Arather mixed bag

The menu at a new Silom eatery is packed with intriguing Thai dishes, but the results were more varied in quality than expected

A food-alert friend of Ung-aang Talay's recently recommended a restaurant in the Silom area, mentioning that it was related to the Sukhumvit-based Baan Khanitha, whose kitchen has been attracting loyal customers for many years with excellent curries and nam prik dishes, and with its signature multi-coloured rice. As a regular at Baan Khanitha back in its early days on Sukhumvit Soi 11, U-a T's curiosity was aroused, and a group supper planned for last week seemed like a good opportunity to give the place a try.

Choo chee tao hoo , tofu simmered with a thick, curried coconut-cream sauce.

The name, The Foodie, was not quite as elegant as Baan Khanitha, and the rather blank and anodyne appearance of the dining room, located on the ground floor of the Trinity Glow Hotel on Soi Phiphat, harmonised with it a little too well. But the menu was full of intriguing things and, after looking it over, U-a T and friends placed orders for nuea kem tom kati (dried, salted beef stewed in coconut cream), kaeng kua krathawn sai kung (a thick curry made from santol, a local fruit, and shrimps), pat prik king pla duk foo (teased and crisp-fried catfish meat fried with a sweet chilli-and-ginger paste), kaeng lueang sai kung (a spicy southern shrimp curry made without coconut cream) and choo chee tao hoo (tofu simmered with a thick, curried coconut-cream sauce).

The results were more varied in quality than U-a T had expected, considering the Baan Khanitha connection, with some excellent dishes sharing the table with others that were less memorable.

The best first: The Foodie's kaeng kua krathawn was a new dish to U-a T, and it was a delicious discovery. The delectable sourness of fresh santol pulp was retained by the red curry, which was very rich and thick. The fruit had been cooked until it was tender but not mushy and, in addition to the sourness, the sauce had a mildly spicy bite that accented it nicely without overwhelming the tastes of the fruit and shrimp. It was one of the two highlights of the meal, and is strongly recommended.

Almost equally good was the choo chee tao hoo. U-a T thinks of choo chee recipes primarily in connection with fish, and the idea of a tofu version was interesting enough to prompt an order. In adapting the dish to the new, ultra-bland central ingredient, The Foodie turned up the heat. The sauce for choo chee dishes made with fish is one of the richest of all Thai curries _ fragrant, sweet and nutty from the abundant coconut cream cooked into it _ and usually quite mild, spicy enough to flavour, but not to shout down the fish.

In the tofu version, with the bean curd contributing texture rather than flavour, the chef made the sauce hot enough to warrant a warning to chilli-avoiders. Others will find the dish a welcome variant of a familiar favourite. Recommended.

That last time U-a T tasted Baan Khanitha's kaeng lueang (some years ago), it was one of the very few disappointments on the menu. It had been badly Bangkokised, with the spiciness that gives it its character reduced to bring it too close to its Central Thai equivalent, kaeng som. No such restraint had stayed the hand of the chef in the seasoning of The Foodie's shrimp version, but the dish was still not a success.

U-a T appreciated the kitchen having included both bamboo and hearts of palm as vegetables, and the firm texture of the shrimp, but the broth lacked the fullness of flavour, the balance of peppery heat, sweetness and sourness of the best versions U-a T has been served elsewhere locally (at Dao Tai near the Phran Nok intersection in Thon Buri, for one).

Nuea kem tom kati, as served at The Foodie, is not a dish to set the mouth watering at first glance. With its small scraps of beef and vegetable floating in pallid, off-white liquid it presents a very modest appearance. As a result, the first taste came as a pleasant surprise.

The beef had been cooked to extreme tenderness and contributed almost all of its saltiness to the broth, which was rich but not overly heavy from the coconut cream and nicely scented with lemongrass, spring onion and other herbs. Thin slices of yellow chilli had been added more for their colour than for their flavour, as this was a mild dish that was a pleasant contrast to the hotter items on the table.

Finally, pat prik king pla duk foo, catfish meat that has been teased up to fluffiness with a fork, fried crisp, then refried with sweet-spicy prik king chilli paste, is not a dish that invites a wide variety of interpretations. The Foodie's version, served plain without any vegetables except for the kaffir lime leaves that had been fried with it, was no new departure, but well cooked with plenty of crunch.

Service was friendly and efficient, prices in the mid range. Western food is also available, with breakfast offered as a buffet beginning at 6am.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Ung-Aang Talay
Position: Reporter