Thai-red Of Not Knowing Any Thai Spots?

Thai-red Of Not Knowing Any Thai Spots?

After the K-wave pushed out all the fledging Thai restaurants, you may be wondering where you can head to for your next tom yum fix. Don’t worry, I gotchu fam!
Mystickal / Melly W
Mystickal / Melly W

Deciding to be fancier this year, we had two meals to celebrate V-day! For this meal, we were searching for a place that offers a curated culinary experience and an Arcadian ambience away from the crowd. And that’s how we found our way to Tamarind Hill.

Nestled on a hill amongst the greenery of Labrador Nature Reserve, walking around the premises felt like a bit of an adventure in itself. Flanked by its sister hotel, Villa Samadhi, private walking trails meander between the trees; if we’d been there closer to early evening, it would have been perfect for a stroll. However, the terrain is not kind to those of us who live in heels – I wore my lowest pair and my toes were still crying.

The restaurant is housed in a colonial bungalow, with décor drawing modern parallels to shapes and materials in vogue of that era. There are no stuffy suits for the staff here – instead, you can find everyone skilfully balancing gigantic trays with fragrant dishes perched precariously atop in flip flops and boxy pants inspired by fisherfolk of the region.

Its extensive menu features creations from its Thai and Burmese halves, including heirloom dishes kindly offered up by their chefs. Despite our initial impression of stifling prices and stiff portions, we found the prices fair, and portions incredibly generous. (When ordering, you’re advised to stick to ~3 dishes/2 pax lest you be overwhelmed. Heed it.)

Missing Thai food, our dinner of the day consisted of some of my personal favs. To whet our appetites, the Clear Tom Yum ($34) and Thai-Styled Fish Cakes ($18). To fill us up, the Deep-Fried Ocean Farmed Barramundi Fillet ($42) and the Quick Wok Sautéed Assorted Mushrooms ($18). And finally, before we said goodbye, Steamed Tapioca ($6).

It is hard to pick a fav for the night – the soup had a cornucopia of seafood and shrooms; the fishcakes were filled with actual fish and not fillers; the barramundi was sweet yet savoury, soft yet firm; bursts of spices danced amidst the earthiness of the shrooms. If the flavours were turned up a notch to mirror those back in Thailand, it would be near perfect.

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[ Food Review — Like kway chap? Why not try Thai kway chap then? ] TFW you let your photos sit for months before posting, oops. (We literally went the week the Cheong Chin Nam branch opened!)

I know I rarely feature kway chap on my Insta, but it’s not because I dislike it — for the record, I used to eat it once or twice a week without fail! — but more of the difficulty of getting any decent ones without needing to get behind the wheel. But with Yaowarat now just down the road, finally, my kway chap woes are over!

Here’s one thing you should know though: YWR isn’t just any ol’ kway chap stall — it serves Thai-styled kway chap! You won’t see the usual signature dark soy-based broth here. See that light translucent broth with coiled rice noodles sheets? THAT is Thai kway chap.

The main difference is really just that. The broth is made of a much lighter pepper base; Yaowarat claims to use over ten different spices in their mix, which means while you don’t get as rich a body as traditional Teochew kway chap soup, you end up with a more nuanced broth that actually goes better with a wider variety of toppings/sides. As for the rice noodles, they’re mostly the same — just sliced into smaller sheets and coiffed for better slurping pleasure. (Seriously tho, being able to funnel streams of soup instead of passively eating the sheets in water is so much more dynamic!)

For newcomers, go for their Signature Thai Kway Chap ($5 dine-in/$7.50 takeaway). It gives you a sampler of everything without needing to commit: Lean pork, pork stomach, crispy pork belly, and Thai fish sausage. Or if you want something lighter, get their plain kway chap ($3 d.i./$4 t.a.) and add some dishes.

Our sides for the day included: Thai Fish Sausage ($6 or $8 d.i./$10 t.a.) — not bad, but too sweet and oily for my liking — Stir Fried Cabbage w/ Fish Sauce ($5 d.i./$8 t.a.) — hands down my fav item because of how well the wok hei and fish sauce blended together — and Braised Beancurd ($4 d.i./unavailable) — another unexpected star with how tender it was!

(We did get clams ($10/450g) as well from YWR’s (also Thai) partner stall, Ob Woon Sen, but they were quite bland and mediocre. Meh.)

[ Updated Review: Go for Chi-Thai Food; Avoid if you want authentic Thai ] Been a r e a l l y long while since I was at Royal Thai Boat Noodles! The last time I was here it was with my fam, and after a so-so a la carte meal, decided we preferred going to our usual Thai haunts instead.

Since I covered this place in detail before (on my Insta), this is just a quick update on their fare.

Believe it or not, despite having visited multiple times ages back, I’ve never had their boat noodles! I recalled multiple people telling me it was one of their signatures — unsurprisingly given how the place is named after that dish — so I guess that’s my dinner!

A certain someone initially wanted something off their SG-Thai fusion menu, but since that entire selection was unavailable (yes, all of it), he got their grilled chicken (gai yang) + sticky rice instead. To share, the table had multiple orders of moo ping (basically pork satay tenderised with coconut milk), and because a certain someone and I barely had food all day, we also got stuffed wings and prawn cakes.

Initial experience was a little frustrating because the servers could not ID which of the boat noodles were beef and which were pork (you do n o t want to mix those up, welp). That eventually got fixed (without any apology or explanation) but also meant that my bowl was lukewarm and the oil was congealed up top. So what was initially a pretty mediocre bowl became even less palatable.

The portion size was fair for the boat noodles, and the amount of beef was proportionate to the noodles. However, the flavour profile left a lot to be desired: If you love lard regardless of cuisine, you’ll dig this. Even accounting for the length of time my noodles sat, there’s no way my soup could taste solely like lard and nothing else! (Nope, not even the slightest hint of the usual spices like lemongrass.) Incredibly disappointing.

The gai yang fared slightly better, with the chicken well-grilled and smoky on the outside, but quite scratchy and dry otherwise. As for the rice — very obviously Thai variety, yay — it arrived in a very cute bamboo container! But beyond that, it had a strange texture (think a cracker that’s been left out for a tad too long without any of the sweet, moist interior), which didn’t lend well to pairing with the protein.

As for the sides, the spring rolls (not pictured) hands down stole the limelight. Every single offered resounding crunches and had balanced flavours all around. The wings were pretty good too — nicely seasoned and tender with a taut exterior, but alas, was too small to really hold any decent filling. The mooping was quite meh as well — while tender, the cuts were quite fatty and oily. Finally, the item I was looking forward to the most, the prawn cakes (not pictured), were sadly mediocre: Despite their size, cutting them open revealed more flour than prawns, a far cry from the swollen, juicy ones they used to serve.

If I thought I was disappointed back then, man imagine my despair at the current quality here. As for how they do a constant busy crowd, don’t ask me — the lack of competition and the presence of drinks probably helps. I’d have less to gripe about if they just called themselves a generic Thai spot and served food like this. However, if you want to call yourself a “royal” Thai restaurant while leveraging on Thai-Chinese flavours, you can’t blame me for being upset at the mismatch in expectations! (Also any Thai spot without a portrait of the King aka the patron saint of Thai kitchens present is a huge red flag to me, yikes.)

[@meltingflavours on Insta] I ramble about food. A lot. 📝Long posts | ❌🧀🍷🥛 ⛔️Do not repost⛔️

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