An invitation for an exclusive luncheon is enough to cheer one’s spirits. But make it an invitation from a Thai restaurant and my spirits are more than cheered. They are positively ecstatic! The humble and utterly likable Richard Dias of Gourmet Renaissance attempted to preside over this lunch party consisting of journalists, food writers and bloggers. And we were as bowled over by his plans which included an Indonesian restaurant and a soon to be opened beer pub in South Mumbai.
If you’re a fan of Thai food, you’ll know that Thai Pavilion is the only serious Thai restaurant in Mumbai and its five star status makes it inaccessible to most of the public. Enter Chef Richard Dias who decides to quit the hallowed environs of Thai Pavilion in 1996 and set up his own Thai restaurant in Bandra. In his own words, “I couldn’t afford to take my own fiance to Thai Pavilion! That’s when I decided to open my own restaurant.” Around two months ago, the restaurant shifted base to Colaba but yesterday was the first official media meet-up.
A look at the menu convinced me that Richard had indeed stayed true to his goal. Most of the dishes are priced at 150 – 250 rupees, making a meal here quite pocket-friendly. And the food is several notches higher than the humbler 38 Bangkok Street at Fort. For starters, we delved our way through broccoli, tofu and bell pepper satay; fried spring roll; chicken satay and tossed prawns in Thai sauce. I simply loved the vegetarian spring rolls for their crispness and delicious filling.
If you’ve never tried Thai food before, I hope you enjoy the taste of peanuts, lemongrass and tamarind; not to mention the spicy Thai chili peppers, because these ingredients tend to dominate Thai cuisine. In Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, many restaurants had watered down the spices used in the dishes to cater to foreign tastes. And I suspect Indian restaurants do the same. “Thai Baan is about comfort food. We’re aiming at simplicity,” Richard told us. And I think that’s exactly what he’s achieved.
Richard shocked us by saying that he planned to open 36 more restaurants in the coming months, encompassing 350 different cuisines. If you’re a chef looking for a job, you know whom to call. We also met Suniel Bharwani, the co-founder of Gourmet Renaissance Private Limited and “a man of few words”. Although the interiors at Thai-Baan are not too fancy, they are cosy and warm. And in an increasingly competitive business (90% of restaurants are shutting down according to Richard), I think warm scores over stuffy any day. And now, over to the mains.
By the end of the main course, I knew I had reached my gastronomical limit. But I do have a massive sweet tooth and there was no way I was going to skip the desserts. Thai people are not big on heavy desserts but they do have an enviable variety of fruit-based, light sweet dishes. That explains their thin waistlines, eh?
If you’re planning to hop over to Thai-Baan Colaba for your next lunch date, here’s what you need to know:
Address: Shop 2C, Ratan Manzil, Wodehouse Road, Colaba, Mumbai
Opening hours: 12 Noon to 11:30 PM
Serves: Vegetarian and non-vegetarian (Bar not available)
Cost for two: Rs 900
Call for reservations: 022 33126914
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