Before we’d eaten at Plaza Khao Gaeng, the new Thai restaurant on the mezzanine level of JKS Restaurants’ reimagined Arcade Food Hall, we’d heard a lot of good reviews, almost all of which were followed up with a warning on just how insanely spicy some of the dishes were. So we can’t say we weren’t warned but it’s worth repeating here that if you’d don’t like serious chilli heat, this probably isn’t one for you. And even if you do, there might be one or two dishes you’d avoid!
There’s nothing we like better than Thai food and, having travelled throughout Thailand several times (most recently for a month over Christmas and New Year) we were very keen to check out Plaza. The place has been designed to recreate the feeling of classic Thai ‘khao geng’ (meaning curry over rice) eateries, with bright strip lighting, blue and white table vinyl table covers, and dishes served in metal trays. It certainly has a whole different feel compared to the more polished Arcade kitchens downstairs.
The menu is a fairly short, sharp line up of Southern Thai dishes and you’ll want to aim for 3 – 4 dishes between two people. We went straight for the Klua Kling Muu, a ‘dry’ curry of fried minced pork, southern curry paste, chillies and long pepper – this dish comes with the biggest heat warning from the servers. Having last had Klua Kling in the Southern Thai city of Krabi on New Year’s Eve and absolutely loved it, we were determined to have it here at Plaza, despite the warnings. The initial few bites are of wonderful aromatic spiced pork but then, yep, the chilli does take over somewhat and it is as hot as everyone says! If you do want to order it, we’d suggest just saving it until last, so it doesn’t overpower everything else.
We also went for the Gaeng Gati Gai, a creamy coconut chicken curry with betel leaves; and the Pad Phed Pla Krapong, two fillets of sea bass with chillies, makrut lime leaves and wild ginger, as well an essential big pot of steamed rice. Both these are far more manageable heat-wise and both highly recommended, especially the sea bass, which felt relatively delicate and subtle compared to the big flavours of the curry and and Klua Kling.
Your experience of Plaza Khao Gaeng will probably largely depend on your tolerance for chilli, but if you can handle the heat then there’s lots to love about the place. We’ll definitely be back – but perhaps no Klua Kling next time.
103-105 New Oxford St, London WC1A 1DB