A dinner at Baan Kun Ya will almost certainly end with you meeting your threshold for coconut milk. I leave the restaurant with coconut milk running through my veins, my heart pumping the stuff with both vigour and regret. This is mainly the doing of one main, a curry with all the creaminess you can imagine of coconut milk.
Let’s rewind a little bit. It’s a Thursday night and Baan Kun Ya in Bandar Utama smells like jasmine. The restaurant is standard in all the ways a Thai restaurant in a mall is – unceasing choruses of ‘sawadee ka’ by smiling staff, the token pandan and lemongrass drink, the families and couples. I’m a sucker for all of those things.
What catches me off guard are the prices. A plate of spring rolls to start with is RM28, a bowl of seafood tom yum begins at RM38, a green curry with chicken is RM36, and a stir-fried beef dish is RM42. I’d take these prices at a restaurant like Erawan, where coconut milk is tediously hand-squeezed, seafood is coddled as one would a new Apple device, and fruits and vegetables are carved into collectors’ items. But at Baan Kun Ya, a restaurant that is parallel to myELEPHANT, these prices are unsettling.
In my refusal to partake in RM28 spring rolls, I order the pandan chicken instead. Because the chicken is cut two sizes up from bite-sized, the aroma of pandan from the leaf wrap doesn’t cover the entirety of each piece. Otherwise, the chicken is cooked very well, while the bird itself is unmistakeably fresh. I am also thankful that the chicken arrives as a starter as requested and not with the mains. I revel in this simple, forsaken luxury.
The culprit of the coconut milk glut arrives – a plate of smoked duck fanned atop a coral pool of Panang curry. The duck is simmered in coconut milk, then assembled on the curry with segments of mandarin orange. While Panang gravy is usually made denser than a regular red curry, this version is so thick that the duck slices sit comfortably on the surface of the gravy without the slightest indication of it sinking. As a whole, it tastes mostly of coconut milk that’s been sweetened and spiced. With no offense at all, it’s a Thai curry that’s been anglicised.
I move on to the exorbitantly priced omelette. It’s a flabby chunk of eggs, flecked with pink crab meat. Besides the three occasions I bite on sharp-edged fragments of crab shells, the dish is middling. The pucuk paku is no better than the kind you’ll find at a warung. But here, it’s clothed in an Armani Privé gown, priced at a cool RM22.
At dessert, all six options involve the milk or cream of coconut. Ominously, I order the Purple Floating Lotus, a bowl of crunchy water chestnuts coated in tapioca flour, completely submerged in coconut cream and palm syrup. Objectively, it’s probably the best thing I order that night, but because I am up to my eye sockets in coconut milk, I don’t finish it. A shameful outcome for a restaurant that left me shy of RM150 (including taxes) for a meal whose value is half of that.