It’s almost a month since Thaikhun opened their Thai street food restaurant on Oxford’s George Street. The Bitten team attended the grand opening, along with the Royal Thai Ambassador. We loved the decor which apparently is pretty authentic to the streets of Bangkok. There is literally stuff everywhere and you can’t stop looking, until the food arrives of course!
The samples provided on opening night piqued our tastebuds enough for a return visit just three days later, with the added benefit of a money off voucher if we returned within a week of opening being an extra incentive! Three of us, with empty bellies decided to try as much as we could all in the interest of a well-rounded review…
We chose the platters to start so we could try as many as possible. These are charged at £6.25 per person and we went for one of the Sukumvit 38 platters and one of the Bangkok Street platters. The Sukumvit comprised fish cakes, chicken spring rolls, deep fried honey pork and wontons. The fish cakes were really good with a deep red curry flavour and perfect dunked into the spicy chilli sauce. Spring rolls I expected to be average but were surprisingly good, a nice crispy shell encasing a decent amount of chicken and veg. The wontons weren’t what I expected, being a small deep-fried ball rather than the usual crispy parcel but tasted good. Deep fried honey pork I have mixed feelings about. It’s good, but I think it’s a good choice to have it as a platter item shared rather than a starter dish on it’s own. I suspect it would almost get boring if you had a larger portion and given my well documented love of pork, this surprised me.
The other platter contained satay skewers with a very good satay sauce, sweetcorn cakes which are amazingly moreish, Thai prawn rolls in rice paper and spicy little sausages which were lovely. There should also have been crispy salt and pepper squid in a tempura style batter but this wasn’t available so extra satay was provided which was an adequate substitute. An excellent start with all the food introduced and explained by our very friendly waiter.
Our mains arrived quickly after we’d polished off the platters and again we’d gone for a wide selection! More pork, Khao Moo Deng Moo Krob which was pork two ways, barbecued pork and a roasted pork belly served on a bed of steamed rice with a sweet soy and barbecue sauce. The roasted belly was my favourite especially when dunked into the sweet, sticky, spicy sauce. It was accompanied by a small cup of clear broth with slivers of spring onion. We all drank some and loved its clear delicate flavours. The kind of thing you need when you have a cold for its pure comforting Gai Phao Kratiem Phrik Thai is garlic and black pepper stir fried chicken, pretty much as you’d expect. Tender slices of chicken with plenty of garlic. Finally we had Massaman Gai, a chicken curry with cashews, potatoes, onion, cinnamon and star anise. The description and look of this didn’t actually appeal to me as much as the other dishes so I left it until last and only tried a small amount. I instantly regretted that and ended up spooning the remainder onto my plate and just stopped short of licking the bowl clean. Clean, fresh, creamy flavours with the cinnamon adding a nice tingle to counteract the headiness of the star anise. A simple dish but one that makes your mouth water long after you’ve finished it.
To accompany all this, we ordered a side of steamed rice, not realising the pork dish came with it already, and a Sun Jun Luak which is rice noodles with soy sauce, bean sprouts and fried garlic. We possibly overdid it a little but we still managed to eat it all! Dessert options are limited so a chocolate fudge cake was ordered along with a Sankaya Bai Toey, a Thai pancake which was… interesting. Personally, I’d rather go with the starters and not bother with pud!
There’s an interesting cocktail menu, some local Thai beers and a reasonable wine list. Soft drinks include the usual fizzies and juice but also a selection of smoothies and proper Thai iced teas with condensed milk. Service was excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.
Fast forward to almost a month later. I’ve heard a few comments about menu items not being available and service being somewhat lacking. Our first trip was when everything was new and exciting and on their best behaviour so it was worth a return visit to see how they were doing a few weeks down the line.
We went back on a Tuesday evening and it was gratifying to see the place busy and bustling, far more so than the previous occupants Cleaver had ever been. The service started well with a greeting as soon as we walked in and shown to our table. Drinks orders were taken within minutes of being seated. After reading through the menu again, I think some changes have been made since our previous visit as we couldn’t see the pork dish on there.
We decided to go with the Sukumvit platter again to avoid the agonising of “If I order this and you order that, then we can share and maybe we should get some of this as well”. This time the squid was available and had a good crispy, salt and pepper coating but be warned, the inside was bloody hot! Fish cakes were lovely, spring rolls were good and I’m still ambivalent about the honey pork. It’s good but only for a few mouthfuls then you need a different flavour and texture. We still managed to polish it all off though!
For our mains, we decided to try different dishes and selected the Nua Yang grilled beef steak with a vinegary pepper sauce. Points for asking how we’d like our steak cooked, rare of course and for managing to actually serve it that way. A good chargrill crust with a velvety tender pink interior, the steak was excellent but was really lifted to another level with the sauce. Lovely. Khao Kha Moo was our pork dish and was wonderfully full of flavour. Melt in the mouth pork that had been braised in broth with star anise for five hours, served on steamed rice with a little bowl of chilli garlic sauce perfect for dunking in. Unfortunately we got it a bit wrong and ordered the same chicken dish again – which was as good as the first time but I wish I’d tried something else. Oh well, next time!
So, two visits a month apart. Great food both times and really good service. It’s great to see a restaurant thrive in a location which has struggled, long may it continue with great food and great service. I’ll see you there!