Back in the 90's there were only two real Thai restaurants in Bali, at opposite ends of the scale; the wonderful Terrace at Amanusa and the little Kin Khao in Seminyak. Both prospered but in the following years so many other Thai restaurants opened and failed, some good ones have been and gone, some horrible ones still remain.
However, in recent years there appears to have been a total turnaround, now a plethora of Thai restaurants are opening and succeeding. Some are pure Thai whilst others have a serious Thai section to their menu not just the all-over-Bali attempts to reproduce a real Tom Yam Goong or a Thai Fish Cakes or Beef Salad that even resemble the original in looks, let alone taste.
Bali is now following the food trend of Australian cities where Thai cuisine has risen from being unknown in the 80's, to have become country-wide the undisputed no.2 to Chinese, amongst foreign restaurants.
And now we even have a Thai café in Bali, basic street food but from a small modern kitchen within a smart clean warung. Many of the dishes would be better called Thai-inspired rather than traditional Thai, but all taste good, and at these low prices, who is complaining?
The young chef is well credentialed, once working alongside a kitchen full of Thai chefs at Padi [in the old Ritz Carlton days]. The service is friendly, professional and surprisingly well informed, even a waiter [not Thai, but from Tabanan] who can pronounce the Thai dish names correctly, and describe their contents!
First dish to sample is one of my standard measuring sticks, Gai Hor Bai Toey, should be marinated chicken pieces wrapped in pandanus leaf, first steamed to infuse the pandan flavour, then deep-fried just prior to serving to brown the meat and heat. The flesh should be tender inside crisp outrside, the accompanying sauce one of those Thai wonders, tamarind reduction with sesame seeds and oil. At Thai Corner a good honest effort [at a ridiculously cheap Rp.20,000 for three pieces], very enjoyable.
Other entrees [snacks in-between meal to a Thai] include Goong Hom Par or Prawns in a Blanket, grilled prawns wrapped n rice paper, with a not too standard but tasty chilli peanut sauce. The Fish Cakes [tod mun pla] are with a dip of the finely diced cucumber and chilli [pour it all over the fish cakes to soak them, that is how the dish is designed]. The Thai Spring Rolls are stuffed with chicken and glass noodles, the dip a local sweet chilli sauce, more sweet than chilli, but there is never any of it left in the bowl..
Yes, Tom Yam Goong, that famous hot and sour prawn soup is on the menu but there is also the ambrosial Tom Kha Gai, chicken pieces in a coconut milk broth with lemongrass and galangal.
Heading the salad list is the essential Som Tam, shredded green papaya tossed with dried shrimps, chilli and lime juice, that classic hot and sour combo to salivate the taste buds. Yam Nua Yang is a variation on the normal Thai Beef Salad, again with chilli and lime as is the 3rd salad on offer a Yam Woon Sen, this time glass noodles are combined with minced pork, squid and black fungus.
The mains are where the Thai eating really begins, and meal being a selection of different dishes and tastes, and they are all here. More standard Thai tests for me are the Massaman [chicken and potato in turmeric] and that import from China but much improved by the Thais, Chicken with Cashew Nuts [Gai Pad Met], neither of which are true to the traditional but still great taste and value, the chicken soft and tender, the flavours not strong but still discernable.
Krapow [Thai for basil] is often referred to as the Grandmother special, always offered to visiting grandchildren, after the important question on arrival... 'Kin Khao' ....have you taken rice? At Thai Corner they use minced chicken [pork is also a common base] stir-fried with Thai basil and finely diced long bean and chilli, the serve of steamed rice accompanying is topped with a fried egg. Everybody's favourite! This is one of those rare one person dishes as is their Pad Thai [rice noodles, prawns, tofu, crushed peanuts and bean sprouts drizzled with tamarind and at Thai Corner, wrapped in an egg net]. All other dishes are meant to be shared, to provide a feast of different tastes.
The traditional curries are all here, even though often served differently with the paste coating the meat rather than in a bowl of coconut milk and curry. Massaman is with large chunks of chicken and diced potato. The Panang from central Thailand can be chicken or pork, with that distinctive Kaffir lime flavour. Pla Gao Pad Prik is grouper in a red curry paste. The whole grouper is served, the head looking at you, the body stripped, de-boned and breaded then cooked in a red curry paste. For those who understand such things the sweet meat from behind the eyes is stripped at the end of the meal.
Stir Fries include Beef with Oyster Mushrooms and Kana Moo Grob [kaylan in oyster sauce tossed with thin slices of pork belly]. Another vegetarian option is their Water Spinach in black bean sauce or Pad Pak Ruam [mixed vegetables in oyster sauce].
The only way to finish a Thail meal, with that incredible array of flavours, is with the sweet and cool mango on sticky rice, Here a mound of that rice is drizzled with coconut milk, a strip of sliced fresh mango on the side. The perfect ending!
Definitely worth a pit stop when passing. Good taste, great value!