E San Thai Kitchen is another of our neighborhood restaurant. It is owned by Mr Prawat, a distant neighbor who lives in our community. The restaurant is located on Jalan PJU 1A/3, Ara Damansara, PJ. If you drive into Ara Damansara from the Subang Airport road, the restaurant is clearly visible in the first row of shop houses that you see on your right hand side. At night, this restaurant is hard to miss as its bright light stands out in that deserted row of shops.
Although this makan place is just in our neighborhood, we somehow did not get around to eating there for a long while. And when we finally did, we were very pleasantly surprised. The restaurant is very nicely furnished. It is bright both in and outside. They have 2 dining areas. And the walls are adorned with many works of art, which I believe are also for sale.
The complimentary pre-meal tit-bit in this restaurant was a plate of assorted edibles - chili, dry shrimps, serai (lemon grass), lime, peanuts, onions, garlic, etc - all cut into small pieces. They were eaten wrapped in daun kaduk (wild betel leaves) with a sweet sauce. The combination was very nice. The daun kaduk incidentally is grown in abundance at the front of Mr Prawat's home.
Our first dish was the Thai laksa. It was also complimentary - from Mrs Prawat who attended to us. The laksa was delicious. It was not unlike our Malaysian variety, with fish as the base. Only it was not sour and had a santan (coconut milk) flavor instead. I enjoyed this appetizer, not because I did not have to pay for it, but because it was genuinely very nice.
I am no fan of tom yams. It is normally too spicy and sour for my liking. But the tom yam here was different. Unlike most tom yams in other Thai restaurant, it was not fiery hot or sour. This was one I could easily handle. It was mild and pleasing to the palate. It was a clear soup and had the normal prawns, squid and fish meat in it. A real pleasant departure from the norm.
The crispy lemon grass fish was a deep fried siakap, with a very nice gravy in which I detected santan (coconut milk) and grounded peanut. It had a handful of deep fried lemon grass over it. I didn't know if we were supposed to eat the lemon grass as well. I tried it, but it hard and too fibrous. So we left it aside. The fish was deliciously fried and the gravy complemented it very well.
The otak-otak (a fish paste) in a fresh coconut was delightful. It was easily the most delicious dish of the meal. The otal-otak was cooked with seafood (prawns and squids) and slices of fresh coconut flesh and served in the nut. It tasted wonderful. The coconut fresh was particularly splendid. It was soft, smooth and so delicious in otak-otak paste.
I also enjoyed the mango salad. The mango was crunchy and the dressing was sweet and pleasant. It was simple and not at all spicy. Pieces of peanuts in it made it very delectable.
The dry green curry was superb. I liked that very much. It was so different from the green curries we get from other Thai restaurants. There was not much gravy it in, and whatever we got was rich, creamy and very flavorful. There was a choice of beef or chicken and we opted for the later. It went very well with the rice. Such rich taste.
The egg salad was ordinary, yet unique. It was ordinary in that it was the normal fried eggs. And unique because the eggs are then cooked in a very nice sweet sauce. I found it very appetizing.
Lastly, we had the grilled beef. It apparently is a specialty of the house. But I did not find it extraordinary. It wasn't bad. It was served with a chili sauce. But it tasted just like any ordinary grilled beef.
And then it was time for dessert. I always look forward to desserts when I am in a Thai place. The Thais make such good desserts and sweet delicacies. The first we had was the ever popular pulut (glutinous rice) and mango, served with some coconut milk. Apparent Isan is famed for its sticky rice. But the pulut here was not spectacular. So was the mango. I believe they used the ordinary chokanan mangoes which did not have the fragrance. I judged this dessert to be just ordinary.
We also shared the pumpkin pudding. The pumpkin was filled with a nice soft and sweet pudding and then cooked (perhaps steamed) till it was nice and soft. It was a very uncommon dessert and we enjoyed it.
The next 2 desserts were not so great. The water chestnut and yam pudding were very average. Nothing to shout about. We found the santan (coconut milk) rather strange - like it was from a can. There was no reason for them to use canned santan. Perhaps it was not totally fresh. Overall, the desserts here were not up to my Thai expectations.
The E San is not the usual run-of-the-mill Thai restaurant. The food here is mild and pleasant, and not strong or fiery spicy like a lot of Thai establishments. Our dining party that night was unanimous that the food was very good. Perhaps it is the Laotian influence. If it is indeed the case, I think I like Laotian food already.