By Kuheli Bhattacharya Rane
The Campal road stretch may very well have to be renamed the Malacca strait, considering the large number of oriental restaurants on this road. The newest addition Thai N Wok opened just over a month back. Warren Vaz, a born and bred Goan, along with his wife Dew, from Thailand are the owners of this pretty venture in red and gold.
Ambience: there is an outside seating area, closed for the monsoons, while the interiors are done up in red. Art and artefacts are from the by lanes of Bangkok. Artistic and evocative, these have been sourced by the owners themselves, who also happen to own a hotel in Pattaya as well.
Food: The menu card is divided into Thai and the Chinese sections. Like in a lot of places in Thailand, as well as in China, actual pictures of dishes accompany the names of the dishes on the menu. The Thai names of the dishes are mentioned along with a non frilly description in English. It reminded me of my visit to Pattaya where the non-English speaking staff point at the picture accompanying the name and say “very good , very good” and all you have is the picture of a broth to make your decision. Lucky for us we had the lovely Dew to not only help us through the order but share tidbits of her childhood in a village in Thailand, which enhanced the experience many fold.
The drinks have funky Asian themed names like Bangkok smash, drunken monk apart from the originals like mai tai. We had the Phuket fantasy (wink wink), which was a mocktail of fruit juices in coconut milk, and the Thai vice a girly pink drink described as a cross between a pina colada and a strawberry daiquiri.
The soup is served in a large bowl, much like the chimney soups served in Chinese restaurants. As much as I love a large steaming chimney soup bowl, it is too large for two people, especially if you expect to eat anything afterwards. We made the mistake on our first visit, but the second time round we asked for two small bowls. I would recommend the tom kha soup over the ubiquitous favourite tum yum soup while at Thai n Wok. The tom kha had a depth of flavour and a delicate balance of the different taste sensations, which is key to good Thai cuisine, as opposed to the off key tum yum soup. The lemon grass and the kafir leaves along with the coconut milk all remind you why Thai cuisine is one of the most loved cuisines across the world.
We moved on to the som tum thai, which was a salad made from green papaya, crushed peanuts and tons of heat from the Thai chillies, and the pretty as a picture yam woon sen, the glass noodle salad with beautifully cooked calamari and prawns soft and sweet against the spicy dressing. The pad pakbeung was a plate of wilted morning glories with chilli and garlic, and is a must for anyone who loves their greens, and also for those who don’t. Honestly, I love my greens and this topped my list of favourites not just because of the freshness, but because of the fine balance of spice.
From the Chinese selection we tried the dragon chicken, burnt garlic fried rice, fish in spicy lemon sauce and a vegetable stir fry. Familiar flavours for the Indian palate but they play second fiddle to Thai dishes.
Thai dishes need a delicate balance of flavours where the sweet blends into the salty and the hint of bitter is hidden amongst the tangy lemon grass. A few hits and misses, and a few spices used with a heavy hand, at this new work-in-progress restaurant.
The desserts were the highlight of the meal with song kleung ice cream, a Thai version of the Indian Falooda, with tender coconut ice-cream and sticky rice topped with candied fruits. Yum. Tho pap, which was our host’s favourite childhood dessert, is a recipe from her village in north Thailand which she informs is hard to get even in Bangkok. It’s like nothing we have in our Indian repertoire of desserts. A soft cushy moong dal and sticky rice dumpling rolled in grated coconut and sugar. Voila! You have a sweet soft and crunchy end to your meal.
To round things up there is the green tea flavoured with basmati leaves. It smells grandmother’s rice water or kanji, and is served in a beautiful green porcelain tea kettle enhancing the experience.
Go here for: Tom kha soup, song kleung ice cream and the endearing owner and host Dew Vaz.
Shortcomings: A few dishes lack the complexity and fine balance that Thai cuisine demands.
Flavours of Thailand
By Kuheli Bhattacharya Rane