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Oct 8, 2008 03:03 PM

Mengrai Thai lunch buffet

Not the same posts that have gone on about the lunch and dinners, but has anyone tried the Thursday lunch buffet?

I'm on vacation and planned to go tomorrow, but can't make it now. I'm quite disappointed, since the only time I could make it downtown would be a vacation day :(

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  1. Red_dragon, I have not seen you around these parts for quite a while - how have you been?

    I too am quite interested to see if anyone has tried this as it seems like quite a deal. Thanks for making this post. I had lunch there a while back and found it quite satisfying, and at such a great price.


    1. I have been to the buffet, and I was very disappointed. It's set up in a small awkward space and not easy to move around in. Also, I found serving dishes were left empty for too long before being replaced so you might get a little food on your plate but then you had to wait 10 minutes to get some rice or another dish. People getting takeout were left standing for quite a while waiting to fill their containers. All in all, I thought they were doing a big disservice to themselves as any new customer would be unlikely to come back.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Leslieville

        That's disappointing to hear. Thanks for the report Leslieville. I guess that rules out my visit and saves me a trip!

      2. We've been there many times for dinner and food was excellent; my wife went once with her friends for their lunch buffet and she experienced exactly as Leslieville said... dishes were left empty for too long. The problem is they don't have enough cooks in the back to keep pace to support the buffet.

        Allan, the owner, has big dreams for the restaurant but not necessarily the funding to back it. As a result, their kitchen needs help. Sasi is an excellent chef (by far the best Thai chef in Toronto IMHO and very nice and kind person as well!) but she can't do everything.

        16 Replies
        1. re: syoung

          They got a great review in the Globe this Saturday.

          1. re: syoung

            Hi everyone - haven't been on in awhile. And, I still haven't made it for their lunch buffet, I had a chance during Christmas holidays, since I had two weeks off, but go figure, the Thursday I had off, they were closed. Looks like I'm not missing much. I would "consider" going back for dinner, but would probably choose to try another place first.

            1. re: red dragon

              I don't want to berate Mengrai specifically, but I doubt you're missing much. Thai buffet is bound to be a disappointing experience and not reflective of the ability of the kitchen, as buffets typically are. Skip it and go for an actual dinner, where they'll pay more attention to the preparation of your food.

              1. re: vorpal

                Vorpal, I don't know if you have been lately, but the quality has been slipping a bit for me on my last three visits to Mengrai. I have since tried Linda's and have been quite happy. Not your standard Thai food - more Fusion IMO, but tasty nonetheless.

                I'll probably go a couple of more times to Mengrai, but it's no longer on my regular rotation.

                1. re: BokChoi

                  I've been in Ottawa since September, so no, I haven't been. That's very sad to hear; Mengrai was really carving a niche for itself as the best prepared authentic Thai food in Toronto. I suppose they let popularity get to them, or perhaps they weren't equipped to deal with it.

                  I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying Linda's. I never tried it, although I should have.

                  1. re: vorpal

                    They have been quite packed since the review came out in the Globe and Mail. It's too bad. The service has slipped, and the food is just lacking that special something it used to have. That, and their portions have been shrinking. I still think it's amongst the best in Toronto, it just wasn't as good as it used to be.
                    Happy Chowing in Ottawa!

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      Just lunched there for the first time. Apparently Sasi is in Thailand right now (not sure since when) so maybe that explains recent concerns about the "special something".

                      1. re: genejan


                        I wish it were only the fact that she was away in Thailand. The food has slipped since September (I have since gone back about 2 additional times). It's still better than the average Thai resto, but it just lacked that special something. It's too bad. I thought I had found my go-to place for fantastic Thai food.

                      2. re: BokChoi

                        I'd agree about the service definitely. I was very disappointed the last time I went. With reservations, we had to wait for a table, and when it came, we had to wait again... food was nice but very scanty. I am not eager to return.

                    2. re: BokChoi

                      Sasi should already be back in town. We made it a point not to go in her absence. :-)

                      I don't think the front of the house staff is all that experienced as I find they are just a notch below the professionalism displayed by other high end fine dining restaurants that Allan strives for Mengrai to become. So reports of decling service is not surprising if the restaurant is becoming more busy.

