e’re self- confessed fans of Thai cuisine. T i me a n d a g a i n, t he wknd. team has ventured out in search of the hidden gems and shining stars serving this stellar Southeast Asian food in the city, and rarely have we returned disappointed. This time around, however, we were in the quest for something a bit more atmospheric. The restaurants in the Madinat Jumeirah and its adjacent hotels consortium always guarantee that — you get an unexpectedly different view to gaze upon, but even then, we didn’t quite anticipate how lovely the floating abra ride from the Al Qasr hotel to Pai Thai would be. It’s also utterly romantic, so don’t just take a friend like I did.
Additionally, this one’s set among the traditionalstyle courtyard summer houses of the Dar Al Maysaf property, so you have a feeling of actually being spirited away to a secluded getaway somewhere away from the city. We land up on a sort to pier and are ushered into the restaurant, reminiscent of traditional Thai- style homes: a lot of wood and thatched ceiling, very opulent but understated, and dim lit. Most of the guests, like us, were taking advantage of the weather and dining out on the terrace, patiently waiting their turn for a table. When it’s ours, we luck out on a corner spot with a view of the waterways, and a gorgeous Golden Shower ( Cassia Fistula) tree in full bloom, which it usually is at this time of the year, heralding the various regional new years and harvest festivals.
It’s Songkran time when we dine at Pai Thai. Asian festivals are always an experience and anyone who’s been in Thailand during Songkran, the Thai new year, or Loi Krathong later in the year, knows what all- consuming cultural events these are. Water and light are key elements of Thai celebrations, and it’s apt that we’re getting a floaty experience of both at Pai Thai.
We were sort of expecting a lem- ongrass- scented hot or cold towel coming our way pre- meal, but sans that, the Crispy Rice Crackers with sweet chilli and tamarind sauces made for a great starter; the crackers especially, just light and not greasy at all. We paired it with Thai ingredientinfused beverages, with lemongrass, ginger, and a Tom Yum cooler. The food is, unsurprisingly, light, aromatic and invigorating. We just had to have a papaya salad, that perfect reminder of our budget backpacking and street food- centred days in Thailand. The signature Som Tam Je green papaya salad with tomato, rose apple, cashew nut, tamarind dressing isn’t the best we’ve had, but does a tangy chase- up. The Goong Yang more than made up for it; the Grilled Prawn and Lemongrass Skewers are such heavenly, flavour- infused bites. But disappointingly again, our Paithai Dim Sum mixed platter doesn’t live up to expectations — the chicken and prawn ones are decent, but the green vegetable one has an added preservatives- ish taste to it. Strangely, our dishes seem good and not- sogood in an almost alternating sequence. The Tom Khar Gai tangy chicken soup, coconut milk, oyster mushroom and lemongrass is just the zest of life, to us. It’s some of the most authentic, comfort flavours that my friend and I have grown up with, and every spoonful is like savouring a piece of home. The chicken in it could be more finely chopped up though, instead of the hulking chunks we had to chew through.
After the memorable starters, our mains of Crispy Tiger Prawns, Jumbo Crab Meat fried rice, and Wok Fried Asparagus, seem to go by in a bit of a blur, but our senses are awoken again by the Crispy Water Chestnut on a bed of sugar syrup, coconut milk and crushed ice — different from the usual chocolate and soufflé excesses.
For what it doesn’t do in culinary antics, Pai Thai makes up for in triedand- tested flavours and an element of the theatrical. We’d certainly take that abra ride again.
marypaulose@ khaleejtimes. com
Ingredients P Pancake, carrot, strawberry, rais sin, cheddar cheese, apple and pomegranate
Method Cu ut a pancake for the bird’s body an d use carrot slices for the beak and legs. Slice a strawberry to make the wi ing and use one raisin to form the eye. Cut out the cheddar cheese in the shape of the sun. A Arrange thin slices of apple for the e branches and a few pieces of p pomegranate around them as ‘ fruits’. Serve. turn pancake time into a visit from a little birdie. it’s a great way to add more fruit to your child’s breakfast.