My first restaurant, on the second day of 2015.
Robert originally suggest Big Easy... just no. I heard great things Smoking Goat, a Thai BBQ joint on Denmark Street. Despite the queue-only system, tiny menu, cramped space, uncomfortable seats and blaring music, everyone loved the food. Sounds like something Basel doesn't have, so I convinced Cynthia, Ceci and Robert to give it a go.
Half the menu was sold out by 6pm on a Friday night. The scallops and chilli jam sea bass are gone, only 2 lamb shoulder and 1 lamb neck from the specials left. Not sure what they were planning to serve after the first round of seating. We also found out they have removed the whole chilli crab from the menu because it was out-of-season. My heart sank. We opted for all the small plates they had to offer (x2), took the last lamb neck (£45) and the duck leg. Our server thought we were bonkers and suggested we stop at the lamb neck. But no, we were determined. It’s amazing how irrational we could get without chilli crab.
Hot and Sour Clams in orange broth
This was a slight variation to the iconic Thai tom yum soup. The chilli-laden broth was spicy, tangy and fragrant, incredibly moreish with the small clams. We were all sticking our tongues out from the chilli heat, yet still slurping more soup with the sticky rice.
Fish Sauce Wings
Ah just for these wings, one would forgive the dingy space, the hard wooden bench, the conversation-drowning music, the sticky tables, and even the disappearance of chilli crab (or anything really) on the menu...
The meaty wings came in 3s. Coated in a crispy batter that was deep-fried to the perfect crunch; satisfying brittle without being too harsh on the roof of mouth, just a tiny layer of doughy softness between the crispy batter and fragrant skin. The flavours were incredible; the plump wings were marinated first with a bit of soy and ginger before enveloping them with fish sauce drenched batter, finished with a drizzle of honey and a squeeze of tangy lime juice. Boy some epic wings they serve here - best ones in town.
Coal Roast Aubergine salad
This needs to be renamed as salt-roasted aubergine salad. The aubergine, hidden underneath the silky quail egg, already carried much smoky saltiness, it was further drenched in a full-on fish sauce dressing and topped with some brine-soaked vegetable shreds. The salt attack came in waves; one stronger than the next.
It took me right back to the day when my beloved brother swapped my salt and sugar pots around, and I ended up with 2 spoonfuls of salt in my porridge. Oh and when I mistook the pot of MSG for sugar at Sherwin’s house in Stockholm, ended up with a MSG macchiato. Imagine a couple of gulps of sea water – there, you get the idea.
So, no. None of us enjoyed it.
BBQ Lamb Neck, served with Son Tamm – green papaya salad, sticky rice and jaew dipping sauce
We were all taken aback by the colossal portion of the lamb neck; must have been the Hulk of all Lambs with a neck this size. At the sight of this slab of meat, we sheepishly sent Cynthia to cancel the duck leg... Our server gave us a knowing nod, with a smirk.
The lamb was insanely tender, didn’t even need a knife to slice through, we just sank out forks into it and effortlessly pull out succulent chucks of lamb. The hunky neck muscles were laced with fat and tendons, which melted away in mouth as the neck disintegrated into meaty softness. Like every dish here, the kitchen was bold with seasoning and meat was absolutely packed with flavours from the marinade and the thick barbeque glaze, which was deceivingly hot. It was the kind of spiciness that slowly crept on us, then lingered to build up more heat with each bite. The refreshing papaya salad and lumps of sticky rice did well to neutralise the chillies.
Smoking Goat is unique in what it does. While the more conventional Thai cuisine do have a fair share of grilled dishes, like my favourite grilled pork neck with lemongrass, the BBQ dishes here are more western style meats in oriental aromatic spices. The result is impressive and stimulating. Apart from the aubergine salad, we enjoyed everything. And take it from me, the wings alone is worth the visit.
Smoking Goat (Twitter)
7 Denmark Street