Dining plans at Thai restaurants fill me with hope and dread. My meticulous scanning of the menus beforehand leaves me to hope that this time, thiswill be the one which converts me into a fan. The dread creeps in after the first few bites when I am inevitably disappointed, and I have no idea why. I should love everything about Thai food – the dishes, the flavours, the spice… but for some reason, we never completely see eye to eye.
I wasn’t as wowed as I should’ve been at what is supposedly one of America’s best Thai restaurants, but was it something I ordered? Nor was I joining the masses in falling head over heels for what’s often described as one of London’s best Thai restaurants, but was it something I didn’t order? I should just give up on them but ever the optimist (or greedy sucker for punishment) I keep turning up at Thai restaurants…
Having never graced Thailand with my presence (madness I know, because who hasn’t been to Thailand) my experience of Thai food is somewhat limited to the western-friendly versions dished out anywhere but Thailand. In their defence, most are usually run by expats wanting to bring a piece of their local cuisine to their adopted home, or at the very least have a sourced a chef who does have roots in the country. But they’ll inevitably still be tailored towards the palate they are serving. What you then end up with is a large menu split into categories such as curries, stir fries, noodles and rice, soup on occasion, and 10 or so dishes in each category- something for everyone you could say.
As an indecisive orderer with a shocking case of plate envy, I hate being confronted with a multipage menu book. Add the fact that the descriptions are usually a bit lacking, and I am really in my personal hell as I try to navigate from the tom yum goong to the pad preaw wan, all the while trying to pick something I haven’t ordered before, but not wanting to choose something too obscure that I won’t like. Even when we dined at the Lotus of Siam, often described as the best Thai restaurant in America or the world even, the ridiculously large menu was still my undoing. I used to smirk at the people who always order the pad thai or the green curry after a starter of fish cakes, but over the years I have been worn down by sub-par choices (a burn-my-insides-spicy pork mince slush comes to mind) and now generally resort to a red curry or spicy stir fried type dish. It’s just easier, and there is less chance of diner’s remorse.