heron pub - authentic isaan food [London]
hat tip to the skinny bib on this one (review here - http://theskinnybib.com/2011/04/17/th...) sadly i just went by myself + so i was only able to try 2 things - the yum pla duk fuu and som tum, but both were great! finding a restaurant that serves yum pla duk fuu is definitely a big deal imo. the only bad part is that the good menu is only in thai (there is a seperate english one but thats not as exciting) altho the waitress said she was happy to help me out. anyway - definitely worth checking out!
Also got the yum pla duk fuu. The crispy shredded catfish was very light and extremely crispy, a good rendition, a multifaceted delight when all the parts come together -- the crunchy shreds and toasted peanuts contrasting with soft sticky rice, the fried richness cut with the sauce - mildly spicy and sweet, with a big boost of limey acidity, a perhaps a hint of fish-sauce umami. The little bits of green mango didn't do much for me, but the refreshing touches from aromatic celery added yet another synergistic layer of deliciousness.
I quite liked the Sai Krok, short fat sausages, juicy, pungent with garlic and sour from the right amount of fermentation. Again a dish of many parts, the best brought out by the combination of bird chilli, toasted peanuts and especially ginger. Strangely, they use pickled ginger (basically gari, as one would get with sushi), but the sweetness and acidity helped counteract the oily insides of the sausages. Again, a little bit of sticky rice for textural contrast and palate cleansing worked wonders. I think the version that I had under the old regime at 101 might have been slightly better, but probably irrelevant since 101 is quite a different place now.
The kaya (yes essentially the same as the Singapore/Malaysian version) was pleasant, but not as good as Sedap's more elegant rendition. This was served with soft white bread.
100% authentic Thai food here, with little or no concession to local tastes. Large doses of nam pla in the cooking, the scent hung heavy in the air. We got the sole Thai in our dinner party group to do the ordering:
- Yam pla duk fu, a must-order since fellow Hounds on the UK board had been raving about it. When people mentioned that Thai food is about getting the balance of sweet-salty-sour-spicy flavors right, I really didn't quite expect all 4 flavors to be so assertive - *all* at the same time as the case here at the Heron;
- Som tam - which was screamingly spicy, hyper-sour & ultra-salty here. Yup, it's the most authentic version I'd ever tasted in this part of the world. Our Thai colleague gorged down copious amounts of the salad (we ordered two portions of it - enough to feed 8-10)
- Crisp-fried glutinous rice salad which had about the same components as the other "yum" dishes, and same mix of flavors present. One needs steamed white rice here to counter the strong, sharp stab of sourish lime, salty tang or the nam pla and the chilli-heat emanating from this innocuous-looking dish;
- Tom yum talay soup, which was pitch perfect;
- Thai fish cakes - I didn't have any as we only ordered 2 portions (4 pieces per portion) but there were 10 in our party. Those who tried the fishcakes said the morsels had the requisite "bouncy" texture which all good "tod man pla" should have;
- Yam woon sen - this was my fave Thai dish and Heron Pub competently turned out a tasty version, with the glass noodles slightly chewy (I actually preferred a softer texture, which is why I normally have home-cooked versions of this dish);
- Thai chicken green curry - great tasting dish, only glitch here was the absence of pea eggplants (ma khea phuong), which were substituted with zucchini instead;
- Stir-fried beef with basil leaf & chillis, which was very tasty indeed. Turned out to be, IMO, the best dish of the evening.
We skipped dessert - too full as we had way too much food: double, sometimes triple portions of every dish we ordered, supplemented by buckets of steamed white rice. Good meal - definitely a place to bring any homesick Thai visitor hankering for a genuine taste of home.
Warning: The little basement dining room did look worse for wear though, and the karaoke music which came on later can be annoyingly loud.
Norfolk Crescent, Paddington, England W2 2DU, GB