I’ve been wanting to try Maenam for a while now since I’m a big fan of all things Thai and was curious about trying Thai food with a gourmet twist, which is exactly what Maenam offers. The first thing I noticed was the warm, inviting atmosphere, made apparent through excellent use of light and colour. I really dug their tabletops as well 😛 (see pics). We had made reservations for the Chef’s Royal Thai Dinner ($47.50/person) in advance, a 3-course, 9-dish tasting menu of on- and off-menu selections which changes occasionally. I’m not sure how often, but this one had started just that week.
First up was an appetizer platter featuring free range chicken satays (satay gai), tempura made with some thin type of fern, crispy fried oysters (hoi tort), prawn cakes and a couple pork rinds and cucumber wedges. The sauces included standard homemade peanut, a red chili one, some watery cucumber relish and my personal favourite: the house sauce, nahm jim. It embodied all of the Thai taste senses: sour, sweet, salty, spicy, and bitter. Each bite made me forget my surroundings a little at a time, daydreaming of bustling Bangkok streets teeming with the pungent aromas of various mobile food carts.
The oysters were the highlight for me, and the nahm jim worked perfectly with them. The fern dish was very bland although an interesting idea, and the chicken satays were just your usual Thai streetfood variety, but were on the dry side. The pork rinds seemed out of place and had some inedible-y chewy hard bits in them. But everything tasted tolerable when dipped in the nahm jim I suppose.
For drinks Wendy ordered a virgin Thai and Ginger which consisted of passionfruit and cassia bark topped with gingerbeer. She was expecting a bit more kick from the gingerbeer than what was delivered but still enjoyed the drink. I ordered a pot of lemon ginger tea. I found it a bit mild as well, but pleasant enough.
The next course consisted of soup, salad and mussels. Wendy regrettably forgot to take photos of the soup which is unfortunate since for me it was one of the high points. It was a hot and sour (tom yum) ling cod soup w/ Thai basil and oyster mushroom. Needless to say it was tom yummy! I think I enjoyed it a bit more than Wendy since she didn’t finish hers. I did notice the absence of any big chunks of ginger or lemongrass which you normally find in this type of soup though. But I guess that’s kind of the point here, this ain’t your traditional Thai food.
Mussels were alright but nothing special.
It was around this time that a group of 3 were seated at the table adjacent to ours. They did their best to ruin the rest of the meal for us and everyone else within earshot, including a baseball-capped douche who yakked away on his cellphone to his lawyer at top volume and commented loudly to the waitress about how he likes his “amuse bouche” before his drinks, a woman who’s only speaking voice was a loud bray and insisted on punctuating all her sentences with various forms of f-bombs, and another high-roller type who yakked away incessantly about money. Vulgar and annoying in the extreme, they completely drowned out our conversation so we just kind of gave up and shook our heads at each other across the table for the remainder of the meal.
The “salad” was more meat than salad, namely a grilled Thai sausage, crispy rice, and cilantro salad (yam naam). The sausage is fermented in-house and served with crispy fried shallots. Extremely salty with a kick of sweetness, and the crispy rice reminded me of the bottom scrapings of a Korean stone bowl dish that Wendy is fond of. It was good in small amounts, but we found the portion a bit big considering the extreme salt-and-sour combination. I have to say I dutifully finished it, but ended up having to guzzle cup after cup of water later that night.
Next up were the mains. First we have another meat salad, this one made up of clam and lobster claw with mint. And covered with a chili jam that tasted very similar if not identical to the concoction used in the sausage salad. This was definitely too much of a good thing. And not in a good way if that makes sense. A few mouthfuls of something like this are all that’s needed or wanted.
The star of the mains in my eyes was the albacore tuna with chuchi curry sauce (a red curry paste reduced with lots of coconut). The tuna was nicely seared and pink in the middle, however the rich, buttery sauce overwhelmed it for the most part. There was some grated slivers of kaffir lime leaf sprinkled on top, which may have been a nice touch if we could taste anything below the sweet butter taste. It could have been a great dish with about half the sauce.
Finally some braised, then fried Paradise valley baby back pork ribs in a sweet sauce with cilantro, baby corn, and bunches of green peppercorn. We ended up fighting over the last of the corn even though we were both stuffed so that should say something! Overall considering the amount of seafood the meal seemed a pretty good value, and while it was hit or miss I’d be willing to return for another try, so I’ll be keeping an eye on their menu changes looking for items of interest.