Bangkok Post reviews
Satisfaction comes from the south
- Writer: Tong
- Published: March 13, 2013 at 9:11 am
Far left: Executive chef Philippe Gaudal with the cold seafood station, the most flocked corner of the buffet brunch.
Left: The grilled lamb chops complemented nicely by the smooth and sweet romesco puree.
Thai restaurants of this standard are hard to find but easy to enjoy
As we were leaving Khua Kling Pak Sod, a small Southern Thai restaurant well-hidden in the middle of Soi Thong Lor, one of my dining companions said: "A Thai restaurant this excellent is so hard to find nowadays. I wish we had more of them in Bangkok." Well, the other four fully satisfied diners in the group could not have agreed more.
Khua Kling Pak Sod is a neat, family-run restaurant. The recipes come from a southerner grandmother, the kitchen is directed by a culinarily passionate aunt and niece dream team while the front of the house is under the care of the mother. And ever since its launch three years ago (previously located on Sukhumvit Soi 40), this lovely little restaurant has become much-cherished among the city's discerning gourmands.
Considering the limited size of the establishment, the menu is impressively large with almost 100 dishes from Thailand's Southern and Central regions.
We couldn't afford to miss the specialty dish, which also lends its name to the restaurant's sobriquet. The khua kling, or stir-fried minced meat with Southern spices (120-150 baht, depending on choice of meat), accompanied by a platter of phak sod (fresh vegetables) proved to be deliciously fiery.
With his tongue on fire, a male friend announced that he personally liked the nam phrik goong siab, or Southern-styled chilli dip with sun-dried shrimps (180 baht). Just like the khua kling, this shrimp paste-based dip was served with an assortment of vegetables and eaten with rice.
A parade of palate-pleasing pungency continued with the kaeng lueang (180 baht). This Southern-style sour and spicy yellow curry was prepared with a choice of prawns or snapper. We chose the latter and were delighted by the sharp-tasting broth, seasoned with fresh lime juice, in which beautiful and firm fish fillets and slices of bamboo shoot bathed.
But if kaeng tai pla, or fish stomach curry (140 baht), is a favourite dish of yours, then go for it. The dish, featuring pickled bamboo shoots, aubergine and winged beans in a peppery, salty, muddy looking soup on our table was claimed by an avid fan of Southern cuisine to be the best in town.
The fervent gastronomic heat was toned down by what was described on the menu as pork leg with tofu and eggs (180 baht). Surprisingly, this khai phalo, or boiled egg and pork leg in sweet and savoury brown gravy (phalo) _ a classic Thai dish of the Central Plains, is the restaurant's best-selling dish. Each morning, 40 orders of this dish are made, and normally sold out before dinner time.
Also from the Central Plains cuisine menu was the phrik khing moo krob, or wok-fried string beans with crispy three-layered pork and sweet red curry paste (140 baht), which also proved to be delectable.
Another non-peppery dish highly recommended is the deep-fried pla bai khanoon (spinefoot fish) with turmeric flavour (580-680 baht, depending on the size). A whole medium-sized fish was rubbed with turmeric seasoning before being deep-fried and served with crispy garlic and lemongrass crumbs, which added an addictive touch to the flavoursome fish.
Never before in my life have I come across a truly tasty phad Thai noodle dish _ neither at a five-star Thai restaurant nor street-side specialist. So I have never been a fan of the globally popular dish, which, interestingly enough, at this family-run restaurant, is a special menu item available only on Mondays.
I have to say that the dish (280 baht), prepared with home-made sauce, freshly roasted peanuts and large shrimp, was honestly the best I've ever tasted and, as I'm writing this, my craving for it remains strong. Unlike the starchy noodles found at most eateries, that easily break apart, the noodles used in this particular phad Thai dish were rather translucent and pleasantly springy. They were thoroughly flavoured and yielded a well-rounded sweet and spicy zest.
There's also a separate menu dedicated to dishes prepared with freshly shelled crab meat and, let me tell you, all of them, served in generous portions I might add, are really worth having.
The stir-fried crab meat with bird's-eye chilli (350 baht), skilfully cooked to showcase the nice chunks of crab meat thoroughly flavoured with fresh Thai chillies, garlic and basil leaves, is ideal for those who like the savour of phad kaphrao. Meanwhile, those who prefer a sweeter dish that tastes equally impressive should go for the stir-fried crab meat with sweet chilli paste and egg (350 baht).
We wrapped up our meal with custard apple ice cream (70 baht) and black grass jelly with longan juice (45 baht). Both gave a delightfully refreshing finish to our meal.
Homemade polenta with poached egg and Parmesan.
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