During the daytime it is Paon, an all day general purpose restaurant, on the ground floor behind the foyer, with views to the outdoor swimming pool and the wide blue sea beyond. At night it becomes Wild Orchid, the tables are placed out around that swimming pool and the al fresco dining, Thai style, begins. Anantara is a Thai hotel management group [three in Thailand, one in the Maldives and now one in Seminyak]. Opening with a Thai restaurant was one of their essentials; Wild Orchid is its name.
At first glance the menu seems incredibly traditional, belying the Modern Thai they advertise. However both are correct. The dishes are based on the most popular traditional but often prepared and presented with a modern twist.
Goong Gra ? Beaung are prawn spring rolls, but served with a plum sauce. Thod Man Pla are simple fish cakes, but with sweet chilli and pickled cucumber. Krathong Thong is crunchy little golden pastry baskets filled with a mixture of minced chicken, peas and crushed peanuts. Old favourites Gai Hor Bai Toey [chicken pieces wrapped and deep fried in pandan leaves] and Peek Gai Thod [chicken wings the way they should be; stuffed with ground chicken and mushrooms] are both sensibly sold by the piece, so you can order according to the number of guests present.
A signature dish is their Nok Gatar Thod, fried crispy quail with a sweet chilli sauce. It is served in a bird?s nest of crisp noodles and delivered via a real bird?s cage to the table. In spite of all the showbiz, quite good with crisp skin and tender meat, only the leg and wing tip bones remaining to hold whilst eating with the fingers.
All of us Westerners seem to love Thai entrees, but the Thais themselves never order these dishes in restaurants. They are in fact ?snack food? to be picked up on the run, a five minute stop at a street-side makeshift stall. When visiting anyone of some means, these small dishes just keep on appearing from the kitchen, no matter what time of day or how close it may be to a main meal time. Thais seem to be eating continuously all day, but amazingly there are very few obese Thais.
An interesting salad is a Thai classic,Yam Pla Duk Foo, cat fish flesh deep fried at high heat till crunchy and its perfect accompaniment, a green mango salad, well ?chillied?
Soup is an essential part of any major Thai meal, but it is not taken as an individual course but sipped continually throughout the meal, as is common elsewhere in Asia. Everybody knows Tom Yam Goong, in fact it is rare to find a menu in Bali, irrespective of that restaurant?s cuisine, that does not include this soup, although the offerings vary greatly in quality and taste. Very large jumbo prawns make this version of hot and sour soup different from the norm. Tom Kha Gai is my favourite Thai soup, quite ambrosial with its mix of tender chicken pieces in coconut milk and galangal. Not every Thai dish is hot and fiery, in fact the perfect Thai meal should be a series of taste contrasts; hot, sweet and sour, all consumed in turn, a spoonful of rice in between.
Mains are either curries or stir-fries. Red curry is perfect for duck, as with the Gaeng Phet Ped Yang here at Wild Orchid, pineapple and lychee fruit added to soften the overall flavour, one of the world?s great dishes. Massaman curries are perfect for anyone who wants flavour rather than heat, here it is done with beef [Gaeng Massaman Neua] with potato pieces in that rich thick coconut sauce. Luscious flavours with beef chunks so tender they almost fall apart.
Gai Phad Bai Kaprao is a dish that Thai grandmothers seem to be forever feeding their grandchildren, whenever hungry. Minced chicken [in Thailand often done with pork] stir fried with chilli and basil, topped with deep fried basil leaves. At Wild Orchid it is also topped with red chilli slices. Just remove the seeds and mix them in if you want to turn up the heat. This is one Thai dish that everyone enjoys.
Gai Yang is chicken pieces marinated before grilling and served with nam jim sauce and sticky rice. Moo Tod Gratiem Prik Thai is pork ribs like you have never had them before. Forget your American BBQ sauce, this thick sauce coating with flakes of garlic has a wonderful flavour, and the meat just falls off the bone.
There are many seafood dishes in this cuisine but most consist of whole fish and giant juicy prawns. Goong Yai Op Woon Sen combines baked jumbo prawns with glass noodles, whilst Pla Thod Yam Ma Muang is deep-fried Sea Bass, crisp and crunchy, topped with the perfect partner a green mango salad.
The most famous Thai dessert is also the simplest, fresh clean mango flesh sitting on a pile of sweet sticky rice. Others worth trying include Bua Loy, taro and pumpkin dumplings.
Tasty Thai, knowledgeable service, a wonderful outdoor location and an extensive wine list that is also reasonably priced, all go to make a night out at Wild Orchid something to remember, and to repeat!