                      However, in defense of the back of the house and Sasi in particular, I think they hired a new sous chef last fall which may have accounted for the food slippage. Since there's little experienced help in the back, If it gets too busy, Sasi may not have the time to quality control the food sous chef lets out. And lets face it, despite Allan's boasting, it's Sasi's cooking that built the house but she may be stretched too thin if they get too busy.

                      1. re: syoung

                        That might explain the severe drop in quality I explained during the fall. I knew something was off. She should ensure that all the food that comes out of her kitchen is up to her standard. Quality control is very important for an Executive Chef. No one is going to keep going back to her restaurant just because she had a good review in a newspaper. I know I will not be rushing back that's for sure, and will no longer be recommending them with such high acclaim like I once did before the review came out. That's too bad. They had something good going on there.
                        Thanks for the info syoung.

                        1. re: BokChoi

                          Ok, I'm on vacation and this Thursday will be the only chance I can make it to try their lunch buffet. I've been there for dinner already, and tried Ivory Thailand's lunch buffet, but left with a severe case of MSG overdose.

                          Has there been any updates on Megrai Thai's Thursday only lunch buffet, or should I still skip it all together?

                          1. re: red dragon

                            If Ivory Thailand is using MSG, that's quite unfortunate: the vast majority of Thai restaurants frown on MSG and are usually quite savvy about it (e.g. if it is in their oyster sauce, etc).

                            1. re: vorpal

                              I sent an email to the manager, but no reply. I'm asian, so I can tell if msg is in food. We liked the buffet (except a few items, but left with a very dry mouth, numb tongue, and no exaggeration, but we had 3 tall glasses of iced water while there and drank 4 bottles of water each, which we had in our cooler, thankfully). We couldn't drink enough water throughout the day, evening and night. Thanfully, no other severe symtoms that others tend to have. We also found the food to be very heavily salted, could be excessive fish sauce ....

                              1. re: red dragon

                                red dragon: Sorry: I hope it didn't sound like I was casting doubt on your claims! I believe your call and trust that you know what you're talking about, especially based on your always informative and excellent posts here. I just meant that it really is unfortunate if Ivory Thailand feels they need to use MSG in the preparation of Thai food.

                                1. re: vorpal

                                  Hi Vorpal - thanks for your post, it meant a lot. Email/post tones can be so lost here on the web huh? I'm going to try to call the manager (at Ivory Thailand) to speak about the food, it's just every time I find the time, it's near the lunch and dinner hour, and coming from a restaurant background, my call wouldn't be too appreciated!

              2. I've never tried the lunch buffet, but I can confirm that the food at Mengrai is as good as ever. We've been twice in the past 6 month, most recently only a few weeks ago. Everything was still delicious and I have no idea what people are talking about with the MSG. Never experienced any "thirst like" symptoms. The ingredients still seem fresh and carefully prepared, I have difficulty envisioning Chef Sasi reaching for a bottle of mysterious white powder to kick her food up a notch -- it doesn't need it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Gary

                  Gary: the MSG comments were in reference to Ivory Thailand, not Mengrai Thai. I agree with you: I can't imagine Sasi using MSG, and Alan has told me in the past that they certainly don't add any.

                  1. re: vorpal

                    Hey Vorpal/Gary - I tried to go back and edit my post so others would know we were talking about Ivory Thailand, not Mengrai Thai, but it doesn't allow me to edit. Hopefully, other readers will see the string, read it and know which restaurant we're referring to!

                2. I tried the lunch buffet there awhile ago, wasn't too impressed. Most of the dishes offered were vegetarian and the ones that did have meat/seafood didn't have much of the meat/seafood left in the dishes whenever I went up to get food.

                  I find it's better when ordering dishes, but don't order on the Thursday if you're going to get the same dishes as on the buffet, cause you'll get the same quality.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: janel

                    Hi Janel - ugh! I think we'll just go for dinner. I was waiting for a Thursday to be off together with my husband (not an easy thing to organize) and try their buffet, so we could try some other things, but it still isn't sounding worth it. I would agree in that case, better off to stick to the regular menu! Thanks!