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Heat-treats at Gusto Thai restaurant

Update: April, 10/2012 - 19:15

 

Gusto Thai Cafe & Restaurant

Add: 9 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem District

Tel: (04) 3 933 6353

Hours: 7:30am -10:00pm

Note: Satisfy your Thai craving with a diverse menu spiced to your liking

Gusto Thai Cafe and Restaurant near the Opera House is the latest addition to the local Thai-dining scene. It offers all the traditional Thai favourites – and a thoughtful temperature chart for the faint of heart. Kathy Shea reports.Last weekend a friend and I treated ourselves to a last minute trip to Bangkok for the long holiday. My mouth started watering for a bowl of green curry before the credit card even went through! My top priorities for this short trip were to eat well and watch the Hunger Games in one of Bangkok's luxurious VIP theatres. I can happily say, mission accomplished on both fronts!

On arrival we learned that the friends we were staying with had arranged a small lunch party that afternoon. On the menu, a delicious vat of homemade green curry. I know that when most people think of shopping in Bangkok, images of cheap clothes and accessories pop into their minds, but I couldn't care less about all that. My favourite form of shopping is for food, and happily they hadn't been to the market, so we set right off to stock up on fresh green aubergines, Thai basil, kefir lime leaves, mushrooms and some small green orbs that when cooked are a bit bittersweet and wonderfully crunchy. Our friends called them baby aubergines, but I'd never seen anything like them. After throwing in a few mangoes for dessert we were off back home to prepare our beautiful coconutty concoction.

Fast forward a few days and the mention of the new restaurant Gusto Thai Cafe and Restaurant near the Opera House tempted the taste buds again. Brand new, the place is nicely decorated with dark tables, red accents and beautiful wooden carvings and pictures of Apsara dancers gracing the unfortunately blindingly white walls. Dimmer lights or a coat of subdued paint would do wonders for the ambiance.

A quick initial glance at the menu revealed a thoughtful selection that had something for everyone. The first page had a "spice chart" indicating the level of heat you can ask for in each dish, and most menu listings had three pricing options for veggie, chicken or seafood lovers. I looked through everything and saw many of my favourites, such as pad thai, laab, chicken satay, and of course, green curry.

I opted for a medium-spiced green curry with chicken (VND109,000) while my friend ordered the non-spicy version with seafood (VND149,000) and we shared a plate of stir fried morning glory (VND49,000). I have to admit morning glory is not my favourite green after years of eating it as a main staple during my time in Viet Nam, but this plate of the nation's quintessential green was fantastic! Somehow it had a smoky flavour, like they grilled it over an open flame before frying it in a beautiful sauce with loads of garlic and a few pieces of red chilli for spice. Truly delicious.

I found my curry to be perfect, spicy enough to sting a little but not so spicy that I couldn't taste every bite. The seafood in the other bowl, which included fish, calamari and prawns, was well cooked and plentiful, although the curry itself still proved to be a bit too spicy for my friend. He was able to cool off with a perfectly acceptable mango shake but I had a hard time swallowing the Thai lemon tea I ordered which was more of a slushy made with some kind of syrup rather than fresh lemons.

The curries didn't come with rice so we each orderd sticky rice (VND15,000) which I thought could have been slightly bigger portions for the price. Steamed rice is also available in individual portions or in a big bowl to share.

At the next table, a couple were eating some noodle dishes that I didn't recognise but looked delicious – colourful, full of ingredients and quite large portions. They looked wonderful and certainly worth trying on another visit. Another tempting addition to the menu is breakfast. They have three combo options that could help satiate early risers after a jog around the lake, a bit of hip thrusting with fellow aerobics enthusiasts (clad in mandatory pyjamas, of course) or some crazy laughing at the daily laughter yoga session.

Overall it was a lovely experience. The staff were attentive without being overbearing and provided useful advice on the diverse range of tempting options on the menu. If you have a craving for Thai, it's definitely worth checking out. — VNS

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