No, this restaurant is not a white man’s take on Thai cuisine. Bob Likes Thai Food is actually run by a Mr. Tai Keattivanichvily, and seems to have got its name as randomly as I got mine (for those wondering, I was wearing a red tie/white shirt get-up for work once, and combined with my shaved head a coworker said I looked like Hitman from the movie/game. Wendy agreed, but that sounded too menacing for the blog so I added a Howdy at the end based on WordPress’s dashboard greeting, which I was viewing at the time. Random!).
Tai wanted to create the persona of a foreigner expat who goes to Thailand and falls in love with the cuisine, then upon returning home decides to recreate the food he misses. That’s one explanation of the name. Others are even more confusing and odd. Quirky, right? Wendy and I went to visit Bob Likes Thai Food armed with a snaplocal gift certificate she won to see if the food was as interesting as the name would imply.
You might notice the giant spoon and fork hanging on the walls when you enter. Mr. Keattivanichvily crafted these himself, and they represent the utensils that urban Thais use. Knives are only used during meal preparation, not during eating. Thais use their fork to push food onto the spoon, which is the only utensil it is considered “proper” to put in your mouth. Even when eating steak many Thais will take care not to let the fork touch their teeth or lips.
There are various theories explaining these dining habits floating around the interwebs, but my favourite is that a Thai king was given a fancy silverware set from the British, and not knowing quite what to do with it simply made up his own way of eating with them, which caught on with the general public given their great affection for the Thai Royal Family.
Bob Likes Thai Food has your standard Thai fare which I will get to later. Their Small Plates menu has all sorts of interesting offerings though, including some Northern Thai specialties, so we stuck to that section for our first visit.
The Lychee Wrapped Bacon with Pineapple ($5) is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually bacon-wrapped lychee as you can see in the pic, but that’s what we were expecting anyway. They were scrumptious, however I was disappointed that there were only three. If they had added even one more instead of padding the plate with salad I would have felt that we got our money’s worth. Or at least describe the portion on the menu instead of writing “Ditto…” under the title. Seeing my disappointment Wendy was kind enough to offer me the last one, so that smoothed things over 🙂
Bob Likes Thai Food’s Papaya Salad ($7) was a much more flavourful version of som tum than the one we had recently at longtail kitchen. This one had the requisite sweet, salty, spicy, and fishy tastes in spades, and even upped the ante with some big slivers of garlic. Pretty satisfying even though the portion left me wanting more.
Speaking of longtail, Bob Likes Thai Food also serves pandan water, theirs being complimentary. There wasn’t any added flavour that I could detect though, and in fact on my second visit the water tasted kind of nasty. I’d rather pay for longtail kitchen’s summery concoction than drink Bob’s for free, that’s for sure.
Wendy and I always seem to order Laab dishes when they’re on menu, so we tried Bob’s Laab Moo ($10), an Isaan style pork “salad” with onion, mint, fish sauce, lime juice, and copious amounts of bird’s-eye chili. You will be thankful for the fresh veggies on the side to cool your mouth down. While I bliss out on these dishes, Wendy normally finds them too salty. For her, Bob Likes Thai Food’s version was no exception and she prefers the one she had at Spices Thai Cafe.
Miang Kham ($7 for 6 “bites”, only 5 pictured cuz someone couldn’t wait to dig in…) is a traditional Laos-Thai snack. The name roughly translates to “eating many things in one bite”, so you will get all of the Thai “taste senses” at once. This is accomplished through a blend of roasted coconut shavings, lime, shallots, peanuts, ginger, and fresh chili with tamarind palm sugar sauce, all wrapped up in chaphlu leaf aka wild betel. The fresh bird’s-eye chili is optional so be sure to ask for it, but also be sure you know what you’re getting into or try a very small amount to start! So you will get the spicy from that, sweet from the palm sugar, sour from the tamarind, and a bit of salty bitterness from the lime (which includes the edible peel). The coconut is dominant here, and we both enjoyed trying Miang Kham.
Originally created for Vancouver Foodster‘s Poutine Challenge, Bob’s Poutine ($11) was such a hit that “Bob” kept it on his regular menu after the challenge. This ingenious creation consists of deep-fried thin-sliced taro root topped with lemongrass, lime leaf, deep-fried tofu, chili, and green curry sauce. At first I thought there wasn’t enough sauce but there’s plenty on the bottom of the plate to dip into. It’s just fairly runny so it doesn’t stick to the taro too well. The one thing I would change with this dish is to thicken that curry sauce up, but other than that all the elements fit. Exotic and yes, quirky.
For dessert we shared a Maw-Gang ($3); a Thai style custard of sorts made from taro root, coconut, egg, and palm sugar. This had a very familiar taste, until you bite into a deep-fried shallot that is… It actually worked somehow and Wendy and I both thought this was a good deal and a pleasant ending to the meal.
I returned to sample their Favourites menu which mainly consists of the usual Thai suspects. These are larger portions and are great for sharing with rice. I didn’t take pics, and there isn’t much to say, so I’ll keep it brief:
- Chicken Satay ($5) – Optimistic amount of sauces considering the tiny, bite sized skewers. Wouldn’t order again due to size, but at least this time the menu states there is only two.
- Massaman Beef Curry ($13) – Nothing special here; beef, potatoes with skin on, and full cardamom pod.
- Pad Thai ($13) – Decent version; prawns and firm smoked tofu.
- Coconut Rice ($3) – The usual.
So basically the message is to be adventurous and enjoy Bob Likes Thai Food’s funkier offerings. The four stars are for the Small Plates menu, Favourites gets a three.
PS-There is another location on W. Broadway that has less favourable reviews than the Main St. one. But they’re licensed while Main St. is not.