Dearborn’s modest Bangkok 96 serves up Asian delights

Molly Abraham

Genevieve Vang likes to say that the fare of Thailand is “the new Chinese food.” When it comes to popularity in the metro area, she is absolutely right.

And she certainly has the credentials to make the claim. She’s spent more than 20 years preparing and serving Thai fare in Dearborn, following arriving here with her family after an odyssey that began in her home country of Laos, followed by years in Thailand and France. The talented chef has introduced literally hundreds of people to the curries, stir fries and noodle dishes of southeast Asia.

Vang, her husband, Guy, and their daughters Caroline, Melanie and Christine are the talents behind Bangkok 96 , a modest spot on Telegraph just south of Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. They consider their staff extended family, and when Genevieve Vang is asked how many family members are involved, it’s likely she’ll say 40. Some have been with the Vangs for 20 years, others 10 or 15, and they reflect the friendly and welcoming attitude of the proprietors.

The simple room with closely packed tables is modest in terms of amenities, but the quality of the food outshines the setting in the little free-standing building. Be aware that there’s nothing fancy about the 120-seat restaurant, but the lack of décor won’t matter the moment a fragrant platter of bamboo shoots, peapods, mushrooms, carrots and shrimp in a resonant brown sauce, or a bowl of hot and sour soup, or a heap of fried rice with bright green onions, eggs and chicken comes to the table. The food is the star of the show here.

Spice levels are at the discretion of the individual diner. I found the medium spice level to be just right, but the range is from mild to hot and extra hot. The really timid may have no spice at all. But that would be a mistake.

Portions are generous. Small plates? Not here. At lunch, for less than $10, people may choose from a wide range of colorful curries with the underlying richness of coconut milk and stir-fries studded with fresh broccoli, green peppers and peas, and for an extra $2 may add a crunchy little spring roll filled with transparent noodles, cabbage and carrots. Spring rolls are one of several appetizers including fried bean curd with garlic sauce, and chicken satay deep-fried in a curried coconut milk batter.

In the evening, the menu expands to include sturdier stuff such as three crispy duck dishes and barbecue chicken.

Barbecue will be emphasized starting this spring, when Bangkok 96 adds a patio and an outdoor grill, Vang says. And when the bistro license arrives, beer and wine will be added to the offerings.

Bangkok 96

2450 S. Telegraph, Dearborn

Call: (313) 730-8161


Rating: ★★1/2

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-10 p.m. Sat. Closed Sun.

Prices: Appetizers $2-$7.95, lunch entrees $8.25-$10.50, dinner entrees $9.95-$14.95

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: No; bistro license is in the works

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Attached lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good

★★1/2 — very good ★★★ — excellent

★★★★ — outstanding