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Bangkok Chef: One of the Valley's Jewels

Temecula's oldest Thai restaurant is still pleasing discriminating palettes.

One of the best Thai restaurants in the Temecula Valley is also one of the oldest.

Established in 1991, Bangkok Chef, 27451 Jefferson Ave., in Temecula, serves traditional Thai. The restaurant is in a shopping center that lost its anchor grocery store, so some are hesitant to try the place.

This all fades away when you walk in the front door and find out how great the food and service is. Family owned and operated for 22 years, if you’re not sure what to order, just ask.

Everything here is delicious and really great for families looking for quality and value. Ask the owner Utai Usanaluxmee or his wife Judy for the specials. Some of the best, seasonal dishes change daily and are not on the menu.

You can enjoy an incredible meal just with the appetizers. There is satay, chicken, beef or pork marinated in a special blend of spices and coconut milk and then char-grilled on skewers. It’s served with a savory peanut sauce and cucumber chutney.

The Mee Krob is a crispy rice noodle dish with tofu, tossed in sweet tamarind sauce and topped with bean sprouts.

One of my absolute favorites are angel wings. These boneless chicken wings are stuffed with a mixture of minced chicken, vegetables and noodles and spices, then cooked to a golden brown. The Koong Gra Bog (shrimp in a blanket) is also delicious. Marinated whole shrimp are wrapped in egg roll skin and deep fried until golden. Both dishes are served with a Thai sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Toong Tong or golden bags are my kids' favorites. These crispy egg rolls are stuffed with ground chicken and shrimp and formed into tiny bite-sized bags. They also have a stuffed cream cheese version.

Vegetarian? This restaurant has an incredible array of meatless offerings, such as fresh spring rolls made with tofu, veggies and sweet basil, all wrapped in rice paper—the healthy alternative to deep fried rolls.

Meat lovers don’t panic, Bangkok Chef can also include your choice of chicken, shrimp or minced pork in the rolls.

There are also many soup selections. A must is the Tom Kha Gai, which is classic Thai coconut milk soup with chicken, mushrooms, vegetables flavored with lemongrass, Thai spices and galangal. The seafood version is loaded with fish, mussels, calamari, clams and shrimp.

The curries come in two styles and varying degrees of heat. The Panang curry is a spicy blend of coconut milk, peanuts with a touch of sweet basil and kaffir leaves. This complex combination of herbs and spices is truly satisfying. It comes vegatarian or with a choice of chicken, shrimp, pork or beef. Mussamon Curry is cooked in a mussamon blend with coconut milk, potatoes, peanuts, onions and carrots.

The minced eggplant and beef, aka the "Chris Special" named after the owner’s son, should not be missed. Be sure to order it with fried egg on top.

Thai barbecue chicken is another must try. It’s a half-chicken marinated to perfection in authentic Thai herbs and spices, served on a hot platter and brought sizzling to the table.

Pad thai is one of the most popular Thai dishes—it's brilliant here. Rice noodles are mixed in a wok with green onions, bean sprouts, baked tofu and eggs in a sweet, tangy sauce. It’s then topped with crushed peanuts.

Pad Kee Mao or drunken noodles is another of my favorites. Wide noodles are stir-fried with spicy Chili sauce, tomatoes, onion and sweet basil served on a bed of romaine lettuce—topped off with peanuts, basil and bean sprouts before being served.

The Bangkok Chef serves a large variety of fried rice for every palette. The one that I really enjoy is the Khao Pad Pooh or crab fried rice. Jasmine rice is cooked with crab meat, onion, egg and tomato. It’s topped with a crab omelet and garnished cucumber and cilantro.

Our meal ends with Kao Neaw Ma Muang—sweet sticky rice served with ripe mango. The texture of the sticky rice enveloped in a coconut sauce that mixes so well with the fresh mango slices.

WARNING: Don’t order things too spicy unless you REALLY like HOT.

Bangkok Chef is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

local nerd January 13, 2013 at 03:48 AM
Vegatarian? Typo.
JRod January 14, 2013 at 04:57 PM
My husband and I have been eating here since 1993. This is where we have our Friday lunch date every week. The food is delicious and the owner's are very nice. The lunch deals are fantastic !
oralia January 14, 2013 at 05:43 PM
my name is oralia and I get a lot of nasty comment about my name because of sex talk. but this name is very funny! Utai Usanaluxmee . how you even say it!!!
SPB January 14, 2013 at 07:47 PM
My girlfriend got their food to go a month ago. When I got home I realized they forgot part of our order. We ate what they gave us and both got sick. I'll pass.
JRod January 14, 2013 at 08:00 PM
I have never purchased food to go, but I'm surprised you got sick. We have never had an issue. They cook their food as you order it and they purchase meat and vegetables in small quantities so it doesn't spoil. They couldn't stay in business this long if they were serving bad or spoiled food. I don't recall how many other restaurants have been in business this long. Maybe Richie's Diner, not sure.
SPB January 14, 2013 at 08:54 PM
I think its because we're both vegetarians and a lot of times Thai places consider fish sauce to be vegetarian (because fish are vegetables apparently). No bueno. I generally make it a habit to ask the person at the counter if they use fish sauce or not, but I can tell if the person was lying to me or not within 20 minutes of eating the food.
Brittany January 14, 2013 at 10:39 PM
My fiance has ate here since he was a little boy and absolutely loves it! He brought me here, and I am an avid Thai food eater, and I can honestly say it is the best I have ever had! I love their beef panang!!! We also announced the birth of first child to his family here!! And Utai came out to congratulate us!!! This place has wonderful food, with amazing people who run it! If your in the mood for Thai food or food at all, this is the place to go!!!!
Tmlure January 15, 2013 at 09:29 PM
My then boyfriend, now husband, took me here for my 18th birthday, 9 years ago. My first taste of Thai...I got the pineapple fried rice which was a huge portion and had a cute little veggie face served inside a half of the pineapple. It was delicious and turned me onto Thai ever since. Unfortunately we don't make it out to Bangkok Chef very often anymore.
D February 05, 2013 at 04:47 PM
My family and I have been eating here since 1999. My favorite food is Thai and I have eaten at over a hundred different Thai places, Bangkok Chef is the best authentic Thai Food. Utai, Judy and Chris are like family, they are so pleasant and accomodating. The food bursts with flavors with just the right amount of heat. Utai is always getting fresh produce and fish from the LA markets so his dishes always taste great. If you don't know what you want, describe a flavor or desire and Utai or Judy will make a dish to make you happy. I hope they stay around for a long time, this place is the BEST!

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