Four locations (Nuuanu, Manoa, Iwilei and Ewa Beach)

When I was younger, Thai food foolishly used to intimidate me — that is, until my friend brought pad thai for lunch one day in high school and I mustered up the courage to take a bite (i.e. I didn’t want to be lame).

See, I had a really basic palate growing up. It consisted primarily of the expected East Asian food groups, with some obvious local influences and, like, Taco Bell thrown in. When I’m feeling particularly dramatic, I like to trace my steps back as a now-mostly-fearless eater to this one bite of pad thai.

I’ve discovered throughout the years, though, that all Thai food is not created equal, and so I’ve developed a short list of places I like to frequent. Among them is Bangkok Chef.

To be fair, Bangkok Chef isn’t always the most thrilling — some items could greatly benefit from bolder flavors and better-prepared ingredients. But everything is affordable (most items are less than $10), and service is relatively quick in an unadulterated environment.

Plus, there are some dishes where Bangkok Chef certainly hits the mark. I should first say that as much as I do thoroughly enjoy deeply complex and photogenic food, I truly value a meal that breathes simplicity, comfort and little fuss — which is why, as much as I wish the chicken was more tender and that there was more tofu, I continue to order Bangkok Chef’s Pad Thai. The portion is generous and it’s a very subdued, mild flavor that feels as though someone like my grandma cooked it.

Another item I always order: Spring Rolls. They always come out fat, hot, crispy, wonderful — and with big leaves of lettuce, slices of cucumber and ample sprigs of mint.

I know, I know. At this point, I’m sure you think I am the most basic Thai food-eater ever, what with all the curries there are to sample. What can I say? I’m a creature of comfort.

But you also should know that sometimes, this creature does try new things and that I do happen to have an affinity for yellow curry. And on this particular day, I ventured to Bangkok Chef with Metro social media manager Nicole Kato, who ordered the Green Papaya Salad. It was prepared pretty standard, with thinly sliced green papaya mixed with other vegetables, like carrots and tomatoes. But it was the dressing it was tossed with that really caught our attention — it was light, but with a lingering heat that cleared my sinuses without taking me out of commission.

I’ve decided I’m definitely ordering it the next time I place a take-out order. You know, later this week, probably.


Joining an already long list of places that you can get spicy ahi is new kid on the block Da Poke Shack Honolulu, which recently opened in Kaka‘ako.

Except, Da Poke Shack isn’t exactly new. It first opened in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii island back in 2010. At its latest location, on the corner of Ward Avenue and Queen Street, you can expect the same lineup of concoctions with rather creative names, like Pele’s Kiss (spicy ahi) or Dynamite (avocado aioli). I myself am particularly interested in trying Shack’s Special, which promises a honey miso sauce.

The menu at Da Poke Shack also boasts Hot Hawaiian Plates — like a Lau Lau Plate or Kalua Pork Plate — along with a la carte items such as a California Roll with Cous Cous and an intriguing Mussels Kimchee.

I haven’t gone yet, but expect an update soon — Da Poke Shack doesn’t seem to be just another average spot for ahi after all.