Food trends come and go, but Thai fare remains a mainstay in the KL dining landscape. As more independent Thai eateries open shop, we made our way to one of the newest spots in Kota Damansara – Rak Somtam. It was a rainy evening when we dropped by, and the warm light spilling out from the windows and welcoming smiles from the staff set things off on a good note.
A browse through the simple two-page menu showed that Rak Somtam focuses on regular Thai fare – skewers, Thai salads, sticky rice and tom yam. As the rain continued outside, the food arrived in odd intervals. The som tam (Thai salad) came first, a heap of shredded young papaya with chopped string beans, peanuts, wedges of creamy salted egg and a generous drizzle of spicy sauce (there were hints of fish sauce and lime juice). Served on a lotus leaf-like plate, the som tam came embellished with tiny bright orange prawns that provided a nice crunch and texture to the proceedings. Flavour-wise, it’s reminiscent of the versions we’ve had in Bangkok, but perhaps the young papayas could be more finely chopped for a more pleasant bite.
The som tam languished on the table for some time before the rest of the orders (red tom yam, deep-fried sea bass and barbecued pork neck) arrived in quick succession. The fragrant pot of red tom yam was filled with mushrooms, lemongrass, dried chillies and chicken, but taste-wise, it teetered on the milder side. Meanwhile, the sea bass (all 750g of it) came in a large platter, with deep-fried battered fish slices doused in an addictive sweet and sour tomato sauce. We expected a whole fried fish, but this version of a somewhat Cantonese-style gu lou fish made the eating process easier.
Barbecued pork neck has become a regular item on the menu for many pork-friendly Thai restaurants, which means there’s a certain standard to be upheld. Disappointingly, the version at Rak Somtam – thick and chewy – didn’t live up to expectations. One redeeming point: the limey and exceedingly spicy dip that was served with the pork neck is excellent stuff.
For dessert, we had the coconut ice cream that’s freshly made every two days. Served in a coconut shell with three scoops of creamy ice cream, peanuts, corn, attap chee, and fine, powdery shredded coconut as a finishing touch, Rak Somtam’s version is good enough to give a certain local coconut ice cream joint a run for its money. As we scraped the last spoonful of ice cream from the shell, we noticed that the restaurant had gradually filled up with young families and couples out enjoying a simple Thai dinner on a rainy night. And that’s what Rak Somtam is about – simple, regular Thai fare in the neighbourhood.