What’s indeed in the name? Or, in this case, the spelling?
One afternoon. A Twitter exchange between me and @MarinaMetro led to an earth-shattering discovery – she told me of course – of a Thai restaurant called Khaosan on Chepstow Road, Notting Hill. This mustn’t be confused with another Kaosan – also a Thai restaurant – in Brixton, which received a raving review by Jay Rayner. “H” or no “H”? Is there a rigid formula to Thai phonetic transcription? There isn’t. You can even spell “Khaosarn”, “Kaosarn”, whichever way you’d like as long as you know of the location you are heading and the menu you peek at online comes from your destination restaurant..
I was told.. Khaosan (with an “H”) is run by the team behind my ghetto, no-nonsense Thai grub The Heron. Enough to tickle my taste bud and curiosity.
A few buses later..
I was there. Very quiet street. A pink restaurant. That was some statement. Inside it was slightly run down, not to the extent of a retro-disco interior of The Heron. Very quiet restaurant. Locals only seemed to flock for takeaway.
The menu was not aggressively niche. There were curries. There were stir-fried dishes. Just like other Thai restaurants. The less conservative dishes could be, say, deep-fried marinated duck’s tongues. I settled for some usual dishes (for the other bib) and non-stereotyped ones (for me). Fish Ball Salad (1). A dish that could be missed. Very couth chilli and lime kick jostling with a medley of celery leaves, crunchy red onions, carrots and juicy cherry tomatoes. The balls were not distinctly fishy but had decent texture. It also wasn’t spicy enough. Grilled Tumeric Chicken (2) was staggeringly large and put Nandos to shame. The most delicious of all the dishes ordered. Tender meat with perfuming herbal aroma. Perfectly charred. Served with two kinds of dipping sauce: the fiery “Jaew” of fish sauce and dried chilli powder and the mellow sweet chilli sauce.
Red Chicken Curry (3) was commendable and almost authentic (if it weren’t for red chilli being substituted by red bell pepper slices). Fragrant holy basil nicely infused in a medium heat, velvety curry. Pearls of pea aubergines added a contrasting bitter taste. The chicken, sadly, was overcooked. Stir-Fried Crab Curry (4) was delicious. Crispy soft shell crabs revived by this omelette-like sauce of egg, milk and curry powder. A bit of heat, onion-y sweetness and tomato acidity. A megalomania of flavours. Shamed they could have made more effort draining the oil off the soft shell crabs.
Fortunately, my last dish of “Hor Mok” AKA steamed fish curry (5), which is a variation of Burmese fish amok, was bad. Badly cooked fish. The coconut milk was not thick enough, inexpertly cooked and distressingly curdled. No flavour whatsoever penetrated fish chunks. The dry banana leaves that encased the “Hor Mok” appeared abhorrent. I didn’t feel obliged to finish it.
It was an okay meal. Huge portion. Good value for money. Authentic flavours. Not piquantly, offensively Thai. Some non-stereotypical dishes. Many highlights, but with some intriguingly bad cooking. I could go back..
.. on a second thought I might not.
The meal did not thrill me. Khaosan is definitely a local restaurant. Not a destination. I’d rather hop off the bus half way to Notting Hill for my Heron!
My head rating says, “7.5 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “6.5 out of 10″.
108 Chepstow Road
Tel. 020 7221 9984