Sukhothai earns nothing but glowing praise for its new menu which launches on 26 March.
Just when you think things can’t get any better, they do!
I have had the pleasure of being served some spectacularly good food so far this year and the trend definitely continued last night at the launch of the new menu at the flagship South Parade restaurant in the Sukhothai family. The business was started in Chapel Allerton in 2002 and now comprises four restaurants, the others being in Headingley and Harrogate. Sukhothai is the old capital of Thailand and the birthplace of the Head Chef and owner, Ban Kaewraikhot. It translates as ‘The Dawn of Happiness’ although in my case it was the evening of happiness.
This was my first visit and I have obviously been missing out as the food was excellent, and so it should be with many of the ingredients being flown in from Thailand on a weekly basis. I was seated with a couple of other chaps and, as we had ordered different items, decided to split the dishes amongst us so that we could sample as many as possible. Fortunately the young lady sitting on my other side agreed to join in, so we all had a great variety of tastes and textures. I am running away with myself a little as the first sample was a Whittaker’s Yorkshire Gin and Tonic served with juniper berries, a very refreshing aperitif and just the thing to cleanse the palate. Thai Prawn Crackers, Khow Kreb Tod, and two dipping sauces were placed on the table to sustain us through our perusal of the huge number of dishes on offer to cater for all tastes. There was one of the biggest vegetarian selections I have ever seen on a mixed menu. I decided to stick to the ‘signature dishes’ which were highlighted and cut the options down to a more manageable number.
For a starter I ordered Laab Gai Krob which was crispy chicken with a spicy dressing. It had a handy ‘three-chilli’ symbol to identify the more potent of the items on offer and, whilst it did the warning justice, it was not uncomfortably hot and the flavours of the chicken and spices came through admirably. Although enjoying them, you have to give to get in life so I bartered a couple of slices of chicken for one of my neighbour’s Hoi Shell Gratiem Prik Thai, which are stir fried scallops. They are described as being delicate and were just that, especially after a few mouthfuls of spicy chicken. The same description could also have been used for the Pou Nim, deep fried soft-shell crab, for which I swapped another chicken strip with my other neighbour. Both seafood dishes were perfectly cooked, the scallops being not in the least bit chewy and the crab not being overpowered by the batter.
The main courses were another diverse bunch. I had ordered my favourite bird, duck, or Phed Roi Ed as it is named on the menu. It was grilled duck breast done to perfection, being red in the middle and served with a spicy sauce which gave it another three-chilli warning. The intense flavours of all the elements were a joy. I had egg fried rice to accompany. The bartering process began again and swaps quickly agreed. Why can’t the Brexit negotiations go this smoothly? This resulted in my also sampling a two-chilli ranked Roaring Ribeye, being a 12oz steak served with a Panaeng curry sauce. It was tender as can be and had not only the flavour of the curry sauce but also of a charcoal grill. Massaman Kaa Gae, or lamb shank braised in a one-chilli curry sauce, just fell off the bone. Finally a dish of Gang Panaeng Tofu, which no one had ordered, appeared, probably to balance the carnivore/vegetarian situation. This was a rich, creamy tofu curry and like everything else, truly delicious.
After the meal, the staff were presented to us and a more charming group of people you could not hope to meet. They all appeared to enjoy every second of their working life and nothing was too much trouble. I have also never seen so many smiles on display in one sitting. I am not stupid, OK that is open to discussion, and I realise that this was a Press event, so everyone from the restaurant was going to be on their best behaviour, but none of them appeared to be able to act in any other way and after consulting with my fellow diners, some of whom come here regularly, my opinion was confirmed.
I am certain that the new menu will prove to be just as popular, if not even more so, than the old one, so wishing everyone concerned with Sukhothai the best of luck seems superfluous, but I will do it anyway, and thank them for a wonderful evening.
Photographs by Stan Graham.