai food. Bold flavours and stunning plates, whipped up a strong woman. Make sure you follow them on social media, if you are like me and eat with your eyes. They are always doing so many creative things worth driving 19km for. Don’t deny your cravings.