Finally had dinner at Mengrai Thai on Friday Dec. 21st evening. Food was pretty good overall but service was absolutely hopeless. Despite two phone conversations with Allan the owner, and emails from him (after a two week interval during which he was supposed to email me the proposed tasting menu but then claimed he lost my email address when I finally called a couple of days before to reconfirm the reservation), when we arrived on time for our 8:00 pm reservation, they claimed they thought we were supposed to be there the previous night! So, our table had already been given away and we were forced to join together two tables near the front door instead of the lovely cushioned area.
Allan bounces with energy as he speaks enthusiastically and lengthily about everything from their upcoming culinary tour of Thailand, to our food allergies, to the minute details of his proposed tasting menu which had been promised to us for the low price of $29.50 instead of the “regular price $37.50”.
Service was laughable throughout the evening but we all know that a true chowhound can put up with many flaws in service and décor to pursue tasty food.
We ordered drinks by the glass (wine, lychee martini, teas). Lychee martini tasted very fruit juicy with no alcohol taste…probably a great way to get drunk!
Four of us ordered the full tasting menu, and one ordered a la carte.
The 2nd course arrived first (terrific spicy pumpkin soup and battered morning glory), followed literally 2 minutes later by the 1st course (delicious taro roll, tiny shrimp roll, chicken in pastry cup, and yellow mango salad) which they placed on the table behind each of our soup platters. Several minutes passed and then one shared platter of attractive but bland cold summer rolls arrived in the middle of the table, the wrapper nearly impossible to cut or chew. I hate cilantro but those summer rolls really needed some. Then, the 3rd course (slightly overcooked king prawn with mushroom and cucumber slices with curried avocado sauce) arrived so that we now had 3 plates each squeezed in at every place setting. At this point, Allan mentioned that they would slow down for the next course.
Our main female server constantly and excessively leaned and reached over my companions to deliver or clear plates. A male server delivered empty wine glasses to our table near the beginning of our meal with the promise of complimentary drinks, only to be back moments later with the explanation that he had delivered the glasses to the wrong table! Even my cajoling didn’t bring him back with free drinks.
The fourth course arrived family-style. Ultra-rich “bankers braised lamb” reminded me of fish because of its unusual texture and fattiness. The seabass dish was tender but tasted slightly fishy which I presume to be “authentic” but seemed to be missing the advertised fruit gastrique. The “#54 red curry chicken” was ever so slightly dry. Original pad thai was fairly flavourful but its tofu didn't bring a smile to my face. Pineapple organic beef fried rice served in a pineapple was quite good though missing the advertised basil shrimps.
After a suitable interval after the main course was cleared, sometime after 10 pm, everyone received individual plates of green tea ice cream instead of the advertised ginger, with a soup spoon full of coco-rice and mango. Upon request, the server happily exchanged only my green tea ice cream for the yummy ginger variety though didn't offer any coffee/tea at the end of the meal. No mention of the mysteriously absent third part of the advertised dessert trio! Our a la carte guest also received the green tea and rice dessert at no extra charge.
We were all stuffed and quite happy at the end of the meal and couldn’t believe the variety and amount served for $29.50 even though the menu-writer and chef had differing ideas.
Yes, I would return for another meal at Mengrai, but would order a la carte, because the tasting menu was simply too much food and too many tastes all at once!
At the end of the meal, one of their business partners/co-owners who had been sitting at a nearby table unexpectedly got up and came over to chat and inquired into our favourite dishes. It was just one person too many interrupting our group experience. Around 10:15 pm the music became noticeably loud (jazz) for about half and hour and by 10:45 they had shut off most lights and were clearly waiting for us to depart.
Now that I’ve experienced a few tasty dishes at Mengrai, I'd be happy to streamline and simplify on my next visit! Overall, it was good, though not excellent food.
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