All posts tagged “Thai

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Andy Oliver & Thai Grill @ Bar Story

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver is a chef with a substantive skill set and no PR boost. He was a semi-finalist of Masterchef when the show was far less a self-promoting bypass to UK restaurant industry. He spent years working, washing and wok-ing under David Thompson at Nahm London. He went on to travel in Southeast Asia and spent more than half a year in Thailand learning the language and continuing his training as a Thai cuisine chef at Bo.Lan Restaurant. (One of my most loved places in the world). Last year Andy returned to London and headed up the operation of Naamya Cafe with David Thompson and Alan Yau. Now he helps run the operation at The Begging Bowl (quite possibly the best Thai restaurant in London) and waits for the right opportunity to open his own restaurant.

According to my book, Andy’s name surfaced, during his time at Nahm, via the Loft Project, and I had the chance to try his cooking at a one-off pop-up in East London years ago. Then, for a *farang* cooking Thai food, he was promising. And it was that experience that brought me to Thai Grill @ Bar Story.

 

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Thai Grill @ Bar Story

Bar Story is housed at one of those railway arches behind Peckham Rye Station. The venue features an indoor cocktail bar and an outdoor drinking space. Very eclectic, with a lot buzz from cool South London crowd.

Thai Grill is a stall separate from the kitchen of Bar Story and stations at this venue on Mondays only. The menu scribbled across a few blackboards is concise and features what Thai blanket as Gai Yang + Som Tam (Grilled chicken + Papaya salad). Andy plays around with the Thai “Yang” category and extends the menu to encompass other favorite grilled items usually found at Som Tam carts in Thailand. There are grilled sea bass (£12), pork skewers (£4), chicken thighs and drumsticks (£5), prawns (£4), home-made fermented pork sausage (£5), and minced beef in betal leaf (£5). (If this isn’t easy to imagine, think Burnt Enz but Thai). £6 for a peanut-y Som Tam and £1 for a bag of sticky rice. You grab your drink from the bar.

 

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I ordered everything from the menu and it was SENSATIONAL. The perfectly steamed, sticky and fragrant Sticky Rice arrived, as it should in Thailand, in a flimsy plastic bag. I started off with salt-grilled seafood dishes. Goong Pao (Grilled prawns) was spot on. The prawns were marinated in a traditional concoction of coriander, garlic, pepper and turmeric and grilled at a controlled low heat for delicious springy-ness. I also enjoyed Plah Pao (Grilled fish) very much. The sea bass was gutted, cleaned and stuffed with a healthy dose of herbs (lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, etc.). It was first grilled at low heat and finished on higher heat for a crispy effect on the skin. The result was as I hoped for – soft and moist meat with peel-able, lightly crispy skin. (It could have been a little crispier). Both the prawns and the fish were served with freshly prepared seafood dipping sauce (garlic, coriander and green chilli). The latter boast great citric tang and herbal refreshment.

Som Tam (Papaya salad) was done peanut-y Central-style. (Thai call it Som Tam Thai, as opposed to Som Tam that are from the Northeastern and enjoy Laotian influences). The best way to get the Som Tam you want (anywhere in the world) is to tell the chef which flavors you prefer (one or two chilli? sour? salty?). I asked for sour and spicy and it tasted superbly authentic. Yum Taeng Kwa (Cucumber salad) appeared very much soft-core (food) porn. The dish featured a spicy salad of cucumber slivers with coriander, mint, shallot and ground dehydrated shrimps. The salad itself verged on being too spicy but the gooey soft-boiled egg was instrumental in balancing out the heat.

The eating continued with Nham Yang (Grilled fermented pork sausage). Andy has my respect for making his own sausage for Nham Yang. (Young generations of Thai rarely know what actually goes into it). The taste, however, was not spot on. That is, the taste of the sausage was saltiness leading to mild sourness from the fermentation process. It should have been the other way round, in my opinion. Correctness aside, the dish was yummy. The pork used for fermentation was much better in quality than you would find off a street cart in Thailand. The only non-Thai dish on the menu was Bo La Lot (Grilled minced beef in betal leaf). It was bigger and more protein-led than most Bo La Lot I have come across. I enjoyed the gradual release of herbal aroma in the minced beef. The home-made Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) was elegant.

