[This dinner has been a long time coming. And this post, even more so. You see, I’ve loved this place since my first visit in 2007. I’m just so glad that I’ve finally gotten around to writing this piece.]
I’VE BEEN feeling so under the weather since late last week that up to about a couple days back, I’ve been literally snacking on antibiotics and what text messages had told me to be concoctions being recalled by the U.S. FDA. I thought nothing could pick me up from such my sorry state – not until Batman texted me when we could meet up, specifically for me to be able to pick up all that pasalubong he brought me back from Gotham City. Now that’s a good enough excuse!
The opportune time turned out to be Wednesday night. And I got to pick the place where we’d have dinner. Finally, I found the perfect opportunity to visit (yet again) one of my favorite places in the Serendra Piazza – tHAI AT SILK. I can still remember how in 2007, after the arduous task of emceeing a major company event (and singing with the jazz band afterwards!), I got to dine here for the first time. My finding this gem of a place proved to be quite serendipitous. I was resigned to the fact that I could satiate my hunger with just about anything – Brothers Burgers was actually appealing already – until I saw this posh Thai restaurant!
I never realized then just how much I’ve missed Thai cuisine, especially since Sukothai had closed shop. I hadn’t been able to go back too to Malai Thai in the Magallanes commercial complex after they had moved to the new building. Dusit Thani in Glorietta doesn’t quite make the grade (but their food is good nonetheless). Oody’s and Oody’s Express, while able to serve good food, haven’t quite appealed to me completely. And The Banana Leaf Curry House on the restaurant strip in Alabang Town Center (their only branch that I loved) had already morphed to what appears to me as either an “under-the-sea” or a “pirates-of-the-caribbean” thing-y. As for Penang Hill (which serves Thai dishes), I’m reserving my comments for now. Haha!
tHAI AT SILK was, and still is, such a welcome sight – literally too as the interiors are in the calming, relaxing hues of green and white.
So right after the requisite stop at CUPCAKES BY SONJA – just to say “Hi!” to the friendly staff and to introduce them to Batman – off we went to tHAI AT SILK. As I was the one insisting on this place, Batman gave me the free hand to choose the dishes.
We started with the Tom Yum Goong (Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup, Php 310.00), which we asked to be made mildly spicy (in deference to Batman… Hehe…). If there is any one dish that can transport you back to Thailand, or introduce you to the place, it is this dish. And after having had this soup in its many possible incarnations – here and abroad (including the one I made to rousing reception by an international crowd) – I still maintain that the best version of Tom Yum Goong is made by tHAI AT SILK! Their version perfectly showcases just how Thai cuisine has achieved the balance of the basic tastes, while allowing each component to explode into its own momentary highlight – layer by layer – from the very instant the very hot soup tempts my olfactory nerve, touches my puckering lips, and swishes into the wall of my mouth. The soup is faithful to its name. It is HOT. It is SOUR. And it is chockful with really large, plump, juicy, and fresh white freshwater shrimps.
It is HOT from the chilies, which could very well be at least three kinds (as what my personal recipe requires). Like freckles on a pretty lady, crushed red pepper flakes beautifully dot the broth. Under the restaurant’s subdued lighting, the soup glows in its appetizing orange hue, that can only come from the roasted chilies in oil (on its own a separate recipe!) that Bangkokians added to the original recipe from the Southern coastal villages of their country. And that is how I prefer this soup – with the roasted chilies in oil. It is SOUR (and a bit cloudy) from the undeniable bursts of fresh lime juice, that really do give the dish its “characteristic” sourness. And rounding off the robust flavors are the freshest ingredients that form a background symphony for the senses – the galangal for the floral hints; lemongrass for the mildly floral-and-citrusy notes; and cilantro for the very mild pungent undertones. And as I said above, I’ve had this soup in its many versions and even the ones I’ve had in a number of layovers in Bangkok, seem to pale in comparison. That’s just me. And I think now, Batman too! It was so good that I couldn’t wait for our main entrée and I had to already ask for steaming hot long grain Thai jasmine rice. As you see, this restaurant doesn’t scrimp on the quality of grain and ingredients they use.
