Recently, a friend and I happened to have simpatico cravings for Thai food, so we arranged to meet at her house, and she drove us all to Basil - which we discovered was closed. They'd been closed for a couple weeks because the owners were on vacation and were not due to return until the following evening. OK, I've pumped myself up for Thai food, and now, EPIC FAIL. Luckily, our friend knew the location of another Thai place, so off to there we went.
Chang Thai Bistro is located on busy Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia. On the night we went, there was a street fair right in that area, so we had to park a bit aways (and parking was a little difficult to find because of the blocked street) and then walk, but it didn't turn out to be too far.
The restaurant is fairly small but nicely decorated with bamboo touches and themed with elephants, even on the serving plates, which were really nice. (The website indicates that "chang" means "elephant" in the Thai language.) The menu was extensive and had so many incredible things listed that it was really difficult to decide. We decided to dine "family style", so we all chose a dish to share.
First, we started off with an appetizer of the soft shell crab basket (soft shell crab lightly battered, deep fried and served with sweet and sour sauce) to share. The crab was cut into smaller pieces, so sharing was very easy, and the crab was very yummy. We thought about trying the Threesome ("Don't ask, just try it!"), but we decided to save that for another time.
I had to try my standard of Tom Yum Gai (chicken in classic spicy and sour lemongrass broth with mushrooms, carrots, galangal roots and kaffir lime leaves), which is sort of my benchmark for Thai restaurants. Their version was really yummy. They only had regular mushrooms, but that was ok because the broth was the perfect combination of spicy and lemony for me. One warning, though, is that even the small bowl is a fairly generous serving. It's good for sharing but fairly filling individually.
My entree selection was duck with basil and chili (roast duck sauteed in chili and basil sauce, Chinese broccolis, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, onions and bell peppers), which I really liked. The duck was nicely shredded but not too finely, and the dish had a definite kick to it - having water on hand was a good idea - but it wasn't spicy enough to overpower the actual flavor of the dish and ingredients.
The husband selected deliciously ginger flavored (thin slices of fresh ginger stir fry with onions and mushrooms) which comes with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, tofu, shrimp, scallop, fish fillet, squid or vegan shrimp - he chose the beef. This was a delicious dish and was, as you'd expect full of ginger! Our friend is not the ginger fanatic that the husband and I are, so it was a bit too gingery for her, but she seemed to enjoy the dish otherwise.
Our friend selected the crispy basil shrimp (golden crispy shrimp and basil leaves, sauteed in a fresh chili sauce), which was delicious as well. I really liked the crispy basil that was on top.
We also had one order of white rice and one order of brown rice to share amongst us, and we were amused that each serving of rice came out in a heart shape. All the dishes together made a really nice mix for dinner.
And then it came time for dessert. As I'd been browsing the menu earlier, I happened upon the dessert items, and one thing definitely popped out at me, so when it came time for dessert, I did order the lychee sorbet. Oh my goodness. It was so incredibly yummy. Well, it wouldn't be so yummy if you don't like lychee, but I love the stuff, and the delicate flavor in the sorbet was just so good. Our friend ordered the fried banana, and she seemed to enjoy them.
As I mentioned, there were many more dishes on the menu that sounded really good. I just saw this picture on their website.
It's shrimp and scallops sauteed in yellow curry sauce with onions, scallions, mushrooms and snow peas. That looks and sounds so yummy! Definitely on my list to try next time.
The service was very good, with our water glasses being promptly filled and empty plates taken away, all done with a smile and graciousness. I just loved everything about the meal, and it's a restaurant I definitely plan to return to many times.
Chang Thai Bistro
614 S. Myrtle Avenue
Monrovia, CA 91016