Moo Ping was sex pork on skewers. These were shoulders and loins marinated (coriander roots, pepper, garlic, fish sauce, palm sugar) and crisscrossed with fat pieces on skewers. When being grilled, the fat dripped into burning charcoal and created a burst of smokey perfume. And before finishing, they were brushed my coconut milk and left for the last sizzle. The taste – sweet, garlicky, porky, smokey – captured my nostalgia of Thailand. Eating with the sticky rice, I had my orgasm moment. Also peaking was Gai Yang (Grilled chicken), served with two kinds of home-made dipping sauce (sweet chilli sauce and “Jeaw” sauce). Here chicken thighs were grilled whole and then jointed. The turmeric based marinate was carefully applied only to the skin. Again, they were grilled at low heat for roughly 20 min (so be patient) and finished with a brushing of sweet and musty sauce. The result was another orgasm nostalgic moment. The chicken meat was juicy, had a good depth of taste and just fell off the bone. The special brushing sauce proved bloody special. (Andy has a special purveyor of organic and rare palm sugar from Thailand, and it makes his recipes quite extraordinary). My only criticism goes onto to the Jaew dipping sauce, which I found a little too sour. (You may see from the pile of paper dishes in the last photo. We had 3 portions for Moo Ping and 3 for Gai Yang).

Andy’s strength, from what I have tasted, lies not only in his cooking and understanding of Thai food, but also in knowing the limitation of cooking authentic Thai food in the UK. (Say, herbs suffer from jet lag and many other items aren’t allowed in according to Custom laws). Accordingly, he uses the very good produce that tastes and can be found in the UK to wisely construct his menu. Nothing is processed or comes from a tin. No MSG. The result is something simple but sublime, genuine and utterly zingy.

The team was also very helpful and friendly.

(Another criticism, though. If there is a bunch of Thai walking in, please provide spoons with forks).

Updates on menu and specials can be found here.

 

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RATING 5/5

THAI GRILL @ BAR STORY

213 Blenheim Grove
Peckham
London
SE15 4QL

www.barstory.co.uk

Bar Story on Urbanspoon

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Naamyaa Cafe: Urban Thai Treats in North London

Enter the new chain..

Collaboration usually brings about awesomeness and when I heard of highly acclaimed restaurateur Alan Yau’s recent partnering with internationally lauded Thai chef David Thompson I couldn’t have been more excited. The lovechild is Naamya Cafe – a large-scale, well-funky and tactically conceived *urban Thai restaurant* in Islington. Its menu, featuring a friendly, photographically documented selection of one-plate dishes that middle-class Thai urbanites would eat in Bangkok – think, Cheeseburger and Salad Nicoise – as opposed to what Londoners stereotypically imagine as Thai food – think, Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry, is quite a departure from the imaginative exotic stuff Yau is known for at Busaba Eathai. The price is set at around £9 per dish. The portion is generous. The result is.. well, I think.. not more spectacular than a chain restaurant but will promise, in UK’s immigration term, a somewhat indefinite leave to remain surely.

Thai and western modern

The offerings at Naamya Cafe don’t quite fall into the categories of starters, mains, sides and desserts but are grouped into various kinds of “set” menus, including “small plate”, “burger&sandwich”, “noodle&pasta” and of course “Naamya” (a variation of Thai rice vermicelli eaten with watery curry and assorted vegetables. My Pan-Fried Turnip Cake (£.6.50) was huge and while being billed “small plate” could itself have been a meal. The turnip cake, though floury, contained some distinguishable bites of turnip and was nicely sauteed with egg, beansprouts and Chinese chives. The seasoning cried for richer and more feisty soy-based sweetness. Naamya Gai (£9) – rice vermicelli with a base of finger-root ginger curry and shredded chicken – was probably the most authentic I’ve had in the UK. (That said, Naamya Cafe is also the only place that sells it). The curry blend, from David Thompson’s factory, was aromatic and revitalisingly hot, and the consistency of the curry was right – loose and watery as opposed to thick and creamy. This was traditionally served with a boiled egg and both fresh and pickled vegetables. The uninspiring element, however, was the bland, scent-less, slightly-too-wet rice vermicelli. Also likable was Naamya’s take on the signature Thai street food favourite of Stir Fried Minced Beef with Chilli (£8.90), which arrived complete with steamed rice, a fried egg and a mooli soup. The stir fry was dry, correctly musty (because of fish sauce), and had Thompson’s salt-prone style of seasoning stamped all over it. Personally it could have been spicier; the rice tasted a bit tired and could have been a touch softer; and the fried egg could do with a better crispy skin.

