Singha Thai sure has its fans. I\’ve received a dozen letters and e-mails about this Merivale Road restaurant. Have you tried Singha Thai? It\’s quite wonderful, they say, these notes. Why don\’t you do an assessment of the place?
So I do, because any news of good dining on Merivale Road is welcome. I bring my Thai-food-fan family first, and I come again with a friend, then a final time for a solo lunch, and what I find — I report with a moving sigh — is extreme mediocrity, with one notable exception.
But first I\’ll say this. Singha Thai has filled a void and if it improves (please do), it will be a welcome addition as the first, as far as I know, Thai restaurant on the Merivale Road strip. It\’s not unpleasant once you\’re inside — a long, dark room, with mirrors and large, presumably Thai art on pretty red walls, nicely lit and with bamboo mats below glass and above double cloaked tables — and the service is shy and full of goodwill. And while the menu holds no novel surprises, it isn\’t long, which we sure do like.
If you have read Thai menus before, you have read this one. Here are the usual appetizers — satay (generous serving, chicken very moist, peanut sauce very dull) spring rolls, the crackling casings packed with the usual nameless vegetable mass, fresh rice paper wraps (better) and fish cakes (rubbery) with too sweet tamarind sauce.
There are soups, of course, with or without coconut milk clouding, and there are salads. We order the lapp salad, which features tough strips of chili peppered meat and too much lime in the only slightly rousing dressing, and don\’t much enjoy it.
There are curries, of course, of varying colours and intensities. The panaeng — a red curry of chicken is only OK, the meat overcooked, the fired-up coconut milk broth hardly memorable.
If the always-popular pad Thai is done badly, I figure it\’s not at all a good sign. This version is wildly sweet, and sadly dull — just noodles and bean sprouts and three sad shrimp reddened with what might well be ketchup. Even my boys, who know their pad Thai, and who generally eat without reflection, recognized it as inferior.
And they didn\’t much like the fibrous, crunchy rings of lemongrass that litter the strips of very tough beef in the stir fry dish marked No. 27. I wouldn\’t have minded the lemongrass so much (flavour trumps texture) were the meat at least chewable.
So here\’s the notable exception. Pla lad prik is fish (tilapia) in a spicy sweet and sour sauce and it\’s very good. The fish firm and moist, the sauce beautifully balanced and quite rousing.
There is, of course, Singha beer here — always good, assertively hoppy — and that\’s what we chose to help this food.