With its soft opening on November 1, the Hotel Plaza Athenee has put Wireless Rd back into focus for those with their fingers on the pulse of the hotel scene. And with the new hotel, of course, comes several additions to the Bangkok wining and dining scene – in fact no less than five new restaurants and four bars have thrown open their doors.
According to my trusty Oxford Companion to Food, Thailand’s cuisine has spread across the globe these past three decades at a speed unprecedented by any other nation’s. Perhaps then, there’s no greater test of a hotel’s commitment to its dining patrons than its ability to provide Thai food worthy of travelling to Thailand to eat.
And so it is we find ourselves at Smooth Curry, which prides itself on creating truly authentic Thai dishes from around the country, and the days of old. Seating only sixty, the restaurant is certainly intimate enough for a romantic meal; there are two private rooms, however, which would be a good choice for more sizeable groups or for entertaining clients.
The furniture is sleek and stylish, the d?cor quietly sophisticated; inimitable Thai style has infected everything down to the silver cutlery and dark brown stoneware set on the table and simply shown off on crisp white tablecloths.
As we browsed the menu to the soft strains of traditional Thai music, we were served a welcome ginger drink. Sweet and cool, it was an omen of the good things to come.
We started with Paper Moons (Bt140), deep-fried rice shells filled with minced pork, shrimps, vermicelli, onions, salted egg yolk and mushrooms. The rice shells had an unusual texture and good flavour just on their own; but once broken open they released a small button of other well-balanced flavours. Just a few of these were the perfect appetiser, making at least my taste buds scream for more, but there are plenty of other more traditional dishes to try too – Tod Man Pla (fish cakes with a light curry flavour, Bt140) or Gai Hor Bai Toey (marinated chicken breast in pandanus leaf, Bt120), were some of the alternatives.
We dined just a few days after the hotel’s soft opening, so the wine list was still being printed. I edged towards a lemongrass juice anyway, while my partner stuck to his regular beer.
Next we tried a traditional twist on the ubiquitous Tom Yam Goong (which is also, of course, on the menu at Bt 200). The Tom Som Goong Nang (traditional Thai soup with prawns, ginger and spring onions, Bt220) had an almost citrus-like refreshing tang that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. That was until knowledgeable restaurant manager Oravee Thongsong came to the rescue – it was tamarind, of course. This is a dish definitely worth trying – even the prawns were noticeably tasty.
We had to give my favourite Thai dish a go, and it more than came up to scratch. The Yam Som O (spicy pomelo salad with prawns and chicken, Bt150) was quite rich, with a generous serving of the "spicy" part commanding attention.
Of course, we had to try a smooth curry as well. We went for the Panaeng Pla Salmon (salmon in red curry paste, Bt280), a single thick and juicy salmon steak smothered in a curry paste with real bite. Salmon-lovers might worry about the flavour of the salmon being lost under the curry; it’s certainly not as pronounced as a plain old salmon steak, but the dish gives a new appreciation of the marvellous texture of salmon itself.
We were tempted by the Ped Ob Bai Tamlueng (baked duck with vine leaves, Bt190) and edged towards the Hor Mok Talay (steamed curried seafood, Bt 220) – but decided take a rest instead.
There are no dazzling views to be had from this restaurant, but the food will hold your attention anyway. And in between dishes you can just soak up the tranquil atmosphere you’re in.
As we did prior to dessert. I sampled the Gluay Buard Chee Herng (banana in coconut cream, Bt80) while my partner went for the Khao Neaw Mamuang (sticky rice and mango, Bt130). Both were elegant ways to end out meal – we thought!
Khun Oravee decided that we should also try Thaong Yhib, Thaong Yawd, Med Kanhun, and Foy Thong (Thai egg sweet meats, Bt100) with our coffees. It was a wise move on her part, as they concluded the meal perfectly.
Smooth Curry stands its own in the sea of Thai restaurants in Bangkok hotels. It’s not breaking any culinary boundaries, but it’s doing what it sets out to do with admirable panache.