Eating out at Koh

As a Manglorean who grew up with coconut in everything from chips to dessert, it came as no surprise to me that I immediately took a liking to Thai food. Like any good cuisine should be, it’s diverse, tasty and very wholesome.

Thai food is also freakishly difficult to get right. Most restaurants that claim to serve chicken satay and the green curry serve the Chinese (and I mean the Indian-Chinese) version of it. Fortunately, for residents in the city, there’s a host of good Thai restaurants in south Mumbai. And they are expensive, too! Of course, if you are looking for a budget Thai place, head to this little diner called Wok Hei, which I shall post about later.

Koh at the Intercontinental Marine Drive. Picture courtesy: CNNGO/KOH

This Sunday was about eating out at Koh, the Thai restaurant at Intercontinental Marine Drive. The other restaurants at this hotel, Kebab Corner and Corleone, are extremely popular and finding a table on a weekend night can be a task. On a Sunday evening, though, Koh was surprisingly calm and very, very relaxing. If you follow food in Mumbai, you would have no doubt heard about award-winning chef Ian Kittichai’s fantastic menu and after eating there, it’s suffice to say that the place is totally worth the hype (and the bill).

Our meal for the night went as such: crispy chicken, chilli-tamarind baby aubergine, prawns in hot basil sauce, the 18-spice chicken tender and the green curry with jasmine rice.

The only disappointment (and a minor one at that) was the crispy chicken. The chicken wasn’t so much crisp as it was tough and you could taste the batter, which left a flour-y aftertaste. Being allergic to prawns, I have absolutely no idea what they tasted like, but based on the reactions all around they were good.

And a special mention here of the chilli-tamarind baby aubergines. I hate aubergines, whether fried, stuffed, steamed or chopped and simmered in a gravy. But this dish went down very well. The baby aubergines were tender, the chilli not too overpowering, the tamarind not to tangy and the sesame topping was a masterstroke. Which brings us to the main course, the 18-spice chicken tender and the green curry with jasmine rice.

One simple word: spectacular. I have often felt that the word ‘spice’ carries an unfair burden. The immediate associations with the word are searing hot food that can have dramatic repurcussions the next morning, steam coming out of your ears, tears in the eyes, etc, etc. The word that describes that kind of food is pungent, something with a strong taste, and an even stronger digestive effective. It’s a mistake some Indian restaurants make (and I could name a few). Spicy food does not mean adding chillies. In my opinion, chilli is not a spice. Spicy food means the addition of cloves, pepper, cumin, mustard, cinnamon… balanced, tempered to perfection, almost as if you were in a chemistry lab.

That’s why the 18-spice chicken won me over. Five huge chunks of chicken supreme swimming in a bow of gravy that was pitch perfect – it had bite but it did not leave you gasping for water. The chicken was tender. The green curry and jasmine rice were just as good. For a 5-star eating joint, I must admit I have never seen so many pieces of chicken in a Thai green curry.

So to sum it up head to Koh if you are looking for a quiet Sunday dinner. Having eaten tonnes of times at the Thai Pavilion, I would rate this place above the latter.

How soon I go back to Koh is another matter, because the Government just introduced a FML-budget, increasing taxes and making eating out so much more costly. But I am sure that I won’t head there again until I eat at Corleone, the only restaurant in the hotel that I haven’t eaten at before. Which means another couple of months of watching the expenses and saving up for a big-ticket meal.

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