The restaurants to be found in Bali present many different cuisines. It has always amazed me that so few real Thai restaurants are to be found. Years ago almost everybody's 1st favourite 'foreign' cuisine was either Chinese [Cantonese] or Indian. In most western countries the cuisine of Thailand has emerged as the new favourite, so why not in Bali?
The lower end had been catered for, and some great executive chefs have included Thai dishes on their menus at the top. But now, at last we have a moderately priced all-Thai restaurant that presents truly traditional Thai. Furthermore it is in a great dinner setting, surrounded by lily ponds, at The Ayana.
Welcome to Bali, chef Nu Suandokmai!
What a shame Padi is not open for lunch! I could go for a mixed selection of entrees every day [with the occasional divergence to the wonderful Pad Thai Hor Kai, traditional Thai noodles with tamarind, peanuts, tofu, bean sprouts and prawns but wrapped in an omelette].
Dok Buap is Zucchini flowers, stuffed with minced prawn meat, then fried, served with a chilli plum sauce. Poo Jaa is simple but I love it. Either the lazy way [nothing more than crab cakes] or the traditional as it is here. A crab shell is cleaned then stuffed with a mixture of the crabmeat, minced pork and fried water chestnuts, served with a chilli and cashew sauce.
Gai Hor Bai Toey is on many menus, and the variations are not always successful. A piece of spiced chicken breast is steamed inside a wrapping of pandanus leaf, subsequently deep-fried just prior to serving. The meat should retain the flavour of the leaf after being removed, a distinctive taste. Po Pia Sot is simply Spring Rolls. On the list at millions of restaurants, but aren't they wonderful when done correctly? These are the fresh variety [not fried] just rice paper rolled around chicken, vermicelli noodles, cucumber, pineapple, bean sprouts, mint leaves and garlic chives. So refreshing, so full of taste!
Salads are a feature of any good Thai menu. Yum Hua Plee is the flower from the banana tree, chopped and tossed with chicken, lime, roasted chilli and shallot with fresh coriander and mint leaves. Yum Talay is a salad of prawns, squid and crabmeat with fennel, chilli, limejuice, coriander and pomelo.
Naturally a Tom Yum Goong features here [that famous hot and sour prawn soup] but many people miss the other great Thai soup, Tom Kha Gai [coconut milk based chicken soup, spiced just right].
Crispy fish with green mango salad is a very Thai combination. The fish is normally steamed first then dropped into very hot oil prior to serving, whereupon it 'explodes'. Here it is on a base of grilled scallops, no doubt as a result of the chef's prior experiences in Adelaide, the home of that wonderful mollusc from Coffin Bay. Sensational! For the record it is called Hoi Shell Yum Ma Muang.
Pla Sarm Ros is a fillet of red snapper, fried and covered with a great tangy sauce of tamarind and chilli [all those magic Thai taste ingredients at one time: hot, sweet and sour]. The Palo Ped is ambrosial! Succulent breast of duck that has been braised in cinnamon and star anise and served with an unusual rhubard sauce! The more traditional duck in red curry is also on the menu.
For those who like it hot, the Nua Pad Namprik Pao consists of beef slices that have been stir fried with chilli jam, spring onions and baby corn. The Moo Yaang is a pork chop that has been marinated in lemongrass, coriander and garlic then brushed with honey. That wonderful peanut curry from Thailand's Muslim south, Massaman Gai, is on the menu but served quite differently. Instead of the chicken being combined with potato it is served on a bed of mashed sweet potato.
As in all Asian restaurants there are also many Vegetarian options. Desserts are not high on my priority lists in Asian restaurants but of course sliced mango with sticky rice is a Thai special! At Padi it comes with a coconut custard as a part of a sampling of Thai desserts. Also for a bit of fusion; a Sticky Rice Brulee, scented with cinnamon and fresh jackfruit.
Padi is a very classy place in which to dine. For the newcomers to Thai cuisine a wonderful introduction as the tastes here are more subtle than explosive.
Another perfect Bali setting combined with the magic tastes of Thailand, what more could you ask for?