This was my second experience at Home Thai, located smack in the centre of downtown Pu Xi, at the K11 Art Mall along Huai Hai Rd. My first experience there about a year ago was quite memorable, how was it this time?
Firstly, Thai food is generally very overpriced in Shanghai. It is mind boggling so, because the base and common ingredients for Thai food is generally the same as Chinese food, with the exception of a few Thai staples such as Fish Sauce (which is manufactured and used commonly by Southern China), Lemon Grass (it’s grass in many parts of South-east Asia, but in Shanghai it’s about ¥10 for a small stalk at your city supermarkets), Thai Basil (really should be a dime a dozen herb because it is so easy to grow). Of course, every dish might require some specific rare component, but for the most part, most of the dishes are basically Chinese stir-frys with Thai style seasonings, along with the holy thai trinity of components.
But I digress. Where were we? Oh yes. Home Thai. Located at posh artsy K11 Art Mall. Naturally, the prices have to above average at such a location. Pair it with a Thai label, even more so. That said, it was interesting to note that certain dishes like the ones I ordered for this review were selectively affordable. Cheapo Chinese? Yup that’s me. Sorry, I’m a firm believer of bang for buck. Wait, that, sounded abit dirty.
Anyways, I was craving Thai food, so I went down one weekend afternoon to satisfy the craving.
The place was packed as usual, but luckily, we didn’t have to wait for a table. We did waited longer for service than the time it took for us to get a table.
The menu was shabby. No, I mean really shabby, look at the photo. Have they been around for 10 years? It (the menu) was a little gross to handle.
Here is what we had:
Clear Seafood Tom Yum Soup. Savoury, spicy but clean flavours shone. The seafood was surprisingly fresh – shrimp that weren’t powdery and had a bouncy bite, so was the squid. Could it be better? Yes, a more acidic/soury kick would have been better. There are soups that make you feel homey and good, Tom Yum should not be one of those. Tom Yum should excite on first taste, and continue to ignite your senses on fire, while leaving you wanting for more. That, is what I believe to be the essence of a good Tom Yum Soup. Home Thai’s was spicy, but I felt a little one dimensional. 8/10
Pad Thai with Prawns. Perhaps the most popular of Thai dishes, second only to Tom Yum soup. Pad Thai to the Thais is akin to fried rice to the Chinese, in more ways than one.
For one, it is a common staple in Thailand.
Two, it is a ‘simple’ stir fry of an assortment of ingredients, but so hard to get perfect.
I remembered clearly on my first visit to Home Thai their Pad Thai. It was savoury, slightly sweet with the flat rice vermicelli soft but with a bite and distinctly separate from one another.
1 year later, I was not as impressed this time round. The flavours were there, the accompanying seafood were fresh enough. They were essentially the same ingredients from the Tom Yum soup — prawns, squid, mussels. The fault was in the noodles; They tasted cold, limp and ‘lifeless’.
Perhaps at this point, many of you reading would snicker, and question my use of the adjective ‘lifeless’ on noodles. ‘Pfft! What, does he want his noodles to do a dance for him?’
Well in Chinese and South East Asian food culture, often when it comes to a stir fry dish, notably noodles, there is the ‘life’ rating for it. A lively plate of fried noodles would be smoking hot, fried with vigour in an almost glowing hot wok that has been well seasoned with the cries of a thousand frys.
The noodles should not be clumped together, and every strand is a joy to savour.
I remembered tasting something similar on my first visit, hence my enthusiasm for the second visit. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had much Simply worse Pad Thai elsewhere, but unfortunately this performance doesn’t warrant a return try for me. 7/10
I also ordered a plate of satay chicken. It was pre-smouldered in a tamarind based sauce. While typical satay should be charcoal grilled, this was not, as it lacked any char or smokey flavours. That said, it wasn’t bad as a grilled meat item. The sauce was tasty and slightly tangy from the tamarind, which helped ease the richness of the meat. 7/10
All in all, it was abit of a disappointment for the high expectations I had for the food, because my first visit was very good. Clearly, standards have dropped. Don’t get me wrong, the food wasn’t all that bad. The location is accessible. The ambience, confused and somewhat noisy. The service, abysmal. I was fortunately to have not been kept waiting more than 15mins for our food, perhaps because we ordered some staples. Two other tables around us failed to get the servers attention for very long, and after that, failed to get their food to arrive until when I was about to leave.