The secret’s out: Mai Thai is serving up some of the best Thai cuisine in the capital for a fraction of the price charged by rivals, says Felicity Glover.
It’s only been a month or so since I was first introduced to the delights of Mai Thai Restaurant, in Azaiba. Some friends kindly picked up some takeaway for me along with theirs and since then, I’ve been a huge fan, having tried their Phad Thai and Thai green curry chicken (on separate nights, of course).
My introduction was the Phad Thai, a delicious melange of tangy tamarind sauce with crunchy peanuts, a nice spicy zing, juicy chicken pieces and some of the best-cooked noodles I’ve had the pleasure of tasting in quite some time. My second outing was the green chicken curry, a creamy, coconut-ty concoction bursting with spices and delicious flavours.
And then it occurred to me – why not head down and try Mai Thai in real time based on my positive take-out experience?
And so it was at the weekend that we found ourselves in the small food court at Al Meera Mall in Azaiba, where we met some friends for a late lunch. Also along for the ride was Y’s new intern, Taylor, who’s also a big fan of Thai food. There were seven of us in total, and our order, it has to be said, was fairly big: four starters and seven mains plus a few servings of steamed Jasmine rice.
It didn’t take long for us to decide what we were having for our starters: Goong Thod (fried prawn tempura), two servings of Pooh Pia Phak (vegetable spring rolls), Pla Muk Thod (fried calamari) and Nuea Daad Diew (crisp fried beef).
We each chose our own mains, from chicken Gang Pa-nang (otherwise known as Penang curry) to a very spicy beef with hot basil and the Pad Kee Mao, a spicy rice noodle dish with hot basil and prawns. With two teens and a tween in tow; they opted for less spicy meals, plumping for beef with oyster sauce (two orders) and fried rice.
Ready to order, we headed to the counter where five calm chefs were busy in the kitchen. Our order was quickly taken by a very knowledgeable server. Less than 10 minutes later, our order was ready – but we’d forgotten, as usual, to ask for starters first and then mains. But hey, the speed of delivery was impressive – especially considering how much we’d ordered.
The food court isn’t the prettiest of places but there is a small dining space attached to Mai Thai where diners can have a more “restaurant” experience. On the day we were there, the three tables were already taken so we opted for “outside” just in front of the serving counter.
Table loaded with dishes, it was time to tuck in. First up, the starters. The spring rolls were piping hot, crispy and clearly freshly prepared. A thumbs up from everybody. The prawn tempura was done in panko breadcrumbs but very more-ish all the same while the calamari was slightly overdone and rubbery. The crisp fried beef was also a star starter, especially for the carnivores in our group.
But it was the mains that everybody was looking forward to. For me, it was the Pa-nang curry, one of my favourites at the moment thanks to its velvety sauce and tangy taste. Less spicy than red curry, Mai Thai’s version was up there with the best that I’ve tried. It was a large portion and the chicken was very tender while the peanuts added crunch and a slight sweetness.
The bravest diners were Mr and Mrs P, both of whom ordered very spicy meals – the hot but very tender basil beef and the spicy noodles with prawns, respectively. Both loved their choices but I have to say they were so hot that beads of sweat were spotted on their foreheads! The girls gave their beef in oyster sauce the thumbs up while the fried rice was also declared a winner.
Overall, it was a delicious lunch. The service was quick and the food very tasty and fresh. While they don’t deliver, you can call to make your order and pick it up or simply just head there to eat in. Mai Thai is the real deal and I think it’s one of the best places in Muscat to get your Thai fix.
Do you have a favourite restaurant that you’d like to see reviewed? Let Y know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Great food and quick service at affordable prices