Dinner last night was a Thai affair at Muntri Grove, a really spiffy boutique hotel located in a 19th-century mews off Muntri Street.
The special Thai food promotion only runs over 3 weeks, and required advance booking on our part to ensure a table, as they could only host 12 diners per evening due to the on-going COVID SOPs required by law.
Some chilled Chardonnay as we await the start of the evening’s program.
It was a rather fun evening - the hotel owner pulled off an admirable effort, even organizing a mini-Loy Krathong Thai festival (one monthly early!) for us diners, taking advantage of the pool-side of the dinner venue.
“Loy” means “to float” in Thai, and “krathong” refers to a buoyant flower/candle offering, to be floated on a body of water as an offering to the Hindu water goddess, Ganga. The “krathong” usually consists of elaborately-folded banana leaves, three incense sticks, and a candle, festooned with flowers.
Offering the “krathong” is also regarded as a means of cleansing one’s soul and wash away ill-luck, all as part of the process of self-renewal.
Dinner proceeded right afterwards - we started off with:
Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Mun Pla; ทอดมันปลา) - I rather enjoyed the version served here. I never liked Thai-style fish-cakes due to their “bouncy” texture, a result of pulverizing fish-meat into a fine, smooth-textured fish-paste, instead having them flaky (as in Western-style fish cakes, which I much preferred).
The one we got here was actually somewhere in-between the two, but veering closer to the Western-style fish-cake. The chili-cucumber-lime dip was mild, which suits me fine.
Tom Yum with Prawn Soup (Tom Yum Goong; ต้มยำกุ้งนำ้ข้น) - really enjoyed this one as, again, Muntri Grove’s Chef Thaik (who’s half-Thai/half-Burmese) was “gentle” in his use of chilis, so one gets to taste the nuances of the lemongrass-galangal-kafir lime leaf-infused broth, rather than the scald-your-tongue version one usually finds in Bangkok. Especially liked the very large prawns and fresh oyster mushrooms.
Roast Duck Curry (Gaeng Ped Phed Yaang; แกงเผ็ดเป็ดย่าง) - one of the best renditions of this dish in town: creamy-rich with fresh coconut milk, and perfectly textured roast duck, studded with sweet cherry tomatoes and grapes.
Unlike Indian curries, which are cooked using dry spices (ground cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon stick, etc.), Thai curries utilized mainly “wet” spices: lemongrass, galangal, chilis, shallots, kafir lime leaves, etc. as aromatics. Over here, Bangkok-trained Chef Thaik has mastered the balances of spices used, and his curries are always tasteful but never overly chili-spicy.
Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang; ไก่ย่าง) - this dish was perhaps the Achilles’ heel of the evening’s dinner. The chicken was served at room temperature, but would probably be at its best sizzling hot from a smoking grill. The piquant, sharp sweet-sour dip was pretty good, and lifted the chicken-meat a bit.
Glass Noodle Salad (Yum Woon Sen; ยำวุ้นเส้น) - this was a luxe rendition of the dish, with largish prawns and fresh, poached squid.
My personal favorite rendition of yum woon sen involved copious amounts of minced pork, which is pretty hard to come by in Malaysia, unlike in Thailand. So, I usually end up making the salad myself at home.
Deep-Fried Morning Glory Salad (Yam Phak Boong Thot Krob; ยำผักบุ้งทอดกรอบ) - this was another rather weak rendition of the dish. Instead of hot, crisp, freshly-fried vegetables, the one served here tasted cold and the batter had lost its crispness and seemed “wet”. Again, the dish was redeemed somewhat by its very tasty chili-lime dip.
Dessert course: 𝙇𝙚𝙛𝙩: Coconut Milk & Pandan Jelly (Woon Ka Ti Bai Toey/วุ้นกะทิใบเตย); 𝙍𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩: Thai Pudding with Coconut Topping (Khanom Tako; ขนมตะโก้) - the two desserts, both utilizing salted coconut cream to juxtapose against sweet jelly, were absolutely beautiful. My favorite course for the evening (besides the roast duck curry).
Overall, a very well-conceptualized dinner, with high quality produce and nice presentation.
127, 129, 131A-F, Muntri Street, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +60 4-264 2626