Thursday, 25 August 2011

Kao Sarn: Another Surprise in Brixton Village

After being delighted to have ended up at Honest Burger the other night (see previous post) I still had an itch to return to Kao Sarn, the minuscule Thai restaurant we had tried in vain to get into that night.  The reviews from both bloggers and critics have been fantastic and, given how hard it is to get good quality Thai food in London (there may be a lot of Thai restaurants but in my experience most of them seem to serve bland, pan Asian MSG-ified food), I just had to try this place out.

Kao Sarn is at the end of one of the rows in Brixton Village and therefore is able to open on those nights when the other restaurants in the arcade are shut.  It really is tiny- inside there is an open kitchen and seating for no more than 16 with seating for a further 20 or so in the yard outside.  Given how hard it is to get a table at the moment, even with all the tables outside, it is going to be nigh on impossible to get one come winter. 

The Fashionista's smooth talking had managed to secure us a reservation for eight o'clock (no mean feat given that they are fully booked for the remainder of the week), but when we arrived all the tables were full and there was a quite a queue.  Somehow the Fashionista's charm worked again, however, and within five minutes we were sitting down, our bellies rumbling at the smells emanating from the kitchen.

We decided to get one of the salads and two mains to share- all at the same time of course as is customary in Thailand.

We chose a Larb pork salad- minced pork with lettuce, chillies, red onion, Thai Basil, fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar and (a little too much) black pepper.  This dish really had attitude to it- as all Thai salads should do- but there was just a little too much black pepper which gave the salad a grainy texture.
Pork Larb Salad

For the mains we had gai yang, kow neaw, som tum- marinated chicken served dry with sticky rice, chili and soy dipping sauces and a som tum salad.  The chicken had a wonderfully subtle spicy flavour to it but the rice was a little disappointing and the som tum, unlike the Larb, just did not have enough kick. 

Gai yang, kow neaw

Som tum

I remember arriving in Bangkok a few years ago to meet a friend who was living out there.  He took me, straight off the plane, to Chatuchak Market with a few of his Thai friends.  We sat in a shop and his friends starting shouting down the tightly packed alleyways in the market only for food to arrive minutes later from every direction.   One of the dishes which arrived on that day was my first ever som tum- the heat from the chillies, the saltiness from the fish sauce and the bite from the lime all took my breath away (I should also say, in fairness to my mate, that his time in Thailand was put to good use and he now makes a mean som tum which goes down a treat with a cold beer).  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the som tum at Kao Sarn which had just a little too much palm sugar and lacked the heat and bite from the chillies and lime.

The other dish which we ordered (the Thai name escapes me) was essentially beef fried with chillies and holy basil served on rice with a fried egg on top.  I was unsure of this dish when it arrived but bite after bite I grew to appreciate the fresh Thai flavours lurking within- a mouthful of chili, holy basil, beef and a piece of the egg yolk was truly delicious.

Making Thai food outside Thailand is always going to be so hard as so much of what Thai food is about comes from the freshness of the ingredients and flavours.  Kao Sarn does, however, give it a really good shot and all things considered comes up trumps (even if they could do with ramping up the flavours in their Som Tum!).   
Kaosarn on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Its unusual that they put black pepper in the Larb. Its not surprising you took exception to it as I've never seen it done like that before.

    Also, I think the last beef dish was a Neua Grapow (Beef with Thai Basil). A fairly common dish with a title so open to interpretation it can be made in a variety of ways.


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