THE DISH: Bargains from Bangkok
My Thai//1 Finlyandsky Prospekt//Tel. 920 4892//Open noon till midnight (till 2 a.m. Saturday)//Menu in Russian//Dinner for two 1,630 rubles ($52)
Published: November 7, 2012 (Issue # 1734)
My Thai, the latest incarnation of the Thai Express fast-food cafe on Finlyandsky Prospekt, calls itself a “bungalow cafe,” though the illusion of a thatched hut on a pristine Thai beach is never really effectively created. It is least of all convincing on a rainy late-October evening, when the draughty glassed-in sidewalk terrace is certainly not an option, and even the inside seating is a little chilly. Instead of a turquoise sea and shimmering white sand laced with palm trees, the tables look out onto the considerably less idyllic Petrovsky Fort business center and a drab car park. An alternate view — of the ubiquitous Fashion TV — is offered by several flatscreen TVs, while pop and dance hits serve as a replacement for the lapping of waves on a shore.
Some effort has been made — occasional elephant and rhinoceros statues are dotted around the cafe and dried flower arrangements decorate the walls — but other aspects, such as the wooden strips overhead that reveal a distinctly unappetizing warehouse-like ceiling between them, reveal a curious lack of attention to detail.
While it maintains the canteen-like interior of its predecessor, My Thai has dropped the self-service, fast-food format of Thai Express and now has table service, though this is not the cafe’s greatest asset — rather, it is a reminder that the real Land of Smiles is far, far away. It proved possible to transform a Thai green curry with chicken, bamboo shoots and eggplant into a vegetarian option without the chicken (the menu is woefully short on vegetarian dishes), but the waitress seemed to find the idea of such a thing — and, seemingly, vegetarianism in general — sneeringly risible. When it arrived, the curry (250 rubles, $8) had more spicy kick to it than can usually be expected from a Russian restaurant, though it had a rather disconcerting smoky taste to it that at times bordered on eau-de-paraffin, and was not exactly piping-hot. Worse still, everything ordered arrived at the same time, giving rise to the dilemma of eating the curry before a salad and spring rolls while it was still vaguely warm, or sticking to the traditional order of things but facing a stone-cold curry.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom and paraffin, however. The vegetable salad (190 rubles, $6) was a high point of the meal: A bed of glass noodles topped with vegetables in a moreish sweet and spicy mango and ginger dressing with a sprinkling of crushed nuts to finish it off. The vegetable spring rolls were on a par with those served at the upscale restaurant Mops — seemingly the city’s only other restaurant devoted to Thai cuisine — yet a relative steal at 130 rubles ($4.10). The average cost of a starter at Mops, in contrast, is a whopping 450 rubles ($14).
Another plus was an offer on the cocktail menu — order one, and get a second one free. “True Passion,” (225 rubles, $7.10), a suitably exotic yet not too sweet concoction, comes recommended. Of the non-alcoholic drinks, the refreshing yoghurt and mango smoothie (150 rubles, $4.75) is about the closest the restaurant comes to offering a true taste of Thailand.
Less exciting was the tom yum seafood soup (250 rubles, $8), which was disappointingly bland and tasted above all of soy sauce. Noodles with chicken and vegetables (270 rubles, $8.50) similarly left the impression of something lacking, though the portion was generous.
My Thai also offers a standard selection of sushi and sashimi, likewise competitively priced, with tiger shrimp sushi costing 75 rubles ($2.40).
While the prices at My Thai certainly can’t be faulted, and the appearance of another Thai joint in the city is in itself encouraging, it is hard not to wonder whether the arrival of a reasonably priced restaurant serving decent red and green curries might not be too much to ask.