We’ve been nominated for two awards in next Wednesday’s Irish Restaurant Oscars, which will be held in the Burlington -
‘Best Ethnic Restaurant’
‘Best Cocktail Experience’
We’re really excited about the nominations – wish us luck and we’ll let you know how we get on!
See the Irish Restaurant Awards Website for more information.
The Test Of Thai
Having tasted the best in Thai food in London, Ernie Whalley is forever on the hunt for a comparable experience in Dublin. Koh comes close
By Ernie Whalley
Thursday April 23 2009
My favourite hotel in London is the Halkin. It has a Thai restaurant on the premises which has grown to be one of my all-time favourites. It’s called Nahm. Brainchild of talented Aussie chef David Thompson, Nahm is the benchmark by which I judge Thai food.
The cooking there has what you could call ‘an unbelievable lightness of being’: the broths are not muddy, and the spices are not fused into a ’sweetness’ or ‘hotness’ and remain identifiable yet, concurrently, contribute in sensible manner to making the whole dish memorable. Difficult to explain, but I know what I’m looking for, and I’m always disappointed when a Thai restaurant misses the mark by a country mile, as is too often the case.
I took Daughter Two, over on a flying visit, for a pint in the Clarence. Then we walked over the Millennium Bridge and down the alley. Koh is located at the far end, incongruous among the Italians and Italophiles that populate this sector of the daftly-named Quartier Bloom. I had tried a couple of times to book a table when the restaurant first opened but someone else’s favourable review meant the place was packed.
There were tables outside, but only a couple of hardy souls were using them; inside, there was a hubbub of conversation, entirely female. Apparently Koh’s ‘Mixo’ is a smart lad who’s won prizes for his alcoholic confections, so the ladies who lounge were all climbing into cocktails. How could we not follow suit? We commandeered a Manhattan and a Pomegranate Mountie, a speciality of the house. The Manhattan, made properly, is a thing of wonder. From the ingredients you’d expect it to taste sweet and cloying but it doesn’t.
After a civilised interval, we were shown to the restaurant, a decently got-up dining room with a couple of private booths, tables round the edge and a long communal table (in true Thai fashion) down the middle of the room. We took one of the peripheral tables and settled down to the task of choosing food and accompanying wine. Thai is not the easiest cuisine to match. White works best, but the out-front spicing renders Chardonnay anaemic and Sauvignon Blanc aggressive. Some say Gewurztraminer, some say Riesling, but I’m not wholly convinced. Thai food, I find, needs a touch of something dark-natured with a mite of viscosity; Grüner Veltliner fits the bill, as does Albarinho, which is what we settled on.
Thai desserts tend to be pretty mundane and, as neither of us is particularly sweet-toothed, we figured that four starters, plus two mains, would suffice and permit us to take a wide-ranging look at what was on offer. And so it proved. The starters excited, particularly that ‘mange tout of the sea’, soft-shell crab, which came accompanied by Green Papaya Salad, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Rachel had not had it before and loved the sea-zingy freshness and crunchy texture. The coriander, lime and cashew-nut chutney, which formed a bed for pan-seared king scallops was unexpectedly delightful, something I’ll try to reprise at home.
The baby back ribs, glazed with hoisin and chargrilled, were meaty and satisfying. I was delighted to find the mussels were small, sweet natives, not of the rubbery green-lipped, inedible ilk. The accompanying broth, which managed to be both spicy and subtle, provided a stimulus for the mains that followed. Herself, something of a Phad Thai veteran, opined that this one was the best yet. Praise indeed.
The saucing of my Red Duck Curry was well up to snuff, and the duck, tender — something of a novelty in Dublin Thai restaurants where this dish frequently pops up. I should also make mention of the waiting staff who paced the meal beautifully. Afterwards, we repaired to the bar where we made the acquaintance of the proprietor. I complimented him on the food. He said: “Yes, we have some good chefs here. They don’t allow us to muck about with their mothers’ recipes.” Nice one.
The damage: €117.20 ex-service for two cocktails, four starters, two mains, bottle of decent wine.
Verdict: Not Nahm but not far off. Gives Dublin suburban Thai something to aim at.