WKND - - Fine Dining - By mary paulose • Let us help you de­cide your dine- out op­tions

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.

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