You've probably guessed by now that I am a bit of a wimp and don't like any form of cold, wet or windy weather. (No I don't know why I moved to Leeds either.) So it will be of no great surprise to anyone that on Bonfire Night, I elected not to go and stand in a wet, muddy and freezing Roundhay Park, but instead persuaded D to take me out for a nice meal. Oh did I mention it was cold? So I didn't really want to go very far, plus the buses would have been all crowded and slow because of the bonfire at Roundhay, so we walked the three minutes round the corner to Thai Erawan, a small Thai restaurant and takeaway nestled in a small parade of shops in Oakwood.
Despite living in Oakwood for six months now, we hadn't actually eaten in any of the restaurants here- had a fantastic takeaway curry from Nawaab Khan's one Saturday night, but we usually go either to town or to Chapel Allerton for meals out. However, Thai Erawan has recently been enjoying some very positive reviews, like this one in the Leeds Guide, so we decided to go and check it out.
The restaurant is fairly small, decorated with traditional Thai furniture, statues and pictures and was pretty much empty when we arrived- I guess most of LS8 were up at the park, as most of LS8 don't hide indoors when there is a threat of rain! We were shown to our table by a very friendly waitress, who brought us some peanuts to nibble on while we perused the menu- nice touch, except both me and D despise peanuts. (Well I do, D is one of those fairweather nut haters- more on that later!)
The menu was massive and slightly overwhelming if I'm honest, but after reading through the entire thing I decided to stay away from my usual stir fried dishes and go for something a bit different. For starter I picked the crispy seaweed rolls- I was interested to see how they made the seaweed crispy- and for main I chose a "Sizzling" dish- chicken with black pepper, lemongrass, lime leaves and chilli on a sizzling platter.
The starters came fairly quickly; not surprising as the restaurant was so quiet (at this point, there were three couples including us in there). The waiter brought us a hot plate for the middle of the table and placed the starters on there so we could share- great idea but D had soup- not the easiest of sharing dishes! My crispy rolls stayed nice and warm though! I was slightly disappointed to see that "crispy seaweed" didn't actually mean that the seaweed itself was crispy, but rather the seaweed rolls had been deep fried in breadcrumbs. But my disappointment only lasted until my first bite- the rolls were absolutely delicious. The breadcrumbs were crispy and not at all greasy, the filling of minced chicken and prawn was wonderfully moist and well seasoned and wrapped delicately in seaweed which provided an extra element of flavour and the chilli sauce they were served with was the perfect accompaniment.
D looked a bit wistful as I bit in to my rolls and insisted that he taste some, and I could see he was regretting his choice of Tom Yum soup with prawns (clear spicy soup with prawn, mushrooms, coriander, chilli and lemongrass)- until he tried it! We often make hot and spicy broth style soups at home, and they're always pretty tasty and flavoursome, but they just do not compare to Thai Erawan's soup, which has an extra depth of flavour, probably down to some secret ingredient that we don't put in at home! The prawns were succulent and cooked perfectly (without the intestinal tract that TV chefs are always telling us to remove!), the broth was just the right level of spicy and bursting with flavour, and the mushrooms added a delicious earthiness to it. Both starters were perfectly portioned to whet our appetites for the main course, and I must say, after the excellent standard of the starters, I was excited!
By the time our main course arrived, the fireworks were finished, and hundreds of people were streaming down Roundhay Road, looking for somewhere to eat. The restaurant soon filled up and there was a lively buzz of conversation which improved the atmosphere no end.
As I said before, I'd opted for something a little different, and my sizzling platter did indeed arrive sizzling! Tender chunks of chicken were stir fried in the most delicious sauce I think I've ever had in a Thai restaurant- it was thick, salty, spicy, sweet...and every mouthful was like a little explosion of deliciousness in my mouth. I asked the waitress what was in the sauce to make it so tasty and she laughed and said it was the chef's secret- won't be creating that one at home then! I ordered a portion of jasmine rice to go with it- perfectly cooked and just the right stickiness- the portion was fairly large so probably best to share.
However D had gone for the Pad Thai with Pork so a lot of the rice went untouched. Now, I'd mentioned before how he claims to hate nuts...I did point out that the Pad Thai came with peanuts but he shrugged and said it would probably be nice. Ha. Fake nut hater. And yes, when the dish came, he sprinkled the peanuts liberally over the noodles and said they were delicious. Anyway, I tried a bit without peanuts and without egg (egg is another one of my Food Hates) and he was right- it was really tasty- thick rice noodles with succulent chunks of pork, crunchy bean sprouts and spring onion- well flavoured, moreish and incredibly tasty. The egg had been kind of "spun" over the top of it like a little nest (much like spun sugar) which I thought was a pretty cool touch.
By this time we were fairly stuffed so decided against pudding (partly because of this, and partly because none of the desserts looked particularly appealing; there were the usual Thai desserts like Thai custard, fried banana, and even fried ice cream, but there was also a bizarre collection of ready made frozen desserts) The service all night was impeccable- friendly waiting staff with just the right level of attentiveness (not hanging around, but not taking ages to bring you something) and the restaurant had a really nice family feel to it. In fact, someone called up to order a takeaway and the woman taking the call knew him by name and asked how his family and job were which I thought was a nice touch. I'm glad we have such a great little restaurant in Oakwood and it's convinced me to try some of the other eateries here; Oakwood doesn't have a great reputation for fabulous independent restaurants but I'm hoping that will all change once I've sampled them all. Come on LS8! (the best postcode in Leeds!)
Just thought I'd mention that Thai Erawan also do takeaway, and there is an Early Bird menu which offers great value at two courses for £7.95 or three for £9.95, served from 5pm to 7pm. They also do a loyalty card- visit/order a takeaway 5 times and receive £10 off your sixth meal. No excuse not to go now!