Matthew Herbst makes a welcome return to the eateries of Muscat and chooses authentic Thai fare for his comeback meal review.
It’s been a while since I have written a Taste Test for Y. Ten months to be exact. And what better way to return to the Sultanate than to try out Thai Corner with my colleague Neal Bowden from Merge 104.8 and his girlfriend.
Neal is usually keen to try out new eateries around town and is a bad influence on my waistline. However, my penchant for Thai food prompted a visit to the Mars Hypermarket branch in Al Khoud.
With grumbling stomachs, we sidled up to the counter in furtive anticipation.
On reaching the counter to peruse the menu, we chose some reasonably-priced, delicious-looking dishes. As we were informed that they are cooked by Thai chefs, we knew we were on to a good dining experience.
For starters, we opted for just two and went for the fried calamari with a sweet chilli dip. This was just as scrumptious as it looked on the menu and complemented the sweet chilli dip that enhanced its flavour.
Daisy, our third Taste Tester concurred, but mused that they were a tad on the petite side. Still, I had no issues with these bite-sized nibbles.
Our second starter comprised of six vegetable spring rolls that also came with mildly sweet chilli dip. Usually, it’s a bit hit-and-miss with spring rolls. They are either too flavourless or too oily. However, these were just right. Each had a consistent and abundant supply of vegetable, noodles and bean sprouts. While tucking in, the other dishes started appearing with some alacrity, and we found ourselves eating rather briskly to ensure our food didn’t start going cold. With hindsight, we should have specified the order in which they were to be brought out.
Next up was the Tom Kha Kai, a mildly spicy chicken galagangal soup made with coconut milk. It had a yummy, creamy consistency that slid down very nicely indeed.
Neal’s all-time favourite followed, which was the spicy chicken Tom Yum, a hot and sour Thai soup usually cooked with shrimp.
After observing that all our other dishes were chicken, we simply went with the theme of poultry. One by one, our mains appeared as our pupils dilated as we felt an all-consuming fear that we might struggle to get up from the table afterwards.
Dishes of chicken green curry, chicken Mussamum curry, Pad Thai and sweet-and-sour stir fried chicken attacked our two small tables and we didn’t waste any time in diving in.
We were a little deflated (for the only time in the evening!) to discover that no rice was appearing with the dishes, and according to the menu, this should be standard. Despite this, we didn’t ask for any as our abdomens were being stretched with more impact than that of a medieval torture instrument. But don’t forget to order rice separately.
Phad Thai is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, flavoured with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, red chilli pepper and palm sugar and served with a lime wedge and chopped roast peanuts.
The green curry was just as moreish, and each mouthful was a fusion of flavour with a slight bite from the chilli. The dish’s paste is traditionally made with green chillies pounded in a mortar; with shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime peel, coriander and cumin seeds, white peppercorns, shrimp paste and salt. It was flawless.
Next up was the Chicken Massaman Curry, which was swimming with chicken, chunky potatoes and carrots cooked in a flavoursome, mild curry sauce. If you’re not a fan of very strong flavours then this is the one for you.
I wasn’t sure how the sweet and sour chicken dish would go down, but it was Daisy’s choice and I had to give it a go. It seemed a bit bland compared to the others, but it cannot be compared to what you would find nestling in the brown paper bag of your average Chinese takeaway. It was neither gooey nor overpowering and was nice, light and subtly presented with tiny triangles of pineapple.
Meantime, Neal was eyeing out the sticky mango and rice dessert for the rest of us to share. It was a great choice to finish off the meal. It’s a classic Thai dessert that is oh-so-scrumptious and hits every sweet, silky and creamy taste spot you have. After polishing it off, I was so replete I was beginning to wish I had worn my sweat pants (elasticated waistband).
Thai Corner met our expectations on the quality of food and service. However, the fact that it shares a food court means it can be a little crowded. You also cannot pay for meal by card, and the Mars Hypermarket does not have an ATM (as far as I know). So take plenty of cash with you. Despite that, it’s firmly on my list of go-to places for dinner.
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Fast, friendly and authentic.