Hungry for Thai food? Check out these new restaurants

At least nine Thai eateries have opened in the last four months

Thai food appears to be everywhere, with restaurants, hole-in- the-wall joints and foodcourt stalls serving it.

And the scene is heating up even more - in the past four months, no fewer than nine eateries offering Thai cuisine have opened.

These new eateries - many by food and beverage groups in Singapore - are serving new dishes such as salted egg yolk mookata and Thai tapas.

Business owners tell The Sunday Times that the Thai food scene has gained much traction over the past few years.

Ms Bonnie Wong, 28, director of marketing and business development of food and beverage group Creative Eateries, says: "Five years ago, you would never see Thai cuisine in a foodcourt. There is definitely a demand for Thai food and people want to jump on the bandwagon."

Five years ago, you would never see Thai cuisine in a foodcourt. There is definitely a demand for Thai food and people want to jump on the bandwagon.

MS BONNIE WONG, director of marketing and business development of food and beverage group Creative Eateries

The group has many Thai brands under its belt - Patara Fine Thai Cuisine (opened in 1994) in Tanglin Mall as well as restaurant chains Siam Kitchen (opened in 2001) and Bangkok Jam (opened in 2007).

Its latest addition is two-month- old Thai gastro-bar Talay Thai in Clarke Quay, which specialises in Thai tapas.

Ms Wong adds: "Our existing brands are either fine-dining or casual restaurants and we wanted Talay Thai to be something different.

"Talay Thai targets the drinking crowd in Clarke Quay. We also thought that a Thai tapas concept would be an interesting twist."

Indeed, restaurateurs are making sure they stand out from the competition.

Two-month-old Talay Kata at Orchard Central offers a seafood- centric mookata buffet with a choice of soups including a salted egg yolk one.

The eatery is by Jus Delish Group, which also owns Thai restaurant Som Tam in Orchard Central as well as the three-outlet Gin Khao.

Minor Food Group chief executive Arth Prakhunhungsit, 51, is also continuing with the expansion of its brands.

On Tuesday, it will open popular yentafo brand Yentafo Kruengsonge at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard.

Thai yentafo stems from a Hakka dish brought to Thailand by immigrants, says Mr Prakhunhungsit. The dish served at his eatery will feature flat rice noodles topped with various ingredients and yentafo red sauce made with fermented red tofu and cooked Thai red rice.

And on Friday, the group will also open its second Basil Thai Kitchen outlet, at Paragon. The first outlet opened two years ago at Kallang Wave Mall.

Mr Prakhunhungsit says: "Customers are always looking out for something different, so it is good for restaurants to introduce lesser- known dishes to them."

Mr Eric Koh, 39, managing director of four-month-old Mooks Thai Bistro in Chinatown, is looking to bump up the menu with more options. Its first outlet opened in Bukit Batok more than a year ago.

"People still like tom yum soup and pad thai. But we need to have more variety."

Other more casual options include Talad Thai in Bedok Mall, which serves Thai street food, and Mookata Express, which offers grilled skewered meat for takeaway.

Upcoming openings include popular Bangkok chain Greyhound Cafe, opening at Paragon next month, as well as a Thai fusion concept by restaurateur and television host Pornsak Prajakwit, who owns the Porn's restaurant chain.

The burgeoning Thai food scene is naturally good news for fans of the cuisine.

Software engineer Adrian Koh, 35, who enjoys going to Bangkok to eat, says: "I'm planning to check out Talay Kata soon. Mookata and salted egg yolk soup sound like a perfect combination."

•Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ

For videos of Talay Kata at Orchard Central, go to str.sg/4YxV


Where to go

TALAD THAI

What: This four-month-old casual restaurant focuses on Thai street food. Dishes include E-sarn pork sausage ($8.90); pad thai with tiger prawns ($13.80); fish maw soup ($11.80); and grilled chicken with Hainan rice ($9.80), the Thai version of chicken rice. For something more premium, opt for the Khun Mae Sunee's stewed pork noodles ($18.80) with shiitake mushrooms.

Complete the meal with desserts such as mango sticky rice ($7.80).

Where: 01-78/79 Bedok Mall, 311 New Upper Changi Road

Open: 11.30am to 9.30pm daily

Info: Call 6386-1592

BASIL THAI KITCHEN

What: Basil's Thai dishes include less-known specialities from southern Thailand, such as Keang Khua Poo ($16.90), a southern Thai yellow curry with chunks of fresh crab and betel leaves, chopped long beans, cabbage and vermicelli; and Poa Pia Boran ($9.90), a traditional Thai-style spring roll filled with savoury minced chicken, glass noodles, bamboo shoots and black fungus. Familiar favourites such as Thai salads and curries will also be available.

Where: Paragon, 290 Orchard Road

Opens: On Friday

TALAY THAI

What: The two-month-old gastro-bar specialises in Thai tapas, with a focus on seafood.

Menu highlights include spanner crab miang kham ($16), with spanner crab wrapped in fresh betel nut leaves and garnished with a mix of peanuts, lime, chilli and dried shrimp; tamarind grilled prawn ($14); and fresh oysters with trio granita ($18), where the oysters are topped with kaffir limoncello, citrus grapefruit and yuzu vodka granita.

To start, order the Aroi Mak platter ($28), with crispy mee krob, rice crackers with prawn ragout, Thai fish cakes, golden prawn toast and grilled chicken brochette with roasted peanut sauce.

For mains, options include nam jim salmon belly ($20), oven-roasted stingray ($28) and stewed pork belly in northern Thai curry ($18).

Where: 01-05 Clarke Quay, Block 3E River Valley Road

Open: Noon to 11pm (Sundays to Thursdays), noon to 2am (Fridays and Saturdays)

Info: Call 6337-1838 or go to www.facebook.com/talaythaisg

TALAY KATA

What: While many mookata eateries require diners to buy set meals, buffet restaurant Talay Kata allows them to eat all they can.

Its spread features a wide selection of seafood along with meats and housemade dipping sauces and soups. There is also a small section to whip up your own som tam (green papaya salad) as well as dessert. More premium, seasonal items, such as bamboo clams, scallops and crab pincers, are available on weekends.

Here, diners also have a choice of soup base, from tom yum to bonito and even salted egg yolk - it is made with salted egg, bonito and seafood broth, cream and Thai herbs.

The buffet is priced from $18.80++ for lunch and from $28.80++ for dinner on weekdays.

Where: 08-04 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road

Open: 11.30am to 3pm (weekdays), 11.30am to 5pm (weekends, eves of public holidays and public holidays); 6 to 10pm (dinner daily)

Info: Call 6634-0551 or go to www.talaykata.com.sg

MOOKATA EXPRESS

What: If you do not have the time to grill your own meat at a mookata restaurant, get the barbecued skewered meats for takeaway instead at this two-week-old kiosk at The Clementi Mall. This stall is by the Mookata chain, which has outlets in Katong, Yishun and Bugis.

Skewer options ($1.60 to $2 each) include pork belly, chicken thigh, beef , cheese balls and bacon enoki wrap. A bento set starts at $5.80.

Where: B1-K22 The Clementi Mall, 3155 Commonwealth Avenue West

Open: 10am to 10pm daily

Info: www.facebook.com/mookataexpress

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Thai food on fire'. Print Edition | Subscribe