bits and pieces

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reviews: Urban Thai Bistro - Yaletown

Yes I love thai food. Yes I have a problem. Moving on.

Urban Thai Bistro had been recommended on various Vancouver review sites and boards so one rainy night in Yaletown we decided to check out Urban Thai Bistro (UTB).

The decor is relatively uninspired, however, I wasn't expecting too much as most of the reviews indicated that this was a great place to grab a quick lunch and or a casual dinner. The service had gotten mixed reviews, but besides really pushing lychee martinis (don't mind if I do!) it was fine, if uninspiring.

The food was equally inoffensive. I normally don't order pad thai at thai places, but it was supposed to be good and was pushed by our server, so I settled on the old standby thai. The spring roll appetizers weren't great, and the dipping sauce was lacking any real zest or spirit. Spring rolls are never supposed to blow you away because really - it's deep fried wrapping and cabbage/veggies, however, to find a BAD spring roll is relatively surprising because again, well, it's deep fried veggies. These were just BLAND. No real taste at all. The pad thai was pretty much the same. Well, it wasn't bad, per say. It was piping hot and seemingly fresh, but it overall it was lacking.

Uninspired presentation, uninspired food, uninspired service, and uninspired atmosphere. For such a great location and especially considering the presence of a few other thai places in Yaletown (note: several are owned by the same company as UTB) one would expect SOMETHING to stand out. However, everything about this restaurant was unambitious and almost lazy. Listen - you've got a restaurant in Yaletown, your staff is relatively acceptable, I know you have most of the necessary ingredients in your kitchen, cook something good! While nothing was terrible, setting the bar at 'it wasn't bad' is pretty low. This place makes is part of the Taste of Vancouver promotion. If I was looking for a taste of Vancouver's culinary scene and UTB was what I stumbled upon, I would be very unimpressed by the Vancouver dining standards.

Maybe this is unnecessarily harsh for such a bland experience but the restaurant business seems so cutthroat - I don't understand owners or management companies with such a relatively decent level of success who seem happy to coast under the radar, directionless and unmotivated. Even if profit's the sole motivator - come on! UTB would make way more cash-money being the best thai place in Yaletown vs. being an 'OK-sometimes-if we can't decide on anything else and the lowest common denominator wins' type of place.

If the place had been fancier/more expensive - this review would have been bad. However, if this was a zippy, small, in and out, grab and go, type of place it would be actually pretty good! If you're in Yaletown, and you want something vaugly reminiscent of thai food for lunch, stop in at UTB. But for 'restaurant' prices, avoid it for dinner save your money and go grab some oysters at Rodney's.

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