Thai Pavilion, at Mumbai’s Taj President, has always been everyone’s favourite Thai restaurant. That’s partly because it has been consistently good for more than 10 years, even without fussy food festivals and quarterly menu revamps. And partly because there are no other reasonably posh stand-alone Thai restaurants in the city.
So, when this restaurant reinvents itself (were those trendy Chinese and Pan Asian launches grabbing all the attention?), we’re naturally curious. A day after it opened, the restaurant is already buzzing. Designer Noriyoshi Muramatsu didn’t have the luxury of 10,000 sq. ft as he did with Hong Kong’s Zuma earlier this year, but the redesign still makes you blink (especially if you’ve been to Grand Hyatt’s China House). We loved the wall that’s made of scrap wood carved with Thai motifs, the sunken seating where you remove your shoes and slide on a pair of silk slippers, the traditional Thai masks and lacquerware and the centrepiece open kitchen in front of which we perched ourselves. Chef Ananda Solomon inquired about our spice quotient. “The spice levels here are not like in Andhra Pradesh, they’re more Kolhapur/Solapur,” he said. Solomon spent one and a half months at restaurants and cooking schools across Thailand before evolving the eclectic ‘Royal Thai cuisine’ menu.
The good stuff
We ate lots. Without question, the highlight of our non-vegetarian appetizer selection was the Duck Liver Foie Gras with Sea Asparagus in Mango Sauce. The foie gras was suitably seared on the outside, the soufflé-like consistency on the inside had a pale pink hue. In the mouth, it effortlessly gave up any pretence of holding itself together. The sea asparagus was a perfect accompaniment. The Pan Grilled Scallop with Orange and Rice Wine Reduction was tender and chewy, with a deep, slightly tangy sauce, which we thought there was a tad too much of. The Chicken Satay was just right.
Vegetarians should follow one simple rule: Experiment—you won’t regret it. So, if you’re tempted to order the Young Papaya Salad—yes it’s more delicately flavoured than it’s ever been—be brave, and try the Raw Mango Salad with Water Chestnuts instead. Yes, the Spring Roll Thai Style and the lemon grassy Corn Cakes flavoured with Red Curry Paste are staples, but my god, the Mee Krob (that’s another thing—all the service staff have spent six months memorizing the Thai names for all the dishes—we didn’t know whether to be impressed or annoyed) or Crispy Rice Noodles with Corn and Water Chestnuts taste like gourmet, melt-in-your-mouth Thai sevpuri. And yes, there’s everyspice lover’s favourite Tom Yum soup, but we had Tom Kha (or Thai Herbed Flavoured Coconut Soup), which was just as good.
After all those appetizers, there wasn’t much space for the mains. We tried the steamed Jasmine Rice with the Red Thai Curry with chicken. It was full-bodied and rich in lemon grass (just the way we like it), but the spices were tempered and didn’t rage in your mouth long after you had finished eating. The vegetarian Thai Green Curry was spicier. The restaurant stocks all kinds of imported vegetables—winged beans, sea asparagus, palm hearts. We opted for the Palm Hearts with Cashew Nuts, which was truly amazing.
You can pick from the restaurant’s extensive wine list, but if you’re not much of a drinker, there’s a great selection of Asian flavoured iced tea. Our personal favourites were the basil and the lemon grass; watermelon may look/sound exotic, but it tastes a bit like cough syrup.
We weren’t too sold on the Steamed Sea Bass Wrapped in Wild Rice Noodles in Tamarind Sauce. The hair-like noodles and tomato, tamarind and lemon grass sauce were delish, the chunk of fish pure white, but it didn’t come together as it should have. The Marinated Chicken Morsels in Pandanus Leaves was not terribly enlightening—a sort of Thai chicken tikka. And we are unlikely to repeat the Thai Vegetable Souffle with Lotus Roots.
We know the Thais aren’t exactly known for their desserts, but the restaurant could have done better. The Tub Tim Grob (Diced Water Chestnut With Coconut Milk) was the most unexciting part of our meal. If you must have dessert, stick to the Spiced Crème Brûlée with Sun Dried Rose Petals. If you like drama, the Steamed Custard is set in an imported Baby Pumpkin on a bed of ice with a little bulb that jazzes up the presentation.
Alas, as we go to press, the Singha beer hasn’t yet arrived.
Vegetarian and non-vegetarian appetizers cost Rs425, non-vegetarian mains are Rs600, vegetarian Rs500 (both are served with a portion of steamed rice). The curries are Rs500, while desserts are priced at Rs300. All prices don’t include taxes.