For our second dish, I was actually considering the Massaman Chicken Curry I’ve loved from when I first tried it. I have fond memories of that dish. Besides falling in love with it during a trip to Bangalore, Goa and Mumbai in India, I will never forget how tHAI AT SILK chef and owner Cecille Ysmael graciously served me the dish. She even recommended to me a pickled concoction she just made in the kitchen which she said would perfectly complement the curry. She even went the extra mile by keeping me company during my dinner, talking me through the dining experience that was the curry and that side dish (thrown in free of charge!). I was so bowled over by the charm and demeanor of this lady! I thought I was just going to share my table with the many boxes of cupcakes, the Barack Obama book, and the two Alessi wristwatches I had just bought. I thought she would just pass by my table as she surveyed the dining room – only to stop and ask why I was alone and where my friend (from the previous dinners) was. Clearly, she pays attention to her clientele!
Unfortunately last night, I couldn’t find that curry on the menu. I asked for the “small” menu they used to have, which contained the new dishes and where the massaman curry was listed before. But our polite server told me that everything had already been incorporated in the “big” menu I had on my hands. As I failed to fully articulate what I was looking for, I settled for the Thai Chicken Basil (Php 310.00). This choice turned out pleasantly… even surprisingly great! Served on a green cake-pedestal-like platter, it was a festive medley of minced chicken meat, chopped green beans, and thai sweet basil, crowned with three thin rings of orange chili. This dish was superb! The basil perfumed the dish beautifully. I loved it that the saltiness was kept to the bare minimum, allowing the natural sweetness of the moist chicken meat and the crispness of the beans to shine through. I will definitely order this dish again. And again!
And going back to the usual Thai “route,” we asked for the Pad Thai (Php 400.00) as our final dish. This is where tHAI AT SILK’s visual presentation skills are taken – not only to the “next” – but really to the “highest” level. The farthest I’ve gone to Thailand would be the times I waited for connecting flights at their international airport in Bangkok. But as I understand it, this technique in presenting pad thai in a mesh or net of scrambled egg is exactly how it is traditionally done there. And tHAI AT SILK surely didn’t want to cut corners and went for the entire nine yards with this one. Beautifully ensconced and nestled in the egg net is the pad thai, surrounded by traditional condiments that include crushed peanuts, a wedge of lime, scallions and mung bean sprouts. I felt that it was almost a sin to disturb the presentation. But Batman wouldn’t let me to just stare at it endlessly… I had to do the honors to mix everything together. And in seconds, Batman had a taste of what could be the best pad thai he has ever had. I love it too! The sauce has an authentic tempered sweetness, allowing for the tamarind pulp to shine. The noodles were cooked with the perfect give to it, and the smokiness in the dish was just right. Even with the piles of Thai jasmine rice already on my plate (and in my stomach), I easily finished half of this dish!
Batman and I washed everything down with tall glasses of this restaurant’s signature Lemongrass Juice (Php 115.00). This drink was just perfect as it soothed my throat (which towards the end of dinner was all the more strained from all the “kwento”) with its citrusy goodness, punctuated with the hint of ginger-like essence.
By the time I was taking my last spoonful of the rice, Batman had been heaping praises on my dinner choices. He actually said that he had never been “that” full in recent memory. Hehehe. Either he really meant it or it was just the jetlag talking. Hahaha! But I guess he meant it. I too, after a while of missing out on tHAI AT SILK, had to stop and acknowledge the fact that I haven’t had that great a dinner too. All the food were literally wiped out from the plates and I couldn’t think of any better compliment to pay the chef. tHAI AT SILK lives up to its name – it is THAI, and it is smooth as SILK – simply one of the finest in the world.
Oops… I actually did, as I wrote a short note on the back of our check just to say how fabulous the dinner was. And how attentive, prompt and warm the service was.
After dinner, we took a leisurely walk to CUPCAKES BY SONJA. I got a box for Spider-man and a couple more for my engineers (I’ll post this later!). I didn’t get a box for Superman as he won’t be onsite tomorrow.