by SALIM AL AFIFI
Can the greatness of a country’s cuisine be sampled in one place? It’s a question I find myself asking quite often when exploring a new dining culture. In this issue, we are going on a trip to Charm Thai, a restaurant that sums up the heart and soul of authentic Thai cooking.
Tucked in the lower ground of Crowne Plaza OCEC, the restaurant encapsulates a cuisine that may have required multiple lifetimes to sample into a perfect bucket-list menu that offers a peek into the piquant bowls and fiery seafood-rich specialities of Thailand.
The restaurant has been the talk of the town for quite some time, not only for its authentic menu but for the mystical interiors and the backstory of the golden princess Suphankanlaya, who seemed to have had a lovely voyage to Oman.
With tons of curiosity, I had to stop by and experience the fantasy myself. As you’d guess, I was truly stunned.
As I reach the place, I spot a gold-plated floor-to-ceiling gate that sports intricately designed pillars, and a friendly waiter awaiting my arrival with a warm, traditional welcome that consists of palms pressed together and a slight bow. “Welcome to Charm Thai Lounge & Restaurant” she said.
Eager to explore beyond the gilded wall, I greeted the waiter back and asked her to find me the perfect seat. As we stepped into the restaurant, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fashionable interior, said to be inspired by the princess’ journey to Muscat. Iconic battle gear, lyrical poems written on beams, prominent symbols of Kraken, walls adorned with drawings of psychedelic, abstract art, and purple sofas are some of the things that caught my attention. For a quick moment, I felt as if I had walked into a flamboyant version of the set of Game of Thrones — it was magical.
After getting acquainted with the princess and her sea silk route voyage, the waiter escorted me to the terrace, which sports an ambience that contrasts the interior part of the diner; rugged aesthetics and dark woods take centre stage, serving that perfect island vibe of Patong Beach.
I decided to have a sit at Suphankanlaya’s boat-shaped table that’s docked by the entrance. I sat and sipped on my welcome drink, made of coconut goodness, excitedly waiting to meet the chef and explore the menu.
The Good Stuff
Now that we’ve met the princess and marvelled at the décor, it’s time to dive into what brought us here in the first place: the food.
The menu at Charm Thai is crafted by patron chef Shakriya Kanasasanat, whose passion lies in experimenting with new flavours that offer a nod to the culture of Thailand. And she succeeded. The menu is full of absolute hits from all over the country, dressed in hints of the chef’s own culinary imagination.
As I explored the menu, my regal impression of this place evaporated a little. The prices are unbeatable for a five-star offering, which was a fabulous start to the evening.
I did not want to just scratch the surface of what’s on offer, I wanted to truly dive in, mouth first. So I came prepared with a small army of people who talk a good dining game, ordering food like we’d never heard of money.
After a while, blue ceramic bowls and plates started to roll out, with the first one being the tom kha talay, a flavourful seafood soup with hints of citrusy ginger and earthy lemongrass, swimming in coconut milk. Those delighted by flavours of the sea will truly enjoy this. Even the mildest palates will find solace in this warm bowl of goodness.
For the main, we had a wok-fried chicken dish called gai kratiam, illustrated on a blue plate, served with a peppery dip. The chicken was perfectly juicy and packed quite the flavours.
Another dish that stood out was the famous red curry with king prawns and diced pineapples; staple dish in almost every Thai restaurant. But this particular one tasted impeccable; the curry served a thrilling rollercoaster of salt, sugar, and funk, best enjoyed with a plate of fragrant jasmine rice.
Ped yang num makhan was our last stop, a charcoal-grilled duck dressed in tamarind sauce and bedded on crispy tempura. No wonder this dish is the restaurant’s best seller, the smoky flavour of the duck and the sweet-tangy zing of the tamarind makes for a perfect bite.
We also tried other dishes including the papaya salad and the peppery beef but they weren’t as memorable as the four dishes above. To end the session, we had delicious Thai mango.
Dining at Charm Thai was such a beautiful moment that exceeded all of my expectations. It’s a restaurant and lounge that truly takes you on a gastronomical journey to the Land of Smiles. Is it safe to say that this place lives up to the hype? Absolutely – it’s an authentic Thai experience that should not be missed.