A VISUAL TREAT Bee's mango fresh roll.
On the radar of Providence foodies, the ding of Bee’s Thai Cuisine has grown increasingly louder and brighter. Being a Thai guy myself — in gustatory enthusiasm, not ethnically — my visits in recent weeks have been a strain on my smile muscles, but I’m not complaining.
Owners Nilubol and Bee Moungsa opened their doors in April last year, with daughter Bet heading the kitchen, using her grandmother’s recipes. Without departing from authenticity, non-Thai customers and newbies to the dishes are attended to; the default one-chili heat warned of for some of the items on the menu is mercifully mild. And some items are renamed for clarity, with traditional names in parentheses, so pad see ew is Brown Soy Noodles and pad kee mao is Spicy Brown Soy Noodles.
The brightness of the space, even on a recent overcast day, is enhanced by yellow walls and large, relaxing photographs, from exotic market food to a row of gilded Buddhas. Paper napkins and placemats indicate that the prices will be right, and their BYOB policy is sane, as in not charging you for their decision to not get a liquor license.
The trouble with a place like this is that there are so many choices to make. Take the appetizers. The mango fresh roll ($5.95) — two of them, actually — is a visual treat, a display of proffered bounty: avocado, greens, carrot slivers, and plenty of the eponymous fruit. Tastes good too. The crab Rangoon ($5.95), those filled fried wontons, has a pleasant sweetness to the loose cream cheese. And the chicken satay ($6.50), which comes with kitchen-made peanut sauce and particularly tasty sweet vinegar sauce, is tauntingly superior to the ones I always order at the Thai restaurant near me that I visit every week or two: they are thick enough to remain juicy from their delicious marinade.
Lest I lose credibility through liking everything here, let me note that the coconut soup ($3.50-$4.50) doesn’t have enough lime juice tang for me (though I could add it), or creamy coconut milk (possibly because it’s low-fat). My shrimp tom-yum soup ($4.50) was tasty with lime, spiciness, and fresh-tasting shellfish; there was plenty of chicken but I wished the mushrooms were cut bite-sized. On that visit, a friend enjoying a meal-sized seafood noodle soup ($10.95) also remarked on the freshness of the seafood.
There are six curry dishes ($11.95-$12.95), all one-chili hot, and Johnnie gave her yellow curry dish a thumbs-up. On that visit I had one of the lunch specials, which are served weekdays 11:30 am to 3 pm. They are $7.95 whether you have tofu or meat, with a dozen choices, from mild broccoli with oyster sauce to red, green, or yellow curry. I got drunken noodles, which were spicy and brown-sauced and the same medium-width rice noodles in the pad-Thai ($10.95) that I loved another time for its slight sweetness (I’m so easy).