I was disappointed to hear some months back that popular Mexican street food place Cielo Blanco had closed its doors, owing to its parent company Leelex Limited going into administration.
The premises had lain dormant since then, until Rosa’s Thai opened up in this prime location last month.
It’s Rosa’s first venture out of London, following the establishment of the original Rosa’s after taking over a popular East End ‘caff’ in 2008. Out of respect for the previous owner and to honour the old caff’s popularity with the locals, as well as having limited funds at the time, owners Saiphan and Alex kept the name, and Rosa’s Thai was born. By 2017, they had ten eateries across London, and the food carried on receiving great critical reviews from the likes of The Times and Time Out.
Leeds City Centre is now brimming with well-established Thai eateries, so Rosa’s needs to stand out. I headed down there last Wednesday to find out if it does just that.
We fancied trying some different dishes this evening, so we opted for a mixture of the chef recommended dishes, highlighted in red text so that they jump out at you. The menu also tells you how to eat Thai ‘like a pro,’ giving tips on food quantities and style of ordering. The food all came out at once, which is the Thai way.
Deep Fried Larb Patties (Larb Tod)
These delicious patties are a take on the classic Thai larb salad, filled with chicken mince, herbs, spices and toasted rice for some crunch and served with a sticky tamarind sauce. I was upset that I had to share these with my sister!
Grapefruit & Prawn Salad (Yum Som O)
This dish excited me the most as it sounded completely different. Seafood with Grapefruit? Really? Oh! My G. Yes, really! It’s difficult to put into words: the sharpness of the grapefruit against the intense heat from the roasted chilli dressing – then the delicate prawn flavours with bursts of tanginess and sweetness. It was outstanding!
Rosa’s Butternut Red Curry (Fuktong Gaeng Dang)
Their signature red curry is laced with butternut squash, bamboo shoots, basil and coconut milk, topped with sliced red chilli and is simply fresh and delicious; so delicious, in fact, that I attempted to recreate the dish at the weekend for family that we had over for tea. It went down a treat then as well.
Drunken Beef Noodles (Guay Tiew Pad Kee Mao)
Our last was a flat rice noodle dish with strip of tender Beef. It’s given its name as it claims to be the perfect dish to eat after or before a big night out. This was a rich, savoury dish, not as spicy as the others, but just as spot on with flavour. It was mixed with Chinese broccoli and onions, and topped with Thai Basil.
Our meal for the two of us came to just over £42. A bottle of house white wine was £18. We left feeling satisfyingly full, with a lingering warm, spicy palate! Rosa’s has separate coeliac and veggie friendly menus (and most dishes can be made vegan), as well as a Kids’ menu, which for just £6 includes a starter, a main dish and a colouring kit.
I love the quote on Rosa’s website, which truly sums up the food ‘Rosa serves honest Thai food with a whole lot of spice and enough soul to fill the Mekong River. ’ Since my backpacking days around South East Asia in 2003, I’ve only found a handful of places that serve authentic Asian food, and Rosa’s is one of these places. Extra sugar isn’t added to dishes, nor less spice used, to appease the delicate Western palate; they go straight in there will full flavours and spice, as real Thai food should do!
Chef Saiphan has created every dish on the menu herself, based on family recipes or inspirations from places where she has lived. I was informed by one of the managers that their coconut milk is imported from a coconut farm in Thailand, as are all the spices, making their flavours as authentic as possible.
A warm welcome awaits you at Rosa’s, along with truly authentic Thai food, in a nice, relaxed setting. I can see it becoming popular with the Leeds faithful. What are you waiting for?
For more information on the restaurant and to view their menus, visit Rosa’s website here.
All photographs by Cath Kane.