Naamya Cafe isn’t the place to go an adrenaline-fueled Thai fix. But, given my three okay dishes that could feed three people and came just under £30, it was satisfactory..

RATING 3/5

NAAMYA CAFE

407 St John Street
London
EC1V 4AB

Tel. 020 3122 0988

www.naamyaa.com

 

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London Round Up: The Asian(s)

The London restaurant scene moves forward at the speed of light. Even some of the good restaurants don’t survive the test of time, and for those that do live on, I think they need some extra mentioning here ^_^

ASADAL

Asadal on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3/5

Situated on the basement level of a building next to Holborn Tube Station, Asadal is my slightly-more-expensive-than-average Korean restaurant with quite a wide selection on the barbecue menu (£6.50-18.50) and a relatively effective and non-intrusive extraction system. (No ventilation tube at table to suck your eyelashes off, so to speak). Useless as this may sound, I never try order anything else at Asadal apart from barbecue, kimchi and rice dishes. The pungent, variably spiced selection of Kimchi (£6) was crunchy and reliable. Namool Selection (£4.50) was less successful and lacked some vital aromatic dimension of sesame oil. That said, in most Korean restaurants in London, kimchi and namool dishes are complimentary. An Chang Kui/Rib Eye Marinated with Sesame Oil (£13.80) spoke quality but was too calm in taste. More robustness and fragrance from the marinate and the char would have made it brilliant. Bulgogi/Marinated Topside Beef Slices (£9.20) had more flavours, notably sweetness. Gal Bi/Stripes of Marinated Rib (£9.50) was my usual favourite – beefy, well-marinated and quite full of tenderised bites. Dewji Bul Go Gi/Spicy Marinated Pork (£8.50) was lost on the spicy side. Sang Chu/Fresh Lettuce with Seasoned Bean Paste (£2.50) was nice, though I would have loved the paste with a little more heat. Pa Seng Che/Shredded Spring Onions in Sesame Oil and Chilli Powder (£1.90) was fresh, feisty and vinegary. Great foil to the mellow taste from the barbecue. Kimchi Bokum Bab (£8.80) was a dish of stir-fried rice with kimchi and small beef cubes. The rice was grainy but quite wet; the heat was there to please (me) but it could induce a kimchi sweat from irregular chilli consumers; the beef cubes were tough and lost in taste.

 

MITSUKOSHI

Mitsukoshi on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

For those in the know (of Japanese shopping), Mitsukoshi is the long-standing Japanese department store with many of its branches spreading across Japan, Asia, Europe and America. The one in London – on Lower Regent Street and next to Japan Centre – attracts mostly Japanese (and some Chinese) tour groups. You may expect the same groups of diners in the basement restaurant. You can also expect an all-encompassing, everybody-can-eat menu. And, you can expect Japanese authenticity. The ambiance is low-key, but it is often busy.

The lunch menu contain mainly set courses, costing between £15-27. Most options are served with a bowl of rice, soup and side salad. The dinner menu is dearer but features a wider range of A La Carte dishes. Given my experience at Mitsukoshi, it’s best to go for lunch; the non-deep-frying dishes are usually acceptable; the sashimi, sourced by the same fish supplier as Sushi Tetsu, is reliable.

