Published October 2, 2005
Before Banthai, “world cuisine” used to mean ordering a pizza. It’s been serving authentic Thai food to curious Icelanders for 14 years. Hopefully it is no longer the curiosity to try something “exotic” that brings people here, but simply the desire to enjoy a flavourful dinner out.
Thai food in Iceland is generally of a high quality, and Banthai is no exception. You will be able to find all the Thai favourites here – Tom Yam soup, Pad Thai noodles, and spicy curries, as well as more unusual dishes, like the highly-recommended Lobster Pad Som Ma-Kham-Piak (lobster in tamarind sauce, ISK 2800). There’s a good selection of Thai lagers on the menu, admittedly at a much higher price than you would find on Ko Phi Phi, but nevertheless a valuable addition to the dining experience. For oenophiles, there is even a selection of Thai wines.
Sharing is the best way to partake of this food, and therefore the more of you eating together the better (there’s an unlimited supply of rice with the dishes). We shared Kra Pao Kai Banthai (spicy chicken with basil and coconut milk), which was good but not memorable, and the aforementioned lobster in tamarind, which was delicious. The “Tiger Cry” starter (ISK 1990), very tender beef strips with mint and coriander, and the fried banana with ice cream dessert (ISK 690) were also both good if uninspiring.
While the prices are entirely fair and the food is somewhere between pleasant and great, what makes Banthai so enjoyable is the environment. Located in a row of colourful houses along Laugavegur by Hlemmur, it’s not much to look at from the outside, and the signage on the front is not very attractive, but the interior represents what is so great about all small family-run restaurants: character. The warm yellow walls are decorated with bric-a-brac from Thailand and elsewhere, including ornately carved mirrors, and giant painted accordion fans. The tables have Icelandic and Thai flags and bamboo placemats. The sentimental side of me always admires people who put their heart and soul into their own business and you get that feeling here.
That’s why this dining experience is fun: Banthai is a restaurant with personality.
Banthai, Laugavegur 130,
Tel. 552 2444,
Open Daily 18:00 – 22:00
Take Away menu available.