Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Just Thai Experience

by Dr. Ryan Nino C. Padua

On a typical Monday evening I was invited, along with other bloggers, for a meet-up to see and experience a (relatively) new dining destination in Alabang. Not a new experience for me given I've stumbled upon this restaurant a few weeks back with my family (which was underwhelming). This time, however, promises to be a new and better experience. So, of we go!

Just Thai, as the name implies, is a Thai restaurant situated at the Molito compound facing the park area. Brilliant move, I should say, for it offers a more quiet setting particularly if you dine alfresco. 

The facade was dimly lit giving it an air of mystery and sophistication while a statuette bids you welcome as you go in.

Once in the place is both cozy and roomy given 
the high ceiling and uncluttered table layout.

Thai decorative pieces adorn the walls giving you a feel of authenticity and a bit of luxury. In the background you'll hear a traditional 'kulintang' playing which, oddly enough, is reminiscent of a spa. 

As we were seated on our table, the wait staff
served their Thai Iced Tea. As Kathy Kenny shared, the tea leaves were shipped in monthly from Thailand. 

A clever spin they did was to float the milk atop the tea giving you an opportunity to taste the tea with and without milk. As all Thai teas go, this one has bold wood tones tempered by the added milk.

Refreshed, I was ready to tease my palate with the array of dishes coming our way...

First, the soups:

Tom Yam is a sour and spicy soup with a mix of seafoods and vegetables. Interesting bit here is that the heat can be dialed down on request and the sourness was not overpowering. The shrimps and mushrooms were cooked just right, and if you scooped a bit of everything you'll get a symphony of flavors that you won't get when eaten separately.

Tom kagay is a sour broth mixed with coconut milk and thai spice (similar to what they use in Tom Yam). A first for me but a pleasure nonetheless. The red tinge left by the spice mix seems foreboding but I assure you it's not. Rather, the heat cuts the richness of the coconut cream while allowing the sour tones to contrast it. The chicken, cooked shortly in this broth, absorbs just enough of the flavors that it only lingers in the background.

On to the appetizers:

Pork Spring Rolls. But not the 'lumpiang shanghai' we grew up with. This one had the pork fillings lay on a bed of vermicelli. This is complemented by the Thai sweet chili sauce which is a nice break from catsup we usually use for spring rolls.

Chicken satay is surprisingly moist and tender with the curry marinade standing out. The peanut sauce is mildly spiced and purposely made a bit coarse to add a layer of crunch to the satay.

As my Thai tea runs out, the wait staff promptly offered a replacement in the form of Lemon grass Tea.

Refreshingly light and unobtrusive, a perfect accompaniment for the coming entree.

The entree':

Pork liempo is nondescript. Lightly seasoned and then grilled (would have been better if the skin was left to crisp). The tamarind sauce gives it a sweet and tangy tone.

 Seafood with basil is a curry based mix of fresh, properly cooked seafoods served with fried basil leaves. The sauce was mildly spiced and goes very well with Bagoong Rice. As in, very, VERY, well.

Deep fried Tilapia. Fillets of tilapia lightly coated in batter and deep fried. The sweet chili sauce is a necessary accompaniment (as with all fried food go). Best to pair with Bagoong rice since the inherent saltiness complements it quite nicely.

Chicken with cashew borders on the salty side (probably due to the oyster sauce used) and hence best paired with PLAIN rice to tame the strength of the sauce.

Chicken pandan. Fried chicken fillets wrapped in Pandan leaves. The meat still is moist and has the subtle pandan flavor absorbed in the meat. Good with Bagoong rice.

Bagoong rice. The only rice that makes everything better, by a long shot. 'Nuff said.

Pad Thai. The quintessential dish that definitely screams Thai. The dish that can make or break any Thai restaurants. The dish that soured our first impression of this restaurant for being too salty. But this time though, they redeemed themselves by putting out their improved take on this beloved staple. And a perfectly executed one, I should say.

But wait, there's more! Cue in the desserts!

Mango and sticky rice with coconut cream. Mildly sweetened glutinous rice coupled with mango slices and topped with coconut cream. 

Takho. Ground rice steamed with pandan leaves. Akin to Maja Blanca but this one has two layers. The plain white one sitting atop a green, pandan infused, layer mixed with corn.

Thai coffee. Prepared table-side using a Vietnamese coffee filter. Downside of this was the incorrect preparation made by the wait staff hence under-extracting the coffee. Had it been done correctly, this could be the perfect finish to accompany the Takho.

 Despite a few misses and my prior misadventure, Just Thai had successfully won over my palate and has proven itself a worthy option for good, reasonably priced, and authentic Thai food. A big thanks to Kathy for this opportunity and hats off to the staff for a job well done!

Just Thai:

Forbestown (Burgos Circle) Fort Bonifacio 403-8718
Prism Plaza, TwoE-Com Center, Manila Bay (near MOA) 519-8135
Molito Lifestyle Center, Alabang 808-4058

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