My Una-Ju Zen (£26.50) from the dinner menu was decent. The accompanying sashimi starter (of salmon, akami and seabass was fresh, though the wasabi was quite dry and tired and didn’t taste much. The eel grilled and caramelised with kabayaki sauce was meaty and fell apart apart in my mouth. The smoky sweetness was quite distinct and the rice was nicely cooked. More spectacular was my A La Carte De Luxe Sashimi (£28.80) from the lunch menu. This premium assortment included salmon, akami, sea bass, yellowtail, flounder, scallops, prawns, squids and vinegared snow crab. It went down quickly with a bowl of rice ^_^

 

CENTREPOINT SUSHI

Centrepoint Sushi on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2.5/5

Centrepoint Sushi is a hidden Japanese restaurant above the Japanese-Korean supermarket on St Giles High Street. The budget-priced menu covers a wide selection of dishes, from sashimi and sushi to deep-fried and cooked dishes. Not a destination restaurant, but more of a place you pop in and order the safest-sounding dishes on the menu and hope the kitchen will execute it right.

My chicken karaake bento box (around £12) was decent. The batter was crispy; the chicken did taste like chicken; and the rice was nicely cooked. The side order of assorted pickles (£4) was full of crunch. From my previous experience, however, the sashimi here isn’t usually the freshest. (Generally you can’t really go budget for good sushi or sashimi).

 

PRINCESS GARDEN OF MAYFAIR

Princess Garden on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

The Mayfair scene is usually the place for swanky, inventive Chinese restaurants (say, Bo London, Novikov Asian, Kai and Hakkasan) but its much more traditional Cantonese Chinese restaurant neighbour Princess Garden of Mayfair will have enjoyed its 30-year-old success in 2013.

For me, Princess Garden isn’t the place you go for a *wow* dim sum lunch but a reliably well-done one. The pricing for dim sum (around £3-4) is also quite a steal for the Mayfair location. To my knowledge, they are also the only Chinese restaurant that offers abalone and sea cucumber as the fixed staples on their dinner menu.

My char siu puff (£2.90) flaked nicely and was without grease. The pork was gently spiced and deliciously sweet. The shredded mooli cake (£2.90) was tangy, crispy and crunchy. The beef cheng fun with enoki mushrooms (£4), thinly wrapped and doused in rich sweetened soy dressing, also boast a correct texture. The turnip cake (£2.80), oozing a mild turnip aroma, was soft on the inside and fried for delectable crisp on the outside.

MANGO TREE

Mango Tree on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2/5

Mango Tree and Pan Chai by Ian Pengelley are counter restaurants at Harrods Food Hall. The former took over the old dim sum bar; the latter the older sushi bar. Interestingly enough, the majority of the menus of the former restaurants have survived this rechristening. One desperately hungry moment led me to taking a seat at Mango Tree, now a dim sum bar with a modern *fusion* Thai menu. The price range is high enough to make a Harrods regular gasp. The *cheapest* options on the menu are Spare Ribs and Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce at £7.50 each; the most startlingly expensive option is Thai Green Curry with Wagyu Beef at £59.80.

Seeing the menu, my appetite dwindled and I resorted to Goong Ten (£15.80). The dish – or, rather, my martini glass – held three king prawns steamed in ridiculously bland and watery tom yum dressing and a bed of banal (but fresh) salad of carrot and cabbage. This was edible but overwhelmingly disappointing, which is a shame because Harrods’s recent redevelopment of its restaurant section is really exciting.

 

NAHM (Closed)

Nahm on Urbanspoon

2012 also saw the end of the era of Nahm London – the world’s first Thai restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Chef David Thompson has moved on not only to opening Nahm in Bangkok to great acclaims but also to branching out in London, Hong Kong and a few other destinations in Asia for more casual ventures. I will miss the macho, meaty and slightly salty take of Thai cuisine at Nahm as well as its sparkling array of Thai desserts (the best I’ve ever had in and outside Thailand).

Below was a combination platter of Nahm’s iconic desserts Pumpkin and Taro Custard, with threads of syrup-poached egg yolk and caramelised sesame biscuits. (Well, Bangkok is just one 12-hour flight away)..

