When same-same, sweet and creamy 'Thai' food just isn’t doing it for you, 101 Thai Kitchen propels you into the grimy, vindictively hot and truly unique cuisine of north east Thailand.
There’s nothing much to suggest you’re on your way to an authentic regional Thai restaurant when you negotiate the quiet suburban streets between Hammersmith and Chiswick - this is no ethnic hot spot or bustling inner city eat street.
Similarly, 101 Thai Kitchen doesn’t blow you away with its decor; you could be in any suburban Thai restaurant around London with its predication for pink, silk prints and brass. But you’re not.
The food at 101 Thai Kitchen is not food for the faint of heart. The Isaan style of cuisine from north and north east Thailand relies heavily on the funky aromatics of dried seafood and the shock of birds eye, scud and dried chillies. Food is unremitting, unadulterated and unsoftened by palm sugar or coconut cream. Salads pungent with fish sauce and spiked heavily with lime and chilli are often finely ribboned with tripe, gizzards or dried prawns, fish and crabs. In short, this is food that takes you on an adventure. The best way to start the journey is to ask what the specials are. They’re often only written up in Thai, so you’ll need to pull aside a waiter and assure them that you may be farang (that’s ‘foreigner’ in Thai), but you can take it – whatever it may be.
Offal is hugely popular in northern Thailand and tripe features heavily on the menu. Amongst the fragrant clear soups such as Tom Yum, the Tom Kruang Nai Wua (£6.50) is heavy with rich, sticky strips of tripe and pungent with dried, roasted chilli. Similarly, clean sparkling laab salads are spiked with the addition of finely chopped giblets, such as in the outrageously flavour-packed laab ped (£7.25) of duck meat, giblets, lime, mint, chilli and crunchy toasted ground rice. The Tom Kode Mua Sua (£9.50) - the Isaan version of a kitchen salad - is a riot of shredded green papaya, salted crabs, dried prawns, dried mussels, pork rinds, pea aubergines, mint, coriander, dried chilli, fresh scud chillies, dry-roasted peanuts, dried pork, Isaan dried sausage, fish sauce and lime.
Avoid the budget house wines and sink a Singha beer, or try a little-too-easy-to-drink Mekong whisky on ice.
The Last Word
101 Thai is not just about the offal, or the mind-numbingly spicy, so don’t be put off making the journey. Curries are much better than average and there are crispy fish dishes and Thai-style barbecue dishes that will please all but the fussiest eaters. Match your Isaan meal with sticky rice (which is traditionally eaten rolled into balls and eaten with the fingers), and you’ll leave having been pleasantly surprised to find a whole new world of Thai food, in London’s most unlikely of places.