There is a general misconception of Thai food around the world. Aren't they all supposed to be spicy and blow-your-head-off hot? Well, the answer, I have discovered recently is simply... No!
Contrary to what many believe, Thai food is all about the balancing of sweet, sour, spicy, salty in equal measures. Of course, there are a few dishes that will make you reach for your glass of ice water but not always necessary so.
And this is where Janetira Thai comes in. It is not a new restaurant opening and in fact, it has been quietly sitting on Brewer Street from the past year or so. Up till now, this place has simply gone under my radar but of late, you would have no doubt see this little restaurant cropping up all over you instagram feed and twitter timeline. So what changed? You might ask.
After realising that by serving the ubiquitous Thai green curry, and Pad Thai , is not bringing in the customers they thought it would. And if you ask me, that is precisely the reason why even though I have walked past this venue many times, have never been tempted to walk in. There are more stereotypical Thai restaurant around than I can shake a stick at, all serving so-called Thai food.
Then it all changes with the resident chef's decision to introduce a new special menu. What caught my eyes and tickled my fancy was the unusual dishes that has been listed. And so during the introductory month, I popped in a few times to try out some of the dishes, at a 30% off promotion.
Some of the highlights include the salt and pepper calamari bites (£6.50), light and crispy but it's the crunchy garnishes of red chillies, garlic flakes and fresh green onion combination that really topped it off.
The deep fried eggs in tamarind syrup (£6) was another great dish. Sweet and tangy sauce blanketed the deep-fried crispy eggs. Perfect when eaten with some of their chilli oil from their condiment selection.
The JFC or Janetira fried chicken (£5.50) could perhaps do with more flavours infused into the chicken and crispier texture, but nonetheless, was enjoyable when paired with the sweet sticky coating sauce.
The Crispy pork belly and Thai broccoli stir fry (£7) was simple but delicious. Copious of pork belly pieces to go with the crunchy fresh vegetables, all bathed in a sweet, spicy and salty sauce.
The daily special that I had on one of my visit was a beautifully cooked scallop in a fresh, tangy dressing. Just enough chilli to give it a kick without being overwhelmingly spicy.
Khoi Soi - northern-style chicken curry noodle (£8.50) - were a delicious bowl of noodles in a rich, slightly sweet, curry broth. It came with a side of chopped red onions, pickles and lime wedges and topped with some crispy fried noodles. What surprised me was the chicken wings on the bones and not pre-chopped boneless bites....hurrah! The flat egg noodles was bouncy, the broth was flavoursome and the chicken pieces was generous.
A favourite of mine was the Kuay Jaap - Pork and offal noodles in five-spice soup (£8.50). We have a similar dish in Singapore and this reminded me of that. The mixture of crispy pork belly and the selections of offal gave this an interesting textures. The broth tasted like it had endured hours of simmering, packed full of flavours and the rolled rice noodle soaked up the delicious broth and you simply eat the whole dish with the use of a spoon. Bit of crunchy pork belly, chewy offal, spice-riched broth and soft, tender noodle, I just adore this!
But my ultimate favourite is the Mackeral curry with pickled bamboo shoots (£9). This dish came with a 'heat'mometer warning as the Bim (the lady who serve me) explained that even during staff meal, she can only eat a mouthful of this. This was definitely one of the hottest dish from the menu and one that pleases me the most. I love spicy food and this was perfect. Unusually, this curry contain fermented fish guts which enriched the flavours and gave its distinctive pungent aroma. This is an acquired taste but one that is worth venturing into if you are after something different to the normal humdrum Thai red or green curry.
I am rather glad that the chef has decided to go with her gut and launched this more adventurous menu. Quite a few other dishes that I would definitely go back to try such as the Pink noodle with fish balls (£7.50) and the Raad Naah - Noodles with sticky soy bean sauce and marinated pork (£7) etc. And those that I have had so far, did not disappoint.
From speaking to Bim, these are food that they served during staff meal and are actually more authentic than the usual menu that you get from a typical Thai restaurant. If you are in search for some authentic Thai food and to dispel the myth that all Thai cuisine are spicy, give this place a go.
* Disclaimer: On my third visit, my meal was free which I didn't anticipate till it was time to pay. However, this did not swayed my judgement. My many numerous return is a validation of what I truly think of this restaurant and I'm planning to go back again *