The name Bai Plu Thai & Sushi is longer than many, with a menu to match — and then some. It goes on for 24 full-color photo illustrated pages…with a six-page beverage menu as well!
To go through the whole thing, page by page, item by item, will probably increase your hunger to a maniacal level. Which makes it a very good thing — a blessing, really — that the folks behind Bai Plu Thai & Sushi have been good enough to offer lunch and dinner specials which do much of the looking for you — though there are still choices to be made.
For lunch, there’s one bento box special that involves miso soup, a green salad, steamed rice, and a choice of four combinations of chicken, beef and salmon teriyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura — lots of mixing and matching. There’s a second bento box special with seven choices from Column A and six from Column B. There’s a special as well of hand rolls — three chosen from 15 options. And a vegetarian special too. Except for the vegetarian combo, which is $9.99, the specials are $11.99 — a lot of tasty food for the money.
And that’s just the beginning.
There’s also a lunch special for $8.99 ($9.99 for shrimp) of chicken, beef, pork or tofu, done 16 ways, with the inevitable miso soup or salad, and rice. Even the preset specials involve a fair amount of consideration. And there are still 22 pages of pretty pictures to go. Bai Plu Thai & Sushi wants you involved in the creation of your meal, no matter what you choose.
The Bai Plu Thai & Sushi on 7th Street is the second to open in Long Beach — the other is nearby at 2119 N. Bellflower Blvd. Years ago, I described the original as “the restaurant equivalent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup — a combination of two of my favorite things, in one pretty foil wrapper.”
I’ve been mad for chocolate and peanut butter, probably since birth. I’ve loved sushi since Sushi House became a cult destination back in the 1970s — at about the same time that those in the know began flocking to Jitlada in Hollywood for noodles and spice. Putting the two cuisines together under one roof is an act of kindness and generosity; it saves us from having to choose between one or the other. You can have your sushi rolls and your noodles, without feeling deprived.
I think it’s considered to be bad form to eat hot plates of noodles at a sushi bar. I doubt anyone does — it’s just too odd a thing to do. But to have dishes from both cuisines on your table, that’s just fine! And the full-color photographs of every single dish, along with relevant descriptions, sure do help with the decision process. Sort of. With 36 Special Rolls alone, the decision-making process can be convoluted, to say the least. (And that’s just the Special Rolls!)
Knowing that a Jalapeño Bomb is a deep-fried jalapeño stuffed with spicy tuna and cream cheese, admittedly tough to discern in the photo, helps me decide not to get it — I don’t like cream cheese with my sushi. On the other hand, it increases my desire for a Playboy Roll, constructed out of shrimp tempura, avocado and cucumber topped with tuna, “crunchy flakes” and eel sauce. Sounds tasty. Is tasty. And without the notes, would be a total mystery.
Neither, for that matter, are the components of a Rocky Roll, a Snow White Roll, a Long Beach Roll, a Godzilla Roll or any number of other bits of fancy roll exotica. But then, Bai Plu takes pride in slathering their menu with exotica, or at least exotic references. There are two pages of Thai dishes referred to as “The Wild Things.”
Why some dishes are “Wild Things,” while others are “Appetizers” is a bit of a mystery — except the apps seem to be smaller than the wilds. I think. And though I understand the beef jerky and pork jerky — both properly spicy Thai dishes being wild — the wildness of orange chicken and honey duck is a puzzlement.
But I quibble. Despite the antic quality of the menu, the preparations at Bai Plu are good, even better than that. The soft shell crab has a crunch that other restaurants could learn from; the point of deep-fried soft-shell crab is to create a dish that’s the crab equivalent of a potato chip, and that’s what they manage at Bai Plu.
The fried gyoza are as good as any as well, with a nice crunch to the wonton wrappers. And there’s a poke salad that’s so fresh, it could have been served as sashimi, if it hadn’t been doused in sauce. And yes, poke is a Hawaiian dish — add one more twist to the menu.
But then, there is clearly a restaurant that wants to be, if not all things, at least many things to many people. There’s a section of vegetarian sushi rolls a Healthy Roll, a Crunchy Vegetarian Roll, even a Moonlight Roll (vegetable tempura with mango and eel sauce). There are several chow meins, for those in need of a Chinese dish to mix with the Thai and Japanese. There are 14 salads — not one of which is a Caesar salad, and include no apparent use of kale, so things don’t go that far.
I don’t know how the kitchen makes all that it makes. But it does — and the sushi chefs stand at their stations, cranking out some of the most rainbow hued rolls imaginable.
Somehow, the food comes out with good speed — and tastes just fine on top of that, and even better. This is a great restaurant when no one is sure what they want because, short of a hamburger, they’ll probably find it here. At least, I couldn’t find a hamburger on the menu — but it could be hiding somewhere. The eyes do glaze over after a while.
Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bai Plu Thai & Sushi
- Rating: 2.5 stars
- Address: 1626 E. 7th St., Long Beach
- Information: 562-436-3123, baipluthaiandsushi.com
- Cuisine: Thai/Japanese
- When: Lunch and dinner, every day
- Details: Beer, wine and exotic wine, sake- and soju-based cocktails
- Prices: About $20 per person
- Suggested dishes: Lunch Specials (dozens of options, $8.99-$11.99), 18 Appetizers ($3.25-$13.99), 4 Soups ($2.25-$12.99), 14 Salads ($4.99-$15.99), 27 Sushi ($3.95-$9.99), 15 Sashimi ($12.99-$39.99), 36 Special Rolls ($9.99-$17.99), 8 Hand Rolls ($5.99-$6.99), 19 Cut Rolls ($6.99), 29 Thai “Wild Things” ($11.99-$18.99), 14 Thai Appetizers ($5.99-$11.99), 12 Thai Hot Pots ($10.99-$14.99), 15 Thai Salads ($10.99-$12.99), 14 Thai Rice Dishes ($11.99-$13.99), 9 Thai Curries ($11.99-$14.99), 14 Thai Seafood Dishes ($12.99-$17.99), 18 Thai Noodle Dishes ($11.99-$13.99), 8 Thai House Specials ($13.99), 21 Thai Plates ($11.99-$13.99)
- Credit cards: MC, V
- What the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth a trip from anywhere!), 3 (Most excellent, even exceptional. Worth a trip from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (A good place to go for a meal. Worth a trip from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry, and it’s nearby, but don’t get stuck in traffic going.) 0 (Honestly, not worth writing about.)
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