Most people on the hottest day of the year would be thinking about dining al fresco or heading to the nearest ice cream parlour or beer garden… not me.
Instead, my boyfriend and I decided it was about time we tried out a restaurant we’ve been dying to visit for ages – Bhan Thai.
Housed on Rose Street, the authentic Thai eatery lies on the first floor and isn’t the most obvious of places to track down. As we wandered down the street, it was an unassuming Thai statue hidden in a hallway that ended up giving the game away.
Heading up the emerald-green stairs, we ventured through the doors into a gorgeous open space. The first thing I noticed was the array of awards perched on one of the tables – a sign of good things to come, hopefully.
Greeted by our server, Seksan, we soon found out he was in fact one of the owners. The restaurant was opened by his mother 12 years ago and he mentioned they had never actually changed the menu – a bold move I thought, but one I was looking to explore.
I’ve never been to Thailand so I was excited to experience an authentic taste of it.
The restaurant was decorated head to toe in gold, green, red and wooden tones, every table was dressed with a decorative tablecloth and set with “gold” cutlery. The walls bore pictures of Thai women in traditional dress while statues stood guard throughout the room.
There was a real calming, relaxed feel about Bhan Thai, and Seksan made us feel at home immediately. We ordered our drinks, a Diet Coke for me and a crisp, refreshing Singha beer for him. Labelled “the original Thai beer” my boyfriend was rather impressed with how well the imported lager went down.
Struggling to pick what to eat, we turned to Seksan for some sound advice. He reminded us that everyone’s taste buds are different and that it was “best to just trust our gut and pick a dish that speaks to you”, especially with this being our first experience of the eatery.
So we did just that, trusted our gut and picked the dishes that stood out to us most.
Ordering food which contained nuts, Seksan double checked we had no allergies – something I picked up on as being very thoughtful and respectful, especially with allergies proving more and more common.
We tucked into the Thai crackers which were placed on the table, munching away until our food arrived. We made short work of them but luckily it wasn’t long after our starters graced us with their presence.
For my starter I’d ordered the See Krong Moo (honey-roasted pork ribs served with a BBQ sauce, hoi sin sauce and sesame) while my date was keen to tuck into the Pla Muek Yang (grilled marinated squid skewers served with chilli sauce).
I could smell the ribs as soon as they were placed under my nose, and my lord the aroma was heavenly. Juicy and cooked to perfection, the meat dropped off the bone as I tore at it. It was succulent and the rich sauce was fruity, tangy and sweet all at the same time.
The five short ribs were smothered in it and the sesame seeds sprinkled on top added a tiny crunch to the dish, all while acting as decoration too. I tried to tackle them with my knife, but this was a hands-on task – the only downside was not having a wet wipe to clean my barbecue-y hands on.
My other half’s squid skewers looked great. There were four of them, both boasting two pieces of thin, tender squid. Mine definitely triumphed on the size scale, but the sweet yet spicy chilli sauce served on the side was phenomenal.
The chargrilled squid was slightly chewy – which is to be expected. The sauce’s fiery kick boasted a forgivable heat at the end which continued to remind you of its presence. Served with some chopped raw carrot and lettuce, a decorative vegetable flower sat untouched on my date’s almost empty plate.
Mains followed shortly after, giving us a small breather between courses.
It was the Gaeng Mussaman with chicken (Thai massaman curry with potatoes and peanut, flavoured with spices) that intrigued me, and the Gaeng Dang with beef (a medium red curry with coconut milk aubergine, bamboo shoots, chilli and sweet basil) piqued my boyfriend’s interest.
Noted as a “Bangkok’s famous red curry” on the menu the medium dish had a real heat to it. Packed with spice, the sauce started off smooth and had a surprising kick to it at the end. The thick slices of beef were ever so slightly overcooked, although it was tender, and there was lots of it. Vegetables included red and green peppers, bamboo shoots, aubergine and a small helping of basil.
My chicken curry was unbelievably tasty. A creamier sauce with an underlying dormant warmth, I was relived it didn’t boast the same heat as my boyfriend’s dish. The onion and carrot were a little al dente which was lovely and the big peanuts hidden throughout the nutty sauce provided a nice crunch alongside the vegetables.
The chicken was delicious and the chunky pieces of potato were nice and soft.
To capture as much curry sauce as we could, we lathered the Phad Mee Leueng (stir-fried noodles with chicken, beansprouts and egg in oyster sauce) on to our plates and poured the sauce over it – soaking it all up. The noodles resembled tagliatelle pasta, while chopped spring onion sat on top. Having been tossed in the oyster sauce, they were exceptionally delicious.
We also ordered a side of Phad Pak Ruam (stir-fried mangetout, beansprouts, mushrooms, Chinese leaves and carrot in oyster sauce) which paired perfectly with our curries. A little saltier, it combatted the sweeter, creamier flavours from my dish and all of the vegetables were cooked well and rather enjoyable.
Not even entertaining the dessert menu, we decided to call it a night and take ourselves home for a much-needed lie down. That was after we’d enjoyed one of the complimentary mints we received with the bill. We left the restaurant feeling very satisfied, well catered to and vowed to return sooner rather than later to experience some of the other intriguing dishes the eatery boasts on its menu.
With kind, caring and attentive staff that make you feel at home, not to mention the outstanding food on offer, it’s hard not to want to immediately return to Bhan Thai. Never have I felt more welcome in the city centre. The time and effort Seksan put into every single table was admirable, especially as the restaurant picked up with c
The food was first-class and I would recommend anyone who has, hasn’t or may be considering visiting Thailand in the near future to go and experience this wee gem.
Address: 21 Rose Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1TX