A Bakery & Thai Food: Half-baked
A Bakery & Thai Food6490 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95820
Let’s decode that odd name of this new cafe: A Bakery & Thai Food. One’s mind leaps to rearrange it to “A Thai Bakery & Food;” the next logical thought is, “What are Thai baked-goods like?” But look again; this is just what it says: a (non-Thai) bakery with (Thai) food.
And it’s barely a bakery, Thai or otherwise; the large restaurant only features one small bakery case, which, on the day I visit, is mostly empty. The only offerings then are cookies and coffee cake.
So in reality, AB&TF is a Thai eatery located in a strip mall in Tahoe Park. Rows of seashells are strung across the front windows—an airy touch—and multiple Tiffany-style lamps hang in the dining room. There are also large paintings everywhere—including one of a badass red dragon.
My server brings out an amuse-bouche of an unremarkable fried spring roll before I even order. Scanning the menu, my interest is piqued to see a few dishes that I think of as Indian. When asked about their origin, the server explains, “They’re not Thai, but Asian.”
Hmm. OK, I’ll bite, and bite happily, as it turns out. The samosas are available filled with vegetables, chicken or a mixture; in fact, vegans take note: many dishes at AB&TF are available in vegetarian versions, and some can even be made vegan by request, with the omission of fish sauce.
The samosas, wrapped in layers of crispy, phyllolike dough are filled with potatoes and peas and tiny bits of dark-meat chicken. There’s a dollop of tamarind in each; this sweet-sour fruit pulp is often served as a side condiment in Indian restaurants, but here it’s more fully integrated as part of the filling.
The restaurant serves an interesting version of the common Thai/Lao dish, angel wings: Here, the meat is mostly stripped off the knobby end of the bone so that they resemble pork-loin lollipops. Then, the remaining meat at the bulbous end is surrounded by chopped meat, and the whole shebang is deep-fried in extremely crispy panko batter. It’s a labor-intensive preparation, but, unfortunately, the result is bland and stripped of any fatty, crispy skin.
The restaurant’s spongy fried fish cakes, or tod mun pla, are better executed, flavored with flowery, fragrant Kaffir lime leaves and a pleasant wallop of spice.
Two salads, one squid and one chicken larb, are dressed very similarly, with lime juice and mild fish sauce. The differences are subtle: The squid is served with tomato, fresh mint and ginger; the chicken salad features coriander and more heat, but falls short of my “very spicy” request.
The crosshatched calamari is passably tender, but the white-meat ground chicken in the larb is disappointingly dry. For those who desire a fishier flavor, each table contains a vat of dark fish sauce with extremely hot chilies afloat in it. As a fish sauce addict, I overindulge, especially in the fiery chilies, and suffer the consequences later.
The ginger chicken arrives with a small serving of jasmine rice; when our server uncovers the dish, the intoxicating, nutty smell of the rice wafts through the air and each grain is distinct yet not dry. Perfect rice is no small feat and much appreciated. The ginger chicken itself is served with an uninspiring mix of vegetables—strips of red bell pepper: check. Onions: check. Boring chunks of onion and broccoli: check.
If I was 5 years old again, I might have been excited by the dish’s baby corn, but my now-jaded palate remains unstirred, discarded along with the thrill of canned black olives stuck on each finger.
In the dessert realm, the fried bread in the roti with ice-cream dish is quite hot, and it’s a challenge to eat the coconut-flake ice cream as it rapidly melts into a spreading pool. The soft consistency is a sure sign that it’s house-made, and the server smiles and proudly confirms it’s made by her cousin.
A board covered with paper in the dining room solicits comment and praise, including one that says, “So bomb, what up?”
Maybe not bomb, but certainly a boon to this Tahoe Park neighborhood which previously lacked a Thai restaurant, especially one with Pan-Asian flair.