The stereotypes of joy
Kaosarn – not to be confused with another Khaosan – is one of those famed eateries in the recently and most handsomely redeveloped quarter Brixton Village Market. (My first time, it was. A marvel, it was, too). This little Thai gem didn’t strike me as a restaurant but a speedy cafe serving a limited menu of well-known, bordering-on-being-stereotypes Thai dishes. Green Chicken Curry was columned alongside Grilled Chicken + Som Tam, while Deep Fried Banana was your only option for desserts. This is the sort of menu that when one – a Thai “one” – reads, one feels discouraged to eat.
AND I COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG..
Against the bland backdrop of this tiny, white-paint corner restaurant was the charm and attentiveness of, ermm, a Thai ladyboy. What’s more commendable (than her welcome) was that her recommendations were spot on. I grazed on a few dishes. Gaeng Kua Goong Supparod was this spicy red prawn curry simmered with cherry tomatoes and pineapple slices, served with steamed rice (£7.90). The dish was very visually appetising. The sign of a well-made Thai curry is an adequate layer of oil on top – a result of a well timed infusion of curry paste and oil which is crucial for the paste to release its herbal aroma. Taste-wise, the Gaeng Kua had some piquant kicks subsided by the fruity acidity of moreish pineapple. The prawns were fresh, plump and crunchy. And I moved on to the Chicken – rubbed generously in turmeric and herbs and grilled to perfection. There was a lot of moisture in the meat (a rarity in many other Thai restaurants that do the same dish) mingling with the wonderful aroma of charcoal (another rarity and usually associated with the chicken being burnt). The spicy and finely tuned jaew dressing – fish sauce, chilli flakes, ground toast rice and chopped shallots – completed the chicken with a robust touch. Simply the best Thai grilled chicken I had eaten in such a looonnnggg time!!! I was also in love, though not as madly, with the accompanying Som Tam Thai for its vibrant crunch and unruly heat. That said, it oozed enough palm sugar sweetness, which is the typical feature of Som Tam Thai against other variations of Som Tam. This combo dish also came with a carefully steamed sticky rice at £12.50. Pork Larb (£6.90), though a cut above average, was the least memorable of the bunch. It was correctly prepared but personally I would prefer more devilish smokiness from the dried chilli. (At this point it became an embarrassment that my tongue was on fire, while my two “farang” friends were doing just alright). I called for Deep Fried Banana with Vanilla Ice Cream (£4.90) to quench the heat. It arrived a westerners-pleasing upgrade of Thai-style Sundae. Two thumb-sized, deep-fried banana fritters (I’m talking bigger Caucasian thumbs, not Thai) leaned against hilly scoops of (quite) yellow vanilla ice cream. There were pleasant twists of golden syrup, crushed toasted peanut, and most delightfully, the coating of coconut flakes, all of which came alive in one mouthful. Bluntly concluding, I can see an admirable level of refinement in all these stereotypical Thai dishes at Kaosarn, and by the end of the meal I couldn’t care less for stereotypes but the flavours that left me yearning for more. It would be a sin not to return
Brixton Village Market
Tel. 020 7095 8922