Often when walking past this restaurant, I'd glimpse its discreetly lit ,inviting ambience with the glint of sleek glassware on the tables. It seemed a compact intimate space for indulging in Thai food. Across the road, the neighbouring joint would either be packed to the gills or chugging along busily. Mae Glong however seemed like it could do with more patrons. Going by the good reviews of it, I walked in one Friday night ,saw that half the tables were empty and gladly hoped that service at least would be better. There was nobody amongst the staff to greet voluntarily, I had to seek them out . Two ladies dressed in Thai silks,a middle-aged one and her younger colleague, managed the front of the house.
Ambience- Muted lighting sets the mood. Tables are pretty and nominally elegant, with embroidered tablecloths set against a base of white, plates patterned with blue and cream rims,brass cutlery and a coloured mosaic vase holding a single yellow rose at each table. The ambience thus has a soft feminine appeal but is not as refined and immaculately maintained as it could be.
Starters were explored with a Combination entree featuring 4 different varities..Deep fried chicken pastry with veggies,was a docile samosa, sufficiently crisp but tilting towards sweet notes- the potatoes in it discernible but the chicken was too timid a presence. The Thai spring roll, with vermicelli in it was a stalwart rendition by mouthfeel,but achieved no distinction by flavour. The skewer of marinated grilled chicken would have been an excellently cooked appetizer,but it was swathed in a peanut sauce that stifled its original taste. Redemption was finally afforded by minced prawns on toast. The seafood itself signalled no revelatory redolence of the noble crustacean spliced therein,but this again was superceded by the light and fluffy crunch of exceedingly silken toast. A single disc,or deep-fried savoury cloud of this offering, is enough to merit a desire for several repeat tastings.
Service was average from the start, be it in communication skills or in responding to a beckoning gesture. It could be pleasant when the going was good but was lacking at other times both in employing tact and gracious elegance,whoever the server was.There was not a single word of feedback elicited,inspite of the wait-staff having ample time to do so.
Seeing Thai whiskey on the menu ($8-50 per 60ml), when i asked whether this was a variety that could be tasted "on the rocks",the server was taken aback- going by her expression you'd think that I had suddenly professed a wish to smash my head on the rocks. Anyway,the drink had a pleasant bite to it, and gave a nice little cerebral hum.
Tod man pla or Thai fish cakes- The ones I ate here were no different from the take-out variety sampled from a nearby joint a few days ago. Appealing neither to the teeth nor tongue ,the body of it was formed by too much egg. If the accompanying sauce of sweet chilli,brunoised cucumber and powdered peanuts had been a little more subtle, and if the fish cakes had been zestier, it'd have been a winning dish.
The Main I ate was Pad Gra Prow- roasted duck in chilli,garlic and basil. The duck was reasonably exuberant, and the caramelized shallows it rested in also nurtured onions,beans,broccoli and bamboo. 'Twas a satisfactory dish of meat with a sweet-savoury sauce, but I had actually asked for roast red duck with grapes and coconut milk when I placed the order. Unwittingly letting myself get lulled into a blissful state of inattention, I had failed to identify my dish ,presented as it was with a dense-top layer, and realized only later while eating it that the pond and plants were contrary to expectation. The young lady server, upon being told of this mismatch went to her senior colleague behind the counter to explain the matter. I could hear snatches of indignant defence from the latter who then came around and enlightened me that I had pointed my finger at the dish below the one which I wanted on the menu. Her attitude was not apologetic in the least, was in fact squarely defensive and veered towards being disapproving.,like a maths teacher cross with her careless pupil. I avoid arguments whenever possible ,and that night I was in no mood to prolong the debate. I concede I might have been at fault with finger-aiming and later at mis-identifying my choice, but I will also say this- any fool of a server can do the job by the numbers (besides acting deaf to the verbalized order and blithely defending one's visual perspicacity) , but it takes a service-oriented mentality to go the extra furlong even if the patron has had his share of mistakes. Taking that extra bit and even stretching it to a mile makes a merely good restaurant a truly special one, but this restaurant here seemed determined to show its true colours.
The bill that night was very reasonable at a total of NZ$44. When I was wordlessly paying my bill, the same lady quietly said -"Sorry for that...thank you very much"- a classic case of damned if you apologize ,damned if you don't -if she was genuinely sorry she would have replaced that dish.Mae Glong seems fine with coddling its firm ego,nevermind that its occupancy isn't exactly galloping along. It still sports the prominent signage of "2008 Metro Runner-up award for Thai food". I quickly understood why the inflow was less, and why the awards had since stopped. I "sat" on my thoughts for one month, hoping perhaps that the likelihood of my return to this place would improve but it did not and later thought of the highlight of my meal here,rued the future and sighed. Sometimes in life, as the wise will tell you, exceptionally crunchy treats have to be forsaken in view of preserving self-respect.
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