From the spicy papaya salad with crab to the lamb curry, the exquisite Thai food has Olga Camacho planning to go back for more.
Restaurant review: Pachaylen, Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa in Abu Dhabi
With its high ceilings and elegant gold and purple decor, the Thai restaurant Pachaylen at the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa in Abu Dhabi makes an impressive first impression.
Our evening began with complimentary miang kham, translated as “a bite of food wrapped in leaves”, a traditional snack sold from carts on the streets of Thailand. Here it’s presented in an elegant box. You fold a piper leaf into a pouch and fill it with a combination of shallots, chilli, lime, ginger, dried shrimp, toasted coconut and peanuts – all accented with a dash of plum jam. It’s an interesting way to start off a meal.
After being told by our server that the portions are small, my friend and I went all out and each ordered an appetiser, soup and salad. We were expecting to get the three courses one at a time but they all arrived together – which made us feel rushed. Plus, the portions weren’t small at all.
My som tam, a spicy green papaya salad with dried shrimp and crispy, soft-shell crab, tasted perfect to me, but my friend found it too hot, although it didn’t have any warning chilli graphic next to it on the menu. Her mixed salad with fresh herbs was even better, served with a sublime chilli and lime dressing. I have to mention that the dish had a two-chilli warning on the menu but was milder than the papaya salad.
Among the appetisers, the highlight for both of us was the platter of meaty, pan-fried crab cakes with red curry paste, Kaffir lime leaves and pickled cucumber relish. The binder was delicate so you could still taste the crab. My friend’s turmeric and lemon-grass-marinated chicken satay, on the other hand, was dry and bland, though the peanut dipping sauce helped to give it the boost it needed.
The classic tom yum kung, spicy and sour soup with black tiger prawns, and the tom kha kai, chicken in coconut-cream soup, were both tasty but by the time we got to them, they had cooled a bit.
For the main course, I had the chicken stir-fry with cashews, which was nothing spectacular and had more of a Chinese flavour to it.
My friend’s lamb massaman with sweet potatoes, baby carrots and fried shallots was hearty and delicious, the meat falling off the bone. Having ordered too much food, however, we simply tasted the dishes and then had them wrapped up to go.
Steamed jasmine and organic brown rice are on the menu but you don’t need to order them because a waiter comes by, offering complimentary rice from a bamboo basket.
Most tables have a view of the kitchen and it’s a pleasure to see the chefs at work. However, when the restaurant isn’t full, you may be disturbed by the sound of pots clanging – although it wasn’t all that bad because it helped overpower the odd music, best described as slow spa with the occasional chime.
Of the five dessert offerings on the menu, only three were available when we went. We opted to share the Phetchaburi baked-bean cake with homemade coconut ice cream. Light and delicious, it’s a hit and a lovely way to end a meal.
The service at the beginning of the night was very attentive but toward the end of the meal they seemed to have forgotten we were there: strange, because of the 20 or so tables in the place, only five were occupied that Saturday night.
But would I come back when I next crave for some Thai fare? You bet.
• A meal for two at Pachaylen costs Dh797, including taxes. For reservations, call 02 656 1000. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito
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