Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review - Chiang Mai

I might hate the cinema (I don't really, I like it sometimes but I have to be in a very particular mood for it to enjoy it properly. Also it's not worth £7.) but I go to the theatre a lot. This is mainly because I have a friend who's very into her actressing and we religiously go to every play she's in. Partly out of duty but mostly because they tend to be very good. We are, as another friend astutely pointed out in the subject line of an email, her fan club. This isn't that weird since all we're really doing is being supportive, good friends who also happen to like nice evenings out. But what is weird is when you start recognising other people from the acting 'scene' around almost as if they're celebrities. It really is like they're celebrities: having seen them in so many plays and heard about what they're like to work you, you feel that you almost 'know' them. So far, so harmless. When it does get awk though is when you're playing pub golf and feel that it's appropriate to interrupt a private conversation of two of these people to say 'Hey, I know you! you're X! You've been in these plays!' Maybe one day I'll become a super-prestigious theatre reviewer (unlikely), then they'll be pleased.

Anyway, before the 7th meeting of fan club, we decided to go for dinner at a thai place on Oxford's High Street. This place is tricksy - there are two places next too each other, one which is supposed to be good and one which is allegedly shit. You just have to gamble at which one is which. Thankfully, this game is set up so that you can only be wrong once (providing you don't have an awful memory) and this was the second time I went. Last time I went to the bad one and it was truly shocking. Anyway, that meant that this time we would definitely enjoy a good meal.

We were not disappointed. This is the best Thai food I've ever eaten. It even beat Thai Corner Cafe. I chose venison jungle curry because I thought I might not easily find venison cooked with Thai flavours in another restaurant. All I can think of to describe it is John Torrode's description of perfect Thai food on Masterchef: 'you have to balance four flavours: sweet, sour, spicy and hot.' And that they did. It was bursting with flavour. It had a massive chilli kick which made my eyes water but the other flavours were vibrant enough to match it. I think I use the word vibrant too much to describe food - probably all the other times I used it it was inaccurate because I don't know if anything less than this dish could be properly described as vibrant. The vegetables were still crunchy and fresh and some I barely recognised because I'm so unaccustomed to them in a fresh form. The venison was soft and just cooked and not at all overpowered by the rest of the dish.

My friend chose a red curry which came with tofu, all array of vegetables, lychees and pineapple. What she had was my second choice of order. The lychees and pineapple really made this dish, adding a fruity sweetness which perfectly offset the heat of the red sauce. Despite being cooked, the lychees retained that lovely quality where when you bite into them all their juice squirts out. Except the juice had taken on the flavours of the curry. All verrrry good. Even down to the coconut rice and vegetable rice. This meal has given me faith in a new theory. Places in Oxford which are decorated in this 'looking old with lots of timber and stuff but also including lots of things from the culture' way are the best places to eat. So far only Chiang Mai Kitchen and Shanghai 30s confirm this but I will find further proof.

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