Centerville’s Bahn Mai brings some spice to the Miami Valley
By Eleanor Hill
For over five years, there has been an authentic Thai restaurant hiding in our backyard called Bahn Mai. This casual establishment is small and cozy, and packs a heck of a flavor punch in every dish. Open for lunch and dinner, you are guaranteed fresh ingredients, authentic cuisine and a spice level you choose from plain to hot, hot, hot.
An original from Bob Silva, owner of Bahn Mai, is the Roasted Garlic and Chive Rangoon Sticks ($5). This appetizer has won numerous “Best Taste” awards in the region and with one bite, you’ll understand why. Flaky wonton wrappers wrap the secret ingredients with sweet chili sauce for dipping.
These were so fabulous that I wanted to cancel my entrée and just keep eating more of these. Other appetizers include Spring Rolls, Coconut and Panang Shrimp, Chicken Satay and Panang Wings.
Staring through the entrée selections on the menu are many stir-fry options. The restaurant’s signature dish is the Pad Kapow Basil Stir-Fry. This dish combines five different artful sauces and stir-fries them with your choice of meat (beef, chicken, shrimp, tofu or vegetable), Thai chilies, basil, carrots, peppers and yellow onions. This packs a fiery flavor with a light hint of basil mixed in.
The authentic Pad Kapow is also offered with the meat chopped to allow the Thai chilies and sauce to soak into it. Julienned ginger strips blistered in a hot wok bring out the flavor in the Thai Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry along with traditional offerings of Mongolian Stir-Fry and Kung Pao. Prices average $13 and portions for all dishes are generous and filling.
The fried rice dishes are also worth exploring. The House Fried Rice is made with jasmine-scented rice, fresh tomatoes, onion, cilantro and eggs stir-fried over high heat with your choice of meat. Basil Fried Rice adds Thai Chilies and Basil to the house ingredients, while Yellow Curry Fried Rice uses an Indian base powder for a delicious curry flavor.
Bahn Mai’s spice scale runs zero to five. I’m careful not to have my food make me cry so I ordered up a number two on this scale. The jasmine-scented rice had large chunks of fresh tomato and chicken along with the onions and garlic. The spice was perfect for my taste, with just the right amount of kick at the end of each bite.
Though I was unfamiliar with some of the curry selections, the servers were helpful with descriptions. Bahn Mai’s Red Curry is slow-cooked to enhance the flavors of each of the ingredients and Green Curry is a vegetable-based spiced curry with ingredients like coconut milk and Thai eggplant.
The Massaman Curry takes from the Red Curry, but adds a peanut flavor to potatoes and roasted nuts while the Panang Curry is a fantastic spicy curry that is topped with pineapple chunks. All are served with steamed jasmine rice and can be ordered to your desired level of “spicy.”
I ordered up the Red Curry with a number three spice and found it quite perfect. Served in a bowl with the rice on the side, the plate had a nice garnish and the taste was fabulous. The carrots, zucchini, peppers, Thai eggplant and bamboo shoots were crunchy and plentiful. The shrimp was generous in portion and the sauce was amazing.
The final menu category is the superb noodle selection. The signature dish in this section is the Pad Kapow. Garlic, Thai chilies, basil, green and red bell peppers and onions are stir-fried with rice noodles in a sweet and spicy sauce.
My choice of Pad Thai was delectable. Long, thin rice noodles are stir fried with green onion, egg and bean sprouts in a tangy sauce with fresh-squeezed lime juice and then served with more fresh bean sprouts and roasted peanuts. Also, featured menu items are Drunken Noodles with wild rice noodles and Yaki Soba with yellow egg noodles.
There are a few Bahn Mai specials each day and extra meat, tofu, vegetables and peanuts can be added at an additional charge. Wine and beer along with premixed cocktails are offered along with coconut water, Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee. Desserts include Banana Wraps, Apple Cinnamon Wontons and Sweet Rice. However, as of mid-November, unlike any other restaurant in town, Bob Silva has reduced the menu prices to make it even more reasonable to dine for lunch or dinner.
Bahn Mai is definitely a restaurant I intend to keep visiting. As I learn more about Thai food and its tradition, I am sure Bob and his culinary staff will provide unique and authentic recipes, fresh ingredients and a continuous enjoyment of his culinary mastery.
Bahn Mai Thai Café is located at 725 Lyons Road in Centerville.
For more information, call (937) 435-0624 or visit www.bahnmai.com.
Reach DCP dining critic Eleanor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org