Bangkok Bangkok II is Reborn as Khaosan Road
A New Kind of Thai
Any denizen of dining in Coral Gables is familiar with the Giralda Plaza mainstay Bangkok Bangkok II, which has been the city’s go-to spot for Thai food since 1987. After the pandemic shut it down in March, however, the restaurant did not reopen until August – and when it did, it had reinvented itself as Khaosan Road.
When it comes to the idea of Thai street food – intense, authentic, local cooking with flavors unfamiliar to Western taste buds – the actual Khaosan Road is emblematic. It is a short, busy street in Bangkok constructed in 1892 just over a half mile from the Grand Palace. Originally a rice market (Khaosan translates as “milled rice”), in the last 40 years it has become a kind of bohemian tourism magnet, with shops selling everything from handmade crafts and local fruits to steamed dumplings and barbecued insects.
While you won’t find cooked bugs at Khaosan Road on Giralda, you will find a truly new and fascinating array of dishes that typical Thai restaurants do not offer. “Thai food is more than just Pad Thai,” says Owner Thanisara “Cookie” Mungkornpanich. “We want to showcase our customers the amazing and flavorful Thai food that they never had before.”
Mungkornpanich, the new owner since 2017, describes Thai street food as the “quick, easy and true Thai experience” and a major part of Thai culture. “Walking through the streets in Thailand, you will see plenty of carts selling delicious treats and meals,” she says. “Our mission here is to bring the Khaosan Road experience directly to our customers.”
Mungkornpanich recommends trying the E-Sarn sausages, a typical Thai street snack of grilled tangy pork sausages served with lettuce wrap, and Koa Mun Gai, a poached chicken served over special herb rice pilaf. She also touts their Kao Ka Moo, a slow-braised pork leg stew.
In our recent visit, we sampled several novel dishes. One was the Pad Chicharron Ga-Pao, crispy pork belly sautéed with basil, chili, garlic, onions and bell pepper. Chewy, crunchy, salty and delicious, balanced perfectly with crisp sweet peppers and sticky rice. We also tried the Khao Soy, their signature Northern Thai curry noodles. It was like an elevated ramen, made with yellow noodles, coconut milk, yellow curry, stewed chicken, and roasted crispy garlic-oil onions, topped with crispy egg noodles and a poached egg. Delectable, with just the right amount of heat.
While Khaosan maintains a “Bangkok Bangkok 2020” menu with 10 items for “die-hard fans” of their previous cuisine, the new array of dishes is stunning in its variety and modestly priced for what amounts to a whole new world of flavors.