Photo: Guai Tiao Rue – Abalone, Thai wild mushroom, abalone liver
8 Lyndhurst Terrace is not an unfamiliar address for good restaurants. The latest entrant is Plaa, a newly-opened restaurant by ZS Hospitality that occupies the space where Michelin 1-star Hansik Goo used to be. Similar to the previous occupant, Plaa serves up an elevated ethnic cuisine, this time Thai, and the menu is a collaboration between Hong Kong-born award-winning chef Richie Lin and renowned chef Ian Kittichai from Bangkok. The restaurant’s elegant yet comfortable setting is fitting for a memorable evening of delightful dishes and service.
A mild and creamy Thai coconut soup flavoured with lemongrass and galangal
Photo: Tom Kha – Gillardeau oyster, Tom Kha and aromatic oil
Part of the adventure when dining at Plaa is to experience Southeast Asian spices and herbs that appear familiar, yet not in ways you are accustomed to. Right out of the gate is an aromatic oyster “shooter” that is refreshing and enticing with just the right amount of spices to tease your imagination of what is to come. In the meanwhile, the exact combination of Thai flavours infused in this seemingly simple dish keeps you guessing, but if anything, it is complex and layered at the core. We are intrigued.
Nam Pril Kapi
A chili dipping sauce made with fermented shrimp paste
Photo: Nam Prik Kapi – mackerel, fermented shrimp and snake gourd
Most palates would squirm at the scent of fermented shrimp paste. It is pungent, salty, and every house has its own secret recipe; but this is exactly why it is delicious and takes flavour to the next level. To show off the essence of this regional delicacy requires using the right ingredients. We found a good balance in this course, where Japanese raw mackerel is the anchor, and the seemingly strong flavours of shrimp paste are skilfully “lifted” by the freshness of gourd slices and pickled onions.
A sour and spicy curry infused with turmeric and tamarind
Photo: Gaeng Som – mantis shrimp, bottarga, fingerroot
If you need to reset any preconceived ideas about Thai curry, this is it. The curry broth is light yet rich, with all the right notes and just a hint of heat. There is no heaviness commonly found in curries. The standout part of this course, if the curry alone is not enough, is the buttery, flaky, yet soft and pillowy brioche that comes with it. You want to tear the warm brioche into pieces and smother them in the accompany chili butter, but you are also negotiating how much of this bread to save for soaking up every drop of the curry broth. Solution – ask for extra servings and then more for packing to-go.
The restaurant’s namesake dish will always have a heavy responsibility to shoulder. Plaa means fish in Thai and the star here is threadfin. The delicate-textured fish is simply prepared with a lightly-charred skin for a crispness that contrasts with the flesh and light coconut beurre blanc sauce. It is a perfect pairing that shines the spotlight on the fish (plaa), which is also the approach of this restaurant throughout the meal. It is quite brilliant, if you think about it.
The dish also introduces us to a new vegetable that is not common in Hong Kong, but perhaps more so in native Thailand – Siam tulip flower. The restaurant very thoughtfully brought out a bouquet of the flowers, which have beautiful ombré colours, for a show-and-tell.
Known as the “king of curries”, Massaman is a coconut-based meat curry that combines unique dry spices and aromatics
Photo: Neua Massaman – wagyu beef cheek, massaman curry and morel man goong (mushroom)
The only non-seafood dish on the menu. By this time, your palate is trained for the refinement of what this restaurant is capable of delivering and ready for something heavier to continue this culinary journey. And as expected, this is not your grandma’s curry. The wagyu beef cheek has the right firmness and marbling that absolutely melts in your mouth (which one would expect nothing less by now). The only regret is that there is not enough curry to go around!
Photo: Manning Hao Macao Ho – carissa carandas sorbet, jasmine tea and seasonal fruit
We continued to be introduced to lesser-known ingredients such as palm seeds and carissa carandas in the last two dessert courses of this Thai journey. The kaffir-lime granita was a refreshing follow-up to the wagyu beef cheeks and curry. The second dessert, which features sorbet made of carissa carandas (a red berry fruit) accompanied with jasmine tea crumbs, also offers a tangy finish. While equally well-executed and delicious, this course may have been overshadowed by the lime granita.
Capturing the dining experience at Plaa in pictures is where it will fail you. Not that the dishes are not visually enticing, they are. But it is the aroma of the dishes that will captivate you first, followed by the delightful texture and freshness of every bite. As celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse so famously said, we need “smell-a-vision” to tell the whole story, and to transport you back to Plaa every time you see the beautiful dishes. Also important to note, the restaurant goes the extra mile to recruit Thai nationals to deliver authentic, attentive hospitality and service. Plaa is a restaurant to watch, and we should wait with anticipation, but not be surprised, when it attains the same achievement as the previous occupant of the space, under the same ambitious and rising restaurant group.
The 8-course set menu is $1,180 per person (plus 10% service charge); adding the first course Tom Kha is an extra charge. Wine pairing is available at $488 for 4 glasses and $688 for 6 glasses.
Open for dinner only
2/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, SoHo; 2389 3288
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.