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ASADAL

Kingsbourne House
229-231 High Holborn
London
WC1V 7DA

Tel. 020 7430 9006

www.asadal.co.uk

 

MITSUKOSHI

Dorland House (Basement)
14-20 Lower Regent Street
London
SW1Y 4PH

Tel. 020 7930 0317

www.mitsukoshi-restaurant.co.uk

 

CENTREPOINT SUSHI

20 St Giles High Street
London
WC2H 8LN

Tel. 020 7240 6147

 

PRINCESS GARDEN OF MAYFAIR

8-10 North Audley Street
London
W1K 6ZD

Tel. 020 7493 3223

www.princessgardenofmayfair.com

 

MANGO TREE

Harrods (Ground Floor)
Brompton Road
London
SW1X 7XL

Tel. 020 7730 1234

www.harrods.com

 

 

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The Begging Bowl: Truthfully Thai in South London

Minor non-Thai issues

There were a few issues that annoyed me at The Begging Bowl. Firstly, there was a soup bowl placed on top of my plate in a manner that resembles what the Chinese do with rice bowl. Most diners put food in that bowl and ate from it. If you do this, please kindly inform diners that they are soup bowls, not rice bowls. Thais eat off a plate; and this gives out a wrong impression, of the restaurant’s not being aware culturally. Secondly, there was an odd format to the menu: four circular symbols in different colours at the top to suggest portion size and prices – think Yo! Sushi!? – and then, the following descriptions of dishes that were printed in corresponding colours. Confusing. What’s so uncool about putting the price right after the dishes? Also, please put at least one Thai word on the menu. Thirdly, both Jasmine rice and sticky rice accompanied all orders. Please don’t do this. Nearly all of the dishes were only ideal with Jasmine rice and just wouldn’t go with sticky. Fourthly, the restaurant did not quite have a Thai vibe. Though I liked the veranda, the long and handsome wood tables where diners share meals with strangers, and the walls adorned with naturally worn, re-painted planks of wood, it lacked a distinctive Thai character. Some random Thai DJ tracks should fix this. All that aside, The Begging Bowl, a casual, but pristine neighbourhood Thai restaurant of Peckham by ex-Nahm chef Jane Alty, was really, really impressive.

Thailand via Peckham

The menu at The Begging Bowl was concise, with a focus on a more elegant Bangkok-influenced style of Thai cooking. No papaya salad, in other words. The price per dish was fixed at £5.5, £7.5, £9.5 and £12.5. While the portion was not large, the ingredients were authentic, well-sourced and of good quality. The restaurant should also be commended for (successfully) making its own curry paste. Crispy Rice (£5.5) was served with a ground pork, chicken and peanut dip. The crispy rice discs, uneven in size, were skilfully deep fried and grease-less. The coconut-milk-based dip was fragrant and acceptably flavoured, though verging on being too sweet. It would benefit from a hint more of curry paste. Salad of Salmon (£7.5) was vibrant. The salmon – deep fried and flaked – was well complimented by a saliva-inducing melange of star fruit, shredded green mango, mint, coriander and Thai red onions. There was a pleasantly balanced heat from the chilli. Charcoal Grilled Gurnard (£9.5) reminded me of a steamed curry souffle dish “Hor Mok” better recognised in the UK as fish amok. The fillet of gurnard here was rubbed with red curry paste, coconut milk and holy basil leaves, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled. Nice. The burnt scent from the banana leaves imparted well onto the delicate fish. The seasoning could have done with a stronger herbal boost. Hot & Sour Soup with Tiger Prawns (£7.5) was a Begging Bowl take on Tom Yum Goong. Bluntly speaking, it was more “sour” than “hot”. The prawns were beautifully poached in the herb-infused broth – a wondrous note of galangal, lemongrass, shallots and coriander – I could do with a couple more. At present, there seemed more cherry tomatoes – nicely poached too – than prawns. Green Curry with Rabbit (£9.5) was very proper. The minimally coarse texture of the curry, as opposed to the super smooth and milky curry one usually comes across, was the sign of the kitchen’s hard curry-paste-pounding labour. It boast piquancy and released depth. The vegetables – pea aubergines, round eggplants, chilli, baby corns – were perfectly cooked. The rabbit, which there was not much of, did not have such a robust taste, and (god forbid) we couldn’t help thinking if we would get more meat (cost-wise) if it was replaced with chicken (sorry!). I also loved Duck Curry (£9.5), an inventive retouch for Gaeng Gari which is traditionally prepared with chicken. Here the un-boned duck breasts was simmered to fall apart very moreishly. This was nicely contrasted by the biteful jersey royals, while the topping of deep fried Thai onions rendered perfumed sweetness. Equally stellar was the finely tuned, soul warming curry concoction of tumeric, cardamom and ginger. It also surprised me with gusty chilli kicks. The accompanying cucumber relish added vinegared sweetness and freshened up the rich curry.

