The Modern Mango Tree
Framed by a giant ton ma-muang that for 86 years has provided shade over an old Thai house just off the busy Surawong Road, the modern Mango Tree restaurant has been at the forefront of Thai cuisine for over a quarter of a century. Led by the imitable Thai businessman, formidable chef and author of I’m Not A Chef… But I Sure Am A Good Cook! Pitaya Phanphensophon, Mango Tree adheres to its heritage with an array of inspiring, tongue-tingling Thai fare.
With Thailand’s borders closed to international travellers for the past year and a half and offices around the Surawong-Silom area devoid of life as people worked from home, Mango Tree has weathered the storm and is now serving up a magnificent tasting menu. Diners can choose between the 12-item lunchtime offering served from noon to 2.30pm or opt for the 16-item dinner menu which is available from 4pm to 10pm. Both menus combine flavourful modern dishes as well as one or two recipes that have been resurrected, updated and presented as must-try contemporary items.
We came to savour the 12-item lunch menu, which costs just Bt330, and is truly worth every single baht. If you are looking for excellent value for money, wonderful Thai cuisine with more than a hint of conventional elements and a safe Covid-free environment with both indoor and al fresco dining, then Mango Tree is where you’ll find it. Friendly staff are incredibly knowledgeable and can give you a detailed description of every dish including where many of the ingredients are sourced.
Although the midday heat wasn’t too oppressive, we decided to sit indoors to take advantage of the rich photographic history on display. As we waited for our food to arrive, our eyes feasted on the numerous black and white photos adorning the walls, many of which feature King Rama V who reigned over a golden period in Thailand’s history from 1868 – 1910. Other wonderful images reveal the house during its prime as well as its inhabitants and guests having fun in the garden. Diners are given a glimpse into an era now lost to time, but often reflected in recipes that embody the essence of Thai culinary traditions.
We began our gastronomic journey with the tried and tested pancake roll, crispy vegetable Spring Rolls with a tasty wasabi-mayo dip and a traditional Som Tam. Both entrees were delicious and packed with flavours and crunchy textures, the Som Tam particularly light and refreshing. Our waiter recommended we also try the Wing Bean Salad with Duck Egg, an appetising dish bursting with freshness and harmonised with fresh duck eggs from Mango Tree’s Boutique Farm in Chachoengsao province.
The lunchtime Tasting Menu serves two types of glorious Thai soups, namely Spicy and Sour Lotus Stem and Sea Bass, and Coconut Milk Soup with Fresh Squid, Clams and Mushrooms. Perfect for two diners sharing, the soups are as contrasting as their names suggest. Personally, I preferred the coconut soup as it wasn’t as pungent and could be enjoyed on its own, whereas I needed a little rice to appreciate the spicy and sour soup.
At Mango Tree you get the feeling you are dining at a friend’s house with home-cooked food rather than in an award-winning restaurant. That aside, the food was of the highest standard, the service was impeccable and the overall atmosphere was very welcoming. The main courses in the tasting menus are best shared and we opted for the Fresh Chili Chicken Green Curry plus the wonderfully-named Stir Fried Prawn with Glass Noodles and Southern Stinky Bean.
The green curry’s free-range chicken is sourced locally to Mango Tree’s upcountry farm and although it is served with the skin on, the meat is really tender and matches perfectly with the silky green curry. Moving on to the stinky vegetable dish, I was advised to approach it with a mix and match format as stinky beans (sataw khao – สะตอข้าว) can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated.
Grabbing a healthy piece of fried prawn, some egg, glass noodles, cha-om and a single stink bean, I just went for it. The stink bean is certainly worthy of its name and it was the only thing I could taste for quite a while. While not overly gross, I think I’ll be leaving parkia speciosa, sataw or stink bean for those who can really appreciate its unique flavour.
For our dessert we decided to move to the covered outdoor dining area. There we ordered Mango Tree Banana Fritters and Anchan Tapioca in Coconut Cream. The crunchy fritter batter with soft, succulent banana was devine while the warm tapioca pudding was a coconut sensation. To round out our remarkable meal, we sipped on a couple of freshly brewed lattes and enjoyed the cool afternoon breeze.
To sample the Mango Tree Tasting Menu and to make reservations, call +66 (0) 2236-2820.
Source: Punch Media Digital.