Restaurant review

Restaurant review: At Thaiger, green curry is a crowd pleaser

Kitchen: Thai
Address: 2 Surrey Crescent, Gray Lynn
Call: (09) 360 0695
Reservations: Accepted
Drinks : Fully Licensed
From the menu: Chicken satay $17; green papaya salad $20; pad thai $29; laksa $29; tofu spring roll $14; nasi goreng cauliflower $27

I ate a lot of Thai food this week because I just discovered that the most authentic Thai food in New Zealand is made in a small kitchen, 100 meters from my place of work.

When Albert St’s famous Food Alley closed, the team behind E-Sarn moved into a restaurant at 205 Hobson St, where they now offer around 100 different dishes, mostly from the North East region of England. ‘Isan, from which the company takes its name.

You know you’ve come to the right place when you order something from the confines of the menu and the old woman studies you for a second and then quietly says “no.”

Nasi lemak cauliflower rice. Photo / Babiche Martens

I’ve been told no before, at the tiny Thai stalls in Avondale Market, and to be honest, on that occasion they were right to warn me about the thick, fermented fish paste I ended up managed to buy.

But at E-Sarn they might be a little less conservative – they were worried I’d be put off by pork bones in a dish – and if you’re up for something more exciting than pad thai and green curry then take a chance on something from their house, be it the familiar larb or something steamy and soupy that tastes like it was straight out of a cauldron.

If you’re looking for a dish you know and want the full restaurant experience, you’ll do well at Thaiger, the restaurant I’m really here to review, in a much-hyped site by Gray Lynn of the owners of Wok Express .

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Unlike E-Sarn, Thaiger has an interior designed to be enjoyed with a glass of wine, before and after your meal.

Although a separate counter is set up for take out orders and delivery drivers, this doesn’t seem to have much impact on the atmosphere and although we arrived shortly after 5pm for a family dinner, there were many tables filled with students and runaway moms.

The items on this menu are much more familiar although there is an odd surprise, such as an extensive list of vegan dishes, a rare thing in a kitchen where fish sauce reigns supreme.

“If you’re looking for a dish you know and want the full restaurant experience, you’ll do well at Thaiger.” Photo / Babiche Martens

My 11-year-old daughter chose to go vegetarian a year or two ago, which we allowed on one condition: if she wanted to avoid meat, she had to say yes to everything else. She agreed and now I’m sure she eats as widely as anyone, beef and lamb aside.

She smashed up some nice tofu spring rolls – fried and flaky – with a sweet chilli dip, followed by a pretty decent fried cauliflower rice which she enjoyed on her own merits, thankfully unaware that half of the people in the room were probably eating it so their Keto Stick would turn the right color when they peed later.

I make peanut sauce at home so often (usually by pouring it over some cooked vegetables and calling it gado gado) that I had forgotten how good the real thing can be.

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Most recipes online start with half a cup of peanut butter mixed with hot water, but this fork in the road will take you far from a good Thai satay that has none of that smooth processed feel. and is brighter (in appearance and taste) with the crunchy crunch of roasted, freshly mortared peanuts.

A good cook frys curry paste and coconut milk until the fat separates and at Thaiger you can see that in the finished product, which is generously poured over chicken skewers, so much so that you have no hope of going through everything.

In this dish, and in the green curry, the chicken is incredibly tender, something I assume they achieve by marinating it, but since the strips of meat are thin and away from bone or fat, I don’t can’t really believe how good these are.

Papaya salad. Photo / Babiche Martens

This green curry is a crowd pleaser, big and chewy with lots of fresh vegetables, including something you only see at a restaurant like this – carefully ribbed carrot sticks, for your enjoyment.

Service is quick and friendly but almost invisible, although we tested them when one of my sons inevitably knocked over his glass of water and the other got up to take a look, slipped in the puddle and landed on his back next to the “Caution: Wet Floor” sign the waiter had managed to erect in the middle of his fall.

Your own dinner here will be far less hectic from a physical comedy point of view, I’m sure, and if you find yourself craving a Sunday afternoon for an old-fashioned Kiwi Thai and good drinks for accompany him, Thaiger will not disappoint you.