Outcome: Unanimous Verdict
Ratio Decidendi: In short Khao Pla is on par with Spice I am if you’re looking for a benchmark-setting Thai meal. Factor in the option of having dessert and Khao Pla actually shades this one. If you’re on the north shore and are allergic to bridge-crossing – there is no competition.
Scope of Discovery: Moo krob pad prik khing ($16), Pork Ribs ($19), Salt & Pepper Soft Shell Crab ($15), Black Sticky Rice ($) and Gaeng Keaw Wan ($14).
Case note: Rule #1 of ordering Thai – if there’s crispy pork belly on the menu, it’s a must-order. Moo krob pad prik khing is the spicy version – wok fried with curry paste and long beans – and sure to be a popular choice on the table. I suspect the non-spicy version (Kana moo krob) would be equally well received as the pork belly in isolation is crunchy on the outside without having an overly tough or overcooked center.
The sweet & sour pork ribs, twice cooked with palm sugar and tamarind is another winning dish, and offers a point of distinction from Spice I am. In my rush to dig in and avoid the wrath of my fellow diners I failed to take a decent photo (which would not have done it justice in any case). Succulent and whoops-the-meat-just-fell-off-the-bone, the only issue with this is the small-ish portion means one serve won’t be enough if your party is >3. I’m not usually a fan of sweet & sour but even I found this very much to my liking.
Soft shell crab is another dish with winning potential if executed well – and it happily is at Khao Pla. I had trouble detecting the tom yum element in the spice salt, but it was well seasoned and not too oily. The Gaeng Keaw wan is a classic green chicken curry with Thai eggplants and bamboo shoots. Stacked up against the other 3 dishes this isn’t on the same level, but plays an important role nonetheless. The curry helps add a ‘wet’ / ‘gravy’ element needed to balance out the meal as a whole as the other 3 elements can be too ‘dry’ to eat with rice. Ordering e.g. the papaya salad would also help balance out the meal given the distinct lack of vegetables thus far.
The warm black sticky rice dessert with Thai tea ice cream (ordered on a previous visit) is definitely worth ordering to round out the meal. Quite a few elements but the core 3 which make it are the sticky rice (warm texture element), tea ice cream (binding and contrasting cold element) and jasmine tapioca (fragrance).
Obiter Dicta: The comparisons are unsurprising when you learn Pla Rojratanavichai spent 5 years at Spice I am.