The cooking at The Begging Bowl has shown promises – authenticity, care, refinement and inventiveness. If I lived in SE, I could see myself becoming a regular. That said, we thought ’tis a pity there was only one dessert of Mango Sticky Rice on the menu.

;

RATING 4/5

THE BEGGING BOWL

168 Bellenden Road
London
SE15 4BW

Tel. 020 7642 1910

www.thebeggingbowl.co.uk

Begging Bowl on Urbanspoon

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41° Experience, Barcelona

41° Experience

There is so much brilliance I can recall about this meal, but I have decided not to put all into writing. Lazy blogger, no. Necessity, yes. The “elements of surprise” are crucial, according to FAQ. When it was first launched, 41° Experience (or 41 Grados) by El Bulli-famed Ferran and Albert Adria was meant to be just a cocktail bar for the annexed Tickets. But it has morphed.. into a 16-seat, tasting-menu-only restaurant, most recently alleged as one of the most difficult to get reservations in the world.

Briefly. There is no reservation line. The booking is made via their website and partially requires payment. There are some drinks included in the €200-per-head tasting menu. You can order a separate alcoholic pairing at €45. Blah. Blah. The venue is a decent-sized bar space, dimmed and dark. There were more FOHs than diners. Above me was a nebula of eclectic images – a kind of modern pop art featuring disparate cultural items around the world – being played in slow motion. And soothing trance-like music..

Not so briefly. The fun at 41° Experience kicked off with a stubbornly square, neatly crafted “41°” ice cube which chilled a smoky liquid substance. Along came a jar containing drops of green olive, preserved in oil. Just your typical jar of olive – but the molecularised EL BULLI style. The liquid olive essence was entrapped in a gelatinous skin. Fragile, it rolled for an escape on the tongue and burst into a taste of what would have been like if I stuffed my mouth with 10 olives in one go. I have never made enough effort to be at El Bulli and I am – or was – never convinced by molecular gastronomy. BUT. That was some alchemy that I highly recommend.

Through my first 3-4 courses, I departed from Barcelona – the 41° latitude as the name of the restaurant portends- wandered through Italy, France, Russia, Asia and many more. Ferran and Albert Adria not only know so much about cuisines but also cultures, wherein lies humourous anecdotes and stereotypes. All these are re-interpreted into all the 41 dishes served at 41° Experience. Some were more successful than others. Some got me to physically interact and/or contemplate intellectually; others made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. (Something about France, of course. And Rene Redzepi might be on the menu). That said, as the concept of the menu relies very heavily on the elements of surprise, of not knowing what comes next and which country where you will end up, it is best not to do so much telling (or display any sharp and clear images). The cooking was exquisite but a complement to the concept. SO.. if you are a global character, know a lot about cuisines and cultures, you will be having a very good time at 41° Experience. If you are averse to internationalism, there is a high risk that you might not get the “jokes”, which are the best part of the meal.

Life-changing? No. But this meal reversed my eagerness in life and I felt happy, giggly.. as if I became a child again :-D

 

(Sorry. Can’t help not telling you of my most favourite dish – a re-constructed Peruvian “causa”. A thick slice of super fresh and firm yellowtail/hamachi marinated in lime, chilli and garlic was served nigiri-style on a velvety ball of spiced-infused mashed potatoes. The dish paid homage to the Japanese influences in Peruvian culinary tradition and taste-wise it was a bomb of citric umami).

PS Don’t hate me for doing this >_<

 

 

RATING: 5/5

41° EXPERIENCE

Avinguda Paral-lel, 164
08015, Barcelona
Spain

www.41grados.es


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Kaosarn: Thai + Some Joyful Stereotypes in South London

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 :-D

RATING: 4.5/5

KAOSARN

Brixton Village Market
London
SW9 8PR

Tel. 020 7095 8922

Kaosarn on Urbanspoon