Tuesday, June 28, 2005

GOOD THAI-DINGS

Not all Thai restaurants are created equal. Not where Montien - the newest Thai restaurant that has just opened recently at One Bangsar is concerned.

Owners, Sita Jayadeva and Vivian Chan are not kidding when their outlet boasts of a 'Truly Thai' tagline. With a treasure trove of Thai recipes inherited from Sita's mother, the two best pals since school days are determined that Montien will continue the legacy where the now defunct Café d’Chiangmai, a Thai restaurant owned by Sita's mother in Penang for the past 28 years left off.

Now a trained chef in her own right, Sita Jayadeva acquired her passion for food and cooking skills from her mother. Together with Chan, they conceived everything for Montien from scratch with stunning results.

Firstly, its interior furnishings are significantly different from other Thai restaurants with nary a wooden sculpture nor carving in sight. Befitting its Thai name of heavenly palace, Montien is modern and chic with predominantly dark wood and frosted glass accents in stark, clean lines. Walls are done up in warm hues whilst Thai silk throw cushions add soft bursts of colours throughout.

The outlet has been garnering rave reviews since its opening. Already many customers are fast becoming their regulars who return to dine with family and friends twice or thrice weekly, and helping to spread the word.

So what is so different about its food? Since most of the recipes are culled from Sita’s personal collection, diners can expect some delicious surprises. Having dined there on two occasions, I dare say Montien’s specialties left a most favourable impression.

The fish skin ‘kerabu’ or salad known as Yam Narng Pla Krob (RM20++) is a tantalizing starter with pieces of deep-fried red snapper skin tossed in a refreshingly tart and mildly salty salad of sliced tomatoes, red chilli, onion and coriander.

Moving on to its signature dishes, you must try its mouth-watering ‘Nahm Prik’ concoctions - tasty Thai relishes eaten with fresh vegetables.

The Nahm Prik Long Rea (RM14++) is a thick dipping concoction made with minced chicken, dried prawns and salted egg. Served with a platter of raw long beans, sliced cucumber and cabbage, fried brinjal, steamed okra and crisp-fried flaked catfish, the flavourful dip proved to be so irresistible that even my dining partner who usually shun veggies, ate this healthy platter without any complaint!

I can hardly wait to return and savour the others – Nahm Prik Kapi (spicy shrimp paste relish), Nahm Prik Pla Tu (mortar-pounded frigate mackerel relish), Nahm Prik Ma Krea Yau (brinjal and egg relish) and Nahm Prik Kung Kaew Khai Tom (glass prawns and boiled egg relish).

Special mention also must be made of the Montien Platter (RM20++) that entices you with a great combination of Thai ‘money bags’ (a daintier version of Chinese wontons), prawn cakes, stuffed beancurd with minced prawns and chicken, steamed sago balls filled with minced chicken served with fresh chilli and lettuce.

Another ‘must try’ is Khanom Jeen or Thai Laksa. Rice noodles are accompanied by fresh vegetables such as beansprouts, long beans, shredded cabbage and cucumber, salted vegetables and a lime wedge in a rich fish (RM18++) or prawn (RM22++) curry. It was a splendid combination of flavours and textures, with the smooth rice noodles acting as the perfect foil for the aromatic and creamy curry with the raw, crunchy vegetables tempering the gravy’s richness. Personally I found this scrumptious Thai laksa as good, if not better than the one that I had tasted in Bangkok last year.

If you are partial to curries, the Chu Chi Kung (RM30++), prawns cooked in a special Thai curry paste and Massaman – Thai Muslim curry (RM25++) will certainly whet your appetite.

The large, fresh prawns came split in halves, generously covered with thick, fiery red gravy. Redolent with exotic Thai spices and shredded kaffir lime leaves, the sublime prawn curry tasted out of this world. Not overly spicy but enough to leave your tastebuds tingling.

Just when we thought nothing could outshine this rich, indulgent delicacy, along came the Massaman lamb curry (RM25++). This delicious Southern Thai Muslim curry originated as far back as the 16th century. It is hard not to be enthralled with this superb dish of tender cubes of lamb and potatoes prepared with fragrant Thai spices, sliced onions and crisp-fried sliced shallots. We found that the Thai cardamoms in the gravy – they look like chickpeas but are smaller in size – imbued the curry with a delicate citrusy-peppery aroma and taste.

Set lunch priced at RM25++ per person is now available to cater to the office crowd who wish to enjoy a quick, sumptuous lunch. The menu changes weekly and will comprise two starters, rice with a curry, dessert and a cup of jasmine tea. The first lunch menu, for example, will incorporate Hor Mok (a smooth mixture of fish, curry paste and coconut milk steamed in banana leaf cups), Thai mango salad with minced salted egg and dried shrimps, green chicken curry with white rice and caramelized tapioca with coconut cream.

“It also serves as a good introduction to our specialties for those who have yet to try us,” said Vivian.

Dessert runs the gamut of the usual Tham Thim Grob (waterchestnuts and sliced jackfruit in fragrant coconut milk RM7++) to the less commonly found Ma Muang Nahm Pla Wan (crunchy green mango sliced and served with special Nahm Pla Wan dip RM10++). We sampled the Man Chiem (RM7++), a delightful Thai dessert of steamed tapioca topped with coconut cream and sesame seeds, and Khao Niaw Thurian (RM12++).

The former came up to expectations – we also had this on our previous visit and it was just as good. Now if you are die-hard lover of the King of Fruits, then the latter is an absolute ‘must have’. The glutinous rice was warm and had a lovely chewy texture. Generously topped with sinfully sweet and creamy durian purée and smooth coconut cream, it was just heavenly! Our only worry is this dessert can be a little inconsistent as it hinges very much on the quality of durians used. Having had this on our last visit, it was a little disappointing as the durian purée turned out to be a little chalky and stringy. Nevertheless, don’t let it deter you from ordering this wicked sweet – I am sure the outlet will strive to keep up its high standards to ensure this turns out right. And with the durian season in full swing, there’s no better time to sample this dessert.

The outlet has a seating capacity for 50 downstairs and 80 for upstairs including the al-fresco patio.

If your jaded palate needs spicing up, Montien is just the place to have a truly Thai dining experience.

MONTIEN (pork-free)
ONE BANGSAR
63E Jalan Ara
Bangsar
55900 Kuala Lumpur
Tel 22833116
Fax 22833226

Business hours 12 noon – 3 pm (last order 2.30 pm); 6.30 pm – 10.30 pm (last order 10 pm)

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