Coated in airy-light wisps of batter, the crispy catfish with green mango and cashews or Yam Pa Dok Ko (RM48), is the show-stealer at Mera. The huge chunks of deep-fried catfish form a sublime combination with a tart-salty-tangy salad of shredded mango, onion and roasted cashews.
While most Thai restaurants in the Klang Valley serve central Thai food, mostly Bangkok-style, we rarely come across any Thai resto showcasing Isaan food. Now, Mera at Damansara Kim has an Isaan-born chef at the helm, tasked with ensuring the authentic essence of Isaan cooking is retained whilst catering to Malaysian palates.
Dishes from the North-eastern Thai province of Isaan flaunt bolder, more robust flavours: making them spicier and sourer. Culinary influences from Laos and Cambodia also hold sway, with fresh herbs such as lemongrass, galangal, lime, chillies and garlic commonly used. Glutinous rice is another staple; a perfect vessel to capture those punchy, vibrant flavours.
Aside from the memorable crispy catfish salad, Mera serves several typical Isaan salads. Topping the list is Som Tum (RM38), fresh and crunchy Isaan-style young papaya salad with full-blown spicy-briny-sour-garlicky accents. Cherry tomatoes add a tinge of fruitiness to it.
Another popular option is Larb Moo (RM48), spicy-salty minced pork salad seasoned with fish sauce, chilli flakes, lime juice and assorted fresh Thai herbs. However, the one we tried tasted somewhat underwhelming so if you prefer a no-holds-barred version, let the Mera team know.
Happily, the flavour quotient is dialled back up by Tom Sap, hot and sour pork soup. Thanks to the various aromatics: sawtooth coriander, cilantro, lemongrass, dried chillies, onion and tomatoes, this clear, sweet tom yum soup gets the thumbs up.
Grilled Isaan sausages or Sa Kork Isaan (RM48) are also worth sampling. The stuffing is made using fermented pork mince, rice and garlic, and laced with strands of glass noodles, rendering the sausages with a distinct tang. This popular Isaan street food snack is usually enjoyed with chopped bird’s eye chilli, raw cabbage or cucumber and cut ginger.
Fat. Lean. Gelatinous. These varied meat textures make Kao Ka Moo (RM48), a comforting dish of braised pork trotter with hardboiled egg utterly delectable and soul-satisfying. To counter any discernible meaty richness, we savour the melt-in-the-mouth chunks of pork with blanched greens, pickles and a zingy house made chilli dip.
Kor Moo Yang (RM58) – barbecued pork neck is another crowd-pleaser. The pork slices look rather lean at first glance but on closer inspection, they bear an irresistible layer of fat on top, amplifying the pork’s juiciness. A salty-sweet chilli and toasted rice dip helps to boost the smoky, fatty taste profile.
The flavoursome party continues with Moo Yang Nam Tok (RM48), spicy and sour grilled pork salad. Tossed with shallot, cilantro, lemongrass, mint, basil, and crushed roasted rice; each stimulating mouthful leaves us hankering for more.
Speckled with aromatic fried garlic bits, Gai Yang (RM48) – Isaan-style grilled chicken cuts a swath with us too. Marinated with lemongrass and fish sauce, the juicy and tender chook comes accompanied by a tantalising dip of lime juice, fish sauce, chilli flakes, palm sugar, chopped coriander and toasted rice.
Steamed with lime, chilli and garlic, the deliciously tender squid dish of Pla Muk Meung Manao (RM68) instantly reels us in with its bold, piquant flavours. It’s irresistible when paired with the scrumptious Crispy Pork Fried Rice (RM38). We can’t get enough of the fluffy, wispy egg-coated fried rice studded with cubes of crispy pork crackling.
Pandan juice and pumpkin purée bestow jade green and cheery orange hues for the dessert of glutinous rice balls in sweetened coconut milk. Known as Bua Loy (floating lotus in Thai), the soft and slightly chewy balls, interspersed with strips of jackfruit in the coconut milk, broth prove nice and light yet interesting enough as a sweet conclusion to our meal.
Currently, an a la carte menu is available at Mera. Diners with advance reservations may ask for the chef’s table, featuring a specially composed menu priced from RM150++ upwards per person.
For reservations, call MERA, tel: 018-268 2333. Address: 6, Jalan SS20/10, Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.