Since the opening of The Commons recently, I have made my way to Thong Lor Soi 17 several times to feel the hustle and bustle of the Bangkok expat lifestyle. Little did I know that just down the next street, along the much-quieter Thong Lor Soi 19, in a quaint bungalow with ample parking space, lies Patara Fine Thai Cuisine,
Upon stepping out of our car, we were greeted by attendants armed with huge umbrellas suitable for both the blazing sun or heavy rain. After escorting us into the restaurant, they promptly covered the car windscreen with a sun shield. Not bad for a first impression!
Our pleasant welcome was soon enhanced by this plate of perfectly-crispy taro chips which kept my hands and mouth busy while waiting for my guests to arrive. I was told by the hospitable operations manager, Khun That, that Patara is not only established in Bangkok, but in other major cities too, like Singapore, Beijing, Geneva, Vienna and they are especially successful in London.
Our first starter, Mini Thai tacos of prawns, chicken, tofu and bean sprouts [220฿] was certainly a surprise, particularly in terms of presentation, as it looked more like it belonged to a Mexican restaurant. It tasted pretty much like the popiah filling in Singapore put in crispy taco shells. Pretty ingenious idea.
Patara continued to surprise us with the second starter, which was by far, my favourite dish of the meal. This Grilled Thai aubergine salad with crab meat in a lime and sallot, caviar vinaigrette [295฿] hit all the notes that will allow it to grace the table of any restaurant, such was its excellence in taste and lack of distinct Thai-ness.
Things finally started to look more familiar when the Grilled Kurobuta pork and beef wrapped in betelnut leaves [215฿] was presented. The meat was seasoned well while the betelnut leaves gave the skewers an exotic twang.
Our first main was the Flame-grilled salmon in lime and lemongrass dressing [355฿]. Despite the unforgettable presentation, taste-wise this was not a dish that left a deep impression, as the salmon failed to stand out as the star of the show when it really should be.
I was told this Duck confit glazed with tamarind sauce and pineapple compote [385฿] is a best seller across all their branches across the globe, especially in London.
The concept behind the dish is brilliant, as it combines a French-style confit duck leg with the sweet and tangy tamarind sauce from Southern Thailand. No wonder it’s so popular over such a wide range of knowledgeable customers.
Things got authentic when this dish appeared. This Stir fried crispy pork with Chinese kale and shiitake mushrooms in oyster sauce [285฿], more affectionately known as Khana Moo-Krob, is a dish Thais from all walks of life can eat everyday, even at the stalls by the side of the road. I frequently eat this, but it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten a plate with such crunchily-fragrant crispy pork.
Tumeric crab meat and betelnut leaves yellow curry. Served with traditional rice noodles [485฿]. This tasty yellow curry was filled with an abundant serving of fresh crabmeat lumps. Pairing it with khanom jeen, also considered the Thai pasta by many, this is a dish that is not only luxurious, but extremely traditional.
A display of our mains, and not forgetting to mention the delicious bowls of Trio jasmine rice (jasmine rice for white, pandan jasmine rice for green and safflower jasmine rice for yellow) [45฿], which tasted as good as they looked.
Here comes the other star of the show, which is found ONLY in Thailand, and ONLY during the hottest summer months, mainly from April to June. Khao Chae [480฿] typically consists of a watermelon palate cleanser, a bowl of rice soaked in chilled Jasmine-scented water and a platter of 4 side-dishes.
Even though the idea of eating ‘cold porridge’ felt peculiar at first, it was actually very light and refreshing, especially under this scorching weather. Of the side-dishes, the stuffed green chilli and fried shrimp-paste balls particularly stood out.
Our meal was paired with some traditional Thai herbal drinks, I chose the Roselle Juice, which is my usual pick in Thailand.
Our desserts were a thing of beauty as well. This Thai smoke-scented creme brulee with passion fruit ice cream [195฿] is another combination of French cuisine with a Thai twist. I personally enjoyed the passion fruit sorbet more than the pandan-infused creme brulee.
The Caramelized pisang mas banana [195฿] rounded the meal off perfectly. The banana was caramelized to perfection and the coconut cream not too sweet. I wonder why I don’t eat this more often in Thailand.
After this meal, I begin to understand why Patara has successfully penetrated into so many major international markets. Most of the popular dishes, though not as spicy as in other Thai restaurants, are a nice combination of different cuisines with a significant Thai twist.
If you are in Thailand and want to impress your friend, lover or business associate, especially if he/she is still not too familiar with Thai cuisine, a meal at Patara will be a perfect introduction to the amazing world of Thai food. And as you can see from the prices stated, it is fine dining that will most definitely not burn a hole in your pocket.
*This was an invited media tasting*