Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Roi Et: A Place to Thai

Now known as Roi Et, with a hop across Woodville Road adjacent to I-280, the Bangkok Café, long known for its authentic Thai and Asian fare, moved and changed names. Family matriarch  Toi Suwannathda runs the restaurant, overseeing the kitchen while her three children, daughters U-sa and Ploy Vayavong along with their brother Davit, cover the front of the house.  

Recalling Bangkok Café, in Roi Et

This outing harkened back to a City Paper Thai Food Roundup published in 2012, where we noted the assistance of U-sa, then a 9-year-old “helper.” Now, at age 22, she is a young woman who assisted with the renovation of this space and now serves the food with a bright smile. 

The restaurant, in the building which previously housed Pearl River at 3508 Goodrich Ave. at Woodville in Northwood, close to downtown and just west of I-280, is unquestionably worth the short trip.

The Roi Et family, front row U-sa, Toi and Ploy, back row Davit and Title. Now the charming Roi Et, owner Toi Suwannethada with her daughters, Ploy Vayavong (left) and U-sa (right).

Named after Toi’s home, one of the 76 Thai provinces, popular for textiles and wickerwork as well as their regional cuisine, the eatery, both in its incarnation as Bangkok Café and now as Roi Et, takes pride in the consistency of the food and the quality of the ingredients.

The Bangkok Café was across Woodville Road and next door to the Thai grocery store, also run by the family. With the relocation of the restaurant, with a significantly larger dining area and kitchen space, there are plans to expand the grocery store into the former café space.

Roi Et has a welcoming atmosphere — a clean, open and inviting dining area with attractive lighting. With booths and tables comfortably spaced, wood and tile accents mixed with elements of Thai tradition and decor are evident.

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Unique and varied menu options

The menu offers a wide variety, including soups, curry, noodle dishes, rice and stir fry dishes and Thai salads. The ingredients in many of the dishes are similar, borne out by their menu descriptions, with iterations based on seasonings and sauces complementing the Thai theme. The food boasts tastes which are delicate and refined but allow plenty of flavor to shine through.

The Tom Kha Gai soup is a silky and rich broth, enhanced by coconut milk and spices, with chicken, mushrooms, carrots, onion and lemongrass. The taste is captivating and unique, making it stand out from other local eatery fare. Other soups include wonton, Tom Yum (with a spicy sour flavor) and Pho, a national staple of Vietnam, a country neighboring Toi’s native Thailand.

Curry varieties include red, green, yellow, massaman and panang, each with different characteristics. The ones we tried, green and yellow, were true to tastes we have experienced in the past in other locations, and the servers at Roi Et are eager to describe the options and provide their insights and opinions when ordering. Curry dishes are prepared with a choice of tofu, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp or squid. The yellow curry is spiced heavily with turmeric and highlights onions and potatoes. The green curry boasted eggplant, bamboo shoots, hot peppers, bell peppers and basil. With diners’ options to specify a heat rating with each dish, we ordered ours ‘spicy’ (heeding warnings about enhancing the heat level to ‘Thai spicy’) which was delicious, but almost more than the spice lovers among us could handle. The spiciness is not overwhelming, rather all of the ingredients can be tasted and savored, differing from other foods where the heat can be overwhelming.

The noodle entrées include lo mein, pad Thai and others, including glass noodles, all true to traditional Thai fare. Stir fry dishes are also available with the same choices available for the curry along with varied ingredients and sauces.

The Thai salads, numbering 5 or 6 varieties, included thinly sliced vegetables dressed with lime juice, hot peppers, onions, with some offering lettuce and papaya. The Yum Shrimp, sour and spicy mixed with sweet onions, scallions and fresh Thai herbs tossed with lettuce was understated and a welcome addition to the spicy curry dishes.

Good food, well-prepared

The family does an admirable job of making guests feel welcome from the time you enter and throughout the meal. Carryout is a viable option and the food travels well. The children show great pride in the work and success of their mother in this restaurant endeavor. This is a good move to a new location and Roi Et is a worthy regular addition to any reader’s ethnic food experiences.

Roi Et is located at 3508 Goodrich Ave. at Woodville Rd., Northwood. For more information call 419-697-7979. They are open M-F 11 am-2:30 pm and 4-8:30 pm. Sat/Sun noon – 8:30 pm.

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