Bangkok Avenue – Short Rib Panang
17221 Beach Blvd · Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Julienned strips of carrots, chunks of onions, and meaty diced potatoes grace the orange tinged sauce, lounging in the pool and soaking up the juices. Colossal cubes of browned beef stack up on one another like building blocks. A splash of coconut milk paints the surface, slathered on like sunscreen. A sole sprig of Thai basil along with a confetti of thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves stand out above the rest, greening up and garnishing the plate. Specs of red chili flakes dot the curry, bringing the heat level index up to the forecast outside.
Among the most popular curries in the Thai culinary arsenal, panang is composed of red curry paste simmered in coconut milk to create almost a Princeton orange shade. Bangkok Avenue’s version can be ordered with short rib, a modern take on the Thai classic combining the traditional base with trendy short ribs. Served with a bowl of steamed, fragrant jasmine rice, the dish is one of Bangkok Avenue’s specialties, along the likes of a fusion green curry paella and next to traditional standouts like BBQ chicken with papaya salad and sticky rice.
Short rib is as tender as one’s unconditional love for their mother. The meat effortlessly breaks apart with a gentle nudge of the fork, the beef imploding into thin shreds and slowly absorbing the spiced liquid. Short rib doesn’t pull apart so easily without hours of bathing in a simmering liquid to break down all the connective tissue. It’s an ideal meat choice for panang – braising the beef in the curry sauce not only tenderizes it, but also ensures that every inch is baptized by the flavor packed sauce once it is torn apart.
The aromatic curry sauce is thinner than most and leans a tad bit on the sweeter spectrum, but is far from overpowering. A judicious use of coconut milk really rounds out the flavors, uniting all the various elements and components to create a dish with exceptional depth. It gives the panang its lighter orange hue while balancing out the deep essence present in the paste.
Spice level depends on personal preference as the smiling server politely asks upon ordering the dish. Opt for mild for a stimulating slight pinch in your mouth, like a miniscule capsicum taking a nap on the sandy slopes of your tongue and occasionally waking up and sneaking about every time another spoonful comes in.
Fresh vegetables are as tender as the meat itself, incredibly yielding and soft. The taproots are easily mistaken for the more customary red bell peppers, but its concentrated sweetness and more compact texture is an instant giveaway. Potatoes belong more in a massaman, but nonetheless add bulk to the dish alongside the other root vegetables.
Pulling from the library of aromatic Thai herbs, the bright citrusy kaffir imparts delicate tinges of astringency and floral top notes that enhance the panang. Meanwhile, the fragrant holy basil further heightens the elegant nature of the dish, perfuming the sauce. Combined with the subtle sweetness of the carrots and onions, the herbs offer an excellent contrasting element to the curry sauce.
Fifteen dollars for this finely executed dish is more than reasonable. The warm service and contemporary atmosphere further elevates the dining experience. Bangkok Avenue is a relaxed, modern, and cozy place, a fabulous restaurant for a meal after a long day at the beach. With their unique approach to Thai cuisine, as evident with the short rib panang, Bangkok Avenue is undoubtedly one of the top Thai restaurants in Orange County.