chasing a plate dined as guests of Thai Lao Yeh
Housed in the Cabochon Hotel in a quiet soi off Sukhumvit, Thai Lao Yeh is an oasis of chic decor and delicious eats for the weary traveller. The bustle of the world outside is immediately forgotten as soon as you step into the space that is the restaurant. The main dining room is paneled with old, dark polished timber (salvaged from a Thai village), wooden birdcages dangle whimsically from the ceiling and black and white photographs of old Siam adorn the walls.
Our love of Bangkok street food knows no bounds and whilst perching on a kerb to munch on a chicken wing or sticking to a plastic stool to slurp down a bowl of noodles are mandatory experiences in our books, sometimes it is nice to leave the grit, sweat and suspicious smells behind, put your glad rags on and linger somewhere a bit more refined. Thai Lao Yeh is the place.
Serving Thai and Laotian fare, the menu at Thai Lao Yeh covers all bases from soups and curries to stir-frys and Northeastern Isaan specialties. We decided to let the kitchen take charge of what to feed us with the proviso that none of the spice be dumbed down to suit the Western palate. And so it began.
The papaya salad with salty egg and dried shrimps was everything it should have been. The four flavours duly represented- sweet, sour, salty, spicy. The juicy wedges of tomato, the liberal lashings of sour lime juice and the tart papaya were refreshing and the salad exploded with flavour.
The fish cakes showed up next with a cucumber and peanut dipping sauce. Bite sized, golden brown and flecked with mild green chillis these babies were incredibly moist – these were some of the best I have ever had. I loved the crunch of the peanuts from the dipping sauce when eaten with the soft fish cake.
The house-made grilled Isaan fermented pork sausage had a pleasant sourness and the mix of meat and rice provided great texture. The cabbage cleansed the palate and cut through the richness of the sausage.
One of our resolutions for this trip to Thailand was to sample more tom yum soups. Thai Lao Yeh’s version was exceptional. Four large prawns languished in the spicy soup which was fragrant with lemongrass and kaffir lime. The addition of a mere dollop of coconut milk rendered the soup smooth and silky and the prawns whilst peeled retained half of their heads (easily removed) which added flavour and depth to the broth. TBS declared it the best he’d ever had.
The tom hang wua in contrast was heady with the scent of cinnamon and star anise- the broth, rich and dark but light, after a squeeze of lime juice was added. A gelatinous piece of oxtail sat in the middle of the bowl, the meat was a little difficult to tear off but it was flavoursome when we succeeded.
Our stomachs groaning we faced the generous serving of pad thai, the ubiquitous noodle dish found on most if not all menus. Now everyone enjoys their pad thai differently which is why the condiments of dried chilli, sugar, fish sauce and chillies in vinegar always accompany your dish. We both found that a wee sprinkling of sugar and dried chilli bound all the flavours together. The noodles had great texture and weren’t gluggy and once again the prawns were cooked to perfection.
The pièce de résistance came in the form of crab pad grapao- blue and white china piled high with stir fried crab, holy basil and chilli. We cracked, sucked and gnawed our way through two crabs complete with roe. The flavours were bright, punchy and addictive. Enjoying seafood like crab is a must in Asia as it’s a lot more affordable than in the West. For those not adept at maneuvering crab with chopsticks (me!), a finger bowl to clean up wonderfully sauce and crab smeared hands would be ideal.
Despite our protesting stomachs we managed to demolish the Thai Lao Yeh mango shaved ice and the mango and sticky rice. The shaved ice is a mixture of water and milk and is prepared by a manually operated machine. It was refreshing and light and complemented well by the sweet succulent mango. We probably devoured about 12 portions of mango and sticky rice during our six day stay in Bangkok and Thai Lao Yeh’s managed to be different in its use of black rice which was nutty and imparted an earthiness to the dessert.
The Cabochon has it all- attentive and friendly staff, authentic Thai food that is packed with flavour and fresh ingredients all housed in an elegant, soothing space. If you’re looking for somewhere special but don’t want to compromise on the quality of the food, then you’ve found it.
Good to know:
Som Tam Kai Kem: papaya salad with salty egg and dried shrimps 120
Tord Mun Pla: deep fried fish cakes 120
Sai Grog E-San: grilled Northeastern pork sausage 120
Tom Yum Goong: Thai hot and spicy soup with shrimp 180
Tom Hang-Wua: spicy soup with oxtail 180/280
Pad Grapao Puu: stir fried crab with holy basil 480/880
Pad Thai 180
Mango TLY Shaved Ice 150
Kao-Niew Mamuang: yellow mango with sticky rice 180
All prices in Thai Baht.
Thai Lao Yeh
Cabochon Hotel & Residence
14/29 Sukhumvit 45 Road (a 10 minute walk from Phrom Phong BTS station)
Telephone +66 2259 2871-3
Open for lunch and dinner.
Two private dining rooms are also available for 6-8 and 10-12 guests.
Images: Thomas Southam