Words: Monica Larrieu Photos: Monica Tindall
Nestled in the urban setting of the embassy-lined U-Thant neighborhood, Rama V is an idyllic tropical oasis becoming of an authentic Thai fine dining experience, offering a momentary refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life. What a welcoming and soothing sanctuary!
Housed in what must have been a grand home in the 70’s, the spirit of that era lingers, with hints of its architecture and design melding harmoniously with exotic Thai aesthetics and soothing hues of plum, mauve and various metallic touches. The ambiance is eclectic, a unique but very effective marriage between the traditional beauty of old Siam and the lines of modern simplicity. The floor-to-ceiling windows fluidly spill out into the gardens, revealing tranquil ponds inhabited by large koi and turtles, statues and carved murals, as well as lush vegetation and three chalets for private dining experiences.
Settled into our plush seats in a consummate setting, Monica T., Caning and I were ready to start our Thai feast. First out were the appetizers from a thoughtfully chosen menu. A large banana leaf-lined platter filled with five different appetizers, the Ayutthaya Platter (RM 72), was brought to our table: Chor Ladda, Tod Mun Pla Krai, Tung Thong, Kai Satay, and Yam Ma Mueng. This, by the way, would be perfect pickings for their fantastic happy hour deals (RM10 for a glass of wine or beer!), but more on that later.
One of the highlights was the breathtakingly beautiful purple blue Chor Ladda steamed dumplings in the shape of petite flowers. They had a subtle taste delicately laced with the taste of chicken, and topped with a drizzle of coconut cream and finely chopped peanuts. They were almost too pretty to eat, and once in the mouth, tasted like little morsels of heaven. How in the world did the dumplings get this impressive color (my immediate question also)? – from the intensely blue butterfly pea flowers which turn purple in the presence of acids. Culinary magic.
The other appetisers in the platter were also tasty. The Tod Mun Pla Krai (Fried Fish Cakes) pulled together so many of the lively tastes of Thai cuisine into one compartmentalised food. The Tung Thong (also known as Golden Money Bags), were plump little wontons in the shape of mini-coin purses that were lightly fried. The Yam Ma Mueng (Mango Salad) was fresh, light but quite spicy. Made from shredded green mangoes and vegetables, doused in the classic blend of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and crushed chilies. The Kai Satay (Chicken Satay) was perfectly marinated with just the right amount of turmeric, not too powerful yet still substantive. The chicken morsels were tender and juicy, without the usual fatty bits one gets with the usual street food fare.
Next up was the Tom Yam Maphraw (Spicy Seafood Soup in Young Coconut RM 34) a hot and sour soup served in an appealing young coconut shell. True to its traditional form, the tastes of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers rushed to meet our taste buds and we quickly noted its spiciness. This was one of Mon T’s favourites.
The Som Tam Khai Kem Rama V (Green Papaya Salad with Salted Egg RM 28) was a fresh, yet spicy salad consisting of thinly shredded green papaya and carrots, haricots verts, cherry tomatoes, crushed chili peppers, and was bathed in a sweetened fish sauce. Traditionally sprinkled with peanuts, this rendition was a little more luxuriant topped with roasted cashews.
As we moved on to the main dishes, I was pleasantly surprised by the Gaeng Ka Ree Kai Fak Thong (Yellow Curry Chicken with Pumpkin RM 29), as I am not usually very fond of the turmeric-heavy yellow curries. But this one was exceptionally different (and surprisingly pleasing) to me. This curry was accompanied by a sweet vinegar and onion sauce on the side that I was instructed to combine with each bite. Magic ensued, forever changing my perceptions of yellow curries. Throughout the course of sampling the other dishes, I kept returning to it to try one more nibble of this newfangled flavor.
The Ped Tod Nam Ma Kram (Crispy Duck with Tamarind Sauce RM 34) consisted of slices of marinated duck covered by an impeccably crispy layer of skin, served on a bed of greens, and drizzled with sweet and sour tamarind sauce. Crispy duck fans will surely be very gratified by this dish.
A homage to Pan-Asian fusion cuisine, the Neur Yang Kaew Wan (Thai Barbecue Australian Beef with Green Curry Sauce RM 46) consisted of thin strips of tender, barbecued Australian beef, cooked medium-rare, wrapped around a series of vegetables, like kai lan, carrots and baby corn. The beef and veggies were then rolled into a sushi-esque roll, and drizzled with a spicy green curry sauce. This one pleased Caning to the Nth degree.
The Pla Neung Manow (Steamed Sea bass in Manow Sauce RM 79) was another highlight for me. First off, this steamed sea bass was served piping hot in a fish-shaped pan over a flame, which was quite a sight to behold. Bathed in lemon-lime chili broth, infused with cilantro, garlic, chilis and lime slices, the fish was succulent and moist. This seemed to me to be the ideal preparation for fish.
The three desserts we sampled were amazing, and they did not even contain any chocolate!
Always the perennial favorite, the Khaoniao Mamuang, more popularly known as Mango with Sticky Rice (or Mon T’s favourite), is made of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk, and drizzled with sweetened coconut cream (and a dash of salt). It was served to us warm, alongside freshly sliced and ideally ripened mangoes. Yum! The Bua Loi consisted of small yam dumplings swimming in warm, sweetened coconut cream, and this one we barely got a taste of as Caning was quick off the mark to claim the remainder of the bowl for himself. The Tab Tim Krob, also affectionately called Rubies, were small cubes of water chestnuts in syrup, coated with red tapioca shells, and served in sweetened coconut milk. For added measure, this dessert is served with shaved ice, and sure does make a refreshing end to a meal.
As part of Rama V’s Happy Hour Special (RM10 per glass of wine or beer), we were treated to Warburn Estate’s Rumours Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2016. This Australian white was a fresh and citrusy contrast to some of the spicier elements of the evening. This decent house white was served as part of Rama V’s Happy Hour Special (RM 10 per glass), held Monday through Friday, from 4:30 to 7:00pm.
Reasons to visit: The Chor Ladda, the Steamed Sea Bass, and the Yellow Curry Chicken with Pumpkin; a quick refuge in an idyllic setting; the weekday Happy Hour deals are fab!; and the dedicated vegetarian menu.
Rama V Fine Thai Cuisine
5 Jalan U-Thant, Kuala Lumpur
+603 2143 2663
Monday through Sunday