Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant in Hackensack was awarded two and a half stars today by restaurant reviewer Elisa Ung of The Record, but lovers of Thai food know the only place to go in River City is Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles.
Wondee's is only a couple of blocks from its white-tablecloth competitor on Main Street. Chef Wandee Suwangbutra turns out dish after dish with sparkling flavors, and her food is a better value. You'll save even more by bringing your own wine or beer; Bangkok Garden has a liquor license.
Wandee told me in an interview in 2005 that she especially got a kick out of how her homemade curries and other dishes have made loyal customers of of workers from competing Thai restaurants. I ate at Bangkok Garden only one time several years ago, but never went back.
The rating of Bangkok Garden -- between good and excellent -- also calls into question the reviewer's judgment. She gives it only a half star more than Bahama Breeze, the faux Caribbean chain restaurant in Wayne she reviewed in September. In the Thai review, Ung lists one of her recommended dishes incorrectly. It's green papaya salad, not papaya salad.
Each time I taste Wondee's green papaya salad, it reminds me of "The Scent of Green Papaya" (1993), a beautiful but heart-breaking movie set in Vietnam.