By Brittany Llorente
VERO BEACH -- Standing out in the restaurant world of sushi and Thai food can be difficult. In the midst of competition, authenticity and creativity, Bangkok in Downtown stands out on all levels for its excellence.
In May, the restaurant was purchased by Norraset 'Nor' Nareedokmai, an established chef and restaurateur in Thai cuisine.
He owns restaurants in Pittsburgh and Fort Pierce, each priding themselves on quality and presentation.
"I really want to bring Thai cuisine to the area," Mr. Nareedokmai said. "I work with the Thai government to bring authentic Thai to the states. You have to be certified and my restaurants up north are."
Though the restaurant has been going through subtle changes, the heart of the restaurant still continues his craft of making sushi.
Sushi Chef Damrong 'Chef Damy' Suniphon, has been at the restaurant for 10 years and calls the restaurant his home.
The familiar faces of the patrons who visit the restaurant have not only seen him bloom into an accomplished chef, but also his family.
"All of the customers here are like family to me," Chef Suniphon said. "I take great care in all of the food, tasting everything that goes out to make sure it's fresh and tastes how it's supposed to taste."
Every dish that was placed before my companion and I was devoured in short time.
After gazing at the workmanship and art that the dish truly was, we dove in.
Chef Suniphon prepared a Spicy Tuna Tartar that only lasted long enough to enjoy the presentation.
The tuna was thinly cut, almost ground, and mixed with a Kimchi sauce, topped with avocado, black tobiko (flying fish caviar), radish and dill. It is served with flat bread or garlic multigrain crackers.
This dish was incredible, honestly the only way to say it. I ate every last bit.
The combination of flavors was masterful, providing a complex palate in such a simple dish.
The next dish was roasted duck salad. For those who love duck and those who don't know quite if they will, this dish will delight.
The salad has many components, from fresh salad, onions, cashews and peppers to red apple shavings and lime vinaigrette dressing.
The medallions of duck, tossed in the salad, burst through the ingredients that complimented the natural flavor of the duck.
The Crispy Wahoo salad was next and only continued to confirm the restaurant's dedication to serve only the best.
The tempura battered Wahoo was perfectly fried, topped with a spicy mayo, rice vinegar and ponzu sauce. The Wahoo was served over a mixed green salad with shaved red apple.
During these dishes I drank a Thai Tea, one of my favorites and this was one of the best Thai Teas I ever had. I finished off way more of the Thai Teas than I care to admit; they were that delicious.
The entrée was a special for the week.
The crispy jump shrimp with eggplant was surprising and tasty.
I have never had Asian eggplant before, and I have absolutely no regrets. The jumbo shrimp paired with the eggplant nicely, the basil sauce complementing each vegetable and component of the dish. The serving size was astonishing, the plate practically overflowed with shrimp and vegetables.
I was so full at this point that I had to take my dessert home.
The fried banana dessert that I enjoyed later that night was the perfect ending to the meal and the day. The fried banana wrapped in wonton is served with a sweet dipping sauce.
Though my meal was done, it certainly won't be the last time I visit. One, because of the food, but secondly to see the transformation the restaurant will take on in the coming months.
"We want to let everyone know that it is a fresh new start," Mr. Nareedokmai said.
The restaurant will be expanding with Mr. Nareedokmai's vision, including aspirations of adding a wine and Thai Tapas area.
Sushi lovers have no reason to fear the change.
The sushi on the menu is an obvious favorite for the restaurant and Chef Damy will continue to make every dish with the care and artistry that he's known for.
Local residents will smile and feel at home over the names of a few of the rolls, including the Grand Harbor, John's Island, Orchid Island, Indian River Club and Sandridge rolls from the 'golfer meals' section of the elaborate sushi menu.
With so many options and combinations, every visit to the restaurant can be as unique or familiar as the diner wants it to be.
Bangkok in Downtown is located at 2227 14th Avenue, Vero Beach. For more information and hours, call (772) 794-1826.