Thai-namite or you’re having a larb?  Tuk Tuk, Cathays, Cardiff.

The blog has seen a fair few posts on Thai places (in Cardiff) this year, with these been very much a mixed bag. Malai Thai – very good; Praya Thai – quite good; Rosa’s Thai Cafe – not that good and Busaba Eathai – really not very good at all.

The trend continues with a catch up with a couple of friends, one of whom in the past has been my assistant and the other my secretary (again in the past). Both survived the trauma and after extensive therapy have been let out of their padded cells (at least for the night).

The venue for a much delayed catch up was another Thai in the form of Tuk Tuk in the Cardiff burb of Cathays. In the heart of Cardiff’s studentville, I felt about a million years old as I walked along Woodville Road (bought back long forgotten memories of drunken nights in the Woodville back in the 1890s when I was at Uni. in Cardiff).

I have heard many a good report about Tuk Tuk, so was very happy when it was chosen as the venue.

Prior to Tuk Tuk taking up residence, the site was a bit of a dead zone with a number of businesses trying and failing to give it a go including Jerk it (which I rather liked) and a place that sold full fry ups in kilner jars (ooh gosh I really can’t fathom why that venture failed 🤔).

Inside it is quite funky,

with bare brick walls and various forms of vegetation and paraphernilia hanging from the ceiling.

The food

Decent looking menu which, unlike many Thai places, doesn’t have them trying to cover anything and everything remotely Thai.

We decided to share starters, with me being outvoted in terms of the moo ping.

Satay chicken (£5.95) were nicely imbued with a good quality marinade,

but lacked that charred and smokey quality of satays I have had in the Far East cooked over charcoal in cinder blocks. The satay sauce also lacked a bit of chilli heat for my tastes and was an odd consistency (like the coconut milk had been omitted). Overall nice enough, but not quite the wow factor. Also, why the utterly pointless undressed garnish?

Pla Meuk Tord (Squid – £5.95) , comprised of well cooked squid (bit of bite, but not chewy) encased in a spiced batter

The well cooked squid was slightly marred by the too thick (although well flavoured) batter. Good perky chilli sauce, but again a disappointing and unnecessary undressed garnish.

The pick of starters were the Por Pia Ped (duck spring rolls – £5.95),

which had a crisp, oil fee, exterior and a well flavoured and generously spiced and proportioned interior. To avoid a surfit of chilli sauce, we went (rather unThai) with the hoisin option, which is alway a good foil for duck in my view. Pick of the starters these.

The only letdown was (again) the undressed garnish. With all the lovely Thai dressings available, why just plonk bland lettuce leaves on the plate. Mystifies me why places do this.

I insisted on prawn crackers,

which hit the required brief (crunchy, with a decent flavour).

On to the mains, whilst tempted by the noodle soup and curry dishes.

I was in the mood for sour (rather than being in a sour mood – my default)

and I have always been a big fan of the sour, zesty, heat you get from a good larb (which originated in Laos rather than Thailand, but has been rather embraced by the Thais).

On ordering this, I was warned by our server that it was the hottest thing on the menu (and the Thai’s do like a chilli kick).

As a bit of chilli wuss I approached what landed with a hint of trepidation,

but needn’t have worried.

Whilst the heat was there, it was by no means incendiary in nature and added a pleasant fruitiness to the dish. Citrus sour added nicely to the flavour profile, with fragants Thai herbs and fatty flavour from the pork. Touch of the Johnny Cash the next day mind!

My only qualm with this dish was the Chinese cabbage leaf the larb sat on. As it was uncooked it wasn’t really edible and thus its only purpose was as a plate for the larb. As it was on a plate anyway, it all seemed a bit pointless and a waste of good food. An unnecessary garnish, as with the starters here (akin to the raw kale at Pierogi – the sooner this fad ends the better).

A chicken masseman curry (£10.45) was choc a bloc full of chicken (breast rather than my prefered thigh, I think)

Said chicken luxuriated in a very nicely flavoured sauce. Mild (heat wise) it had a rather nice tang to it and a rich texture that coated the tongue in a pleasingly way.

A duck (which had a good crispy skin) Panang curry (£10.45) was even better (and pretty as a picture)

Very generous amount of duck, squeaky french beans and a really good curry sauce. Earthiness from peanuts and sweetness from coconut, worked well as against the Thai aromatics and a touch of warming spice. Dish of the night I would say.

We added rice to our mains orders,

Going for sticky rice and egg fried rice (both £3.50 each).

the latter rather disappointed.

It was lacking any evidence of being in anyway fried, had a paupacy of egg (and no sign of the advertised spring onions) running through it and was underseasoned. All rather bland as a result. The sticky rice (had with the curries) was much better.

The drink

The wine list is a bit dispiriting, with a by the numbers offering.

Whilst there is information as to what they pair with food wise on the menu (good idea that), it is a shame that a number of wines that work very well with Thai food don’t feature.

Rieslings, gruner veltliners, chenin blanc, pinot blanc and (my beloved) sherry all would have worked wonderfully very well with the dishes we had and their absense makes it a rather uninspiring list.

Mark up wise, the Ca del Lago Pinot Grigio rose can be found at less than a £4 so the £19 it is on the list here for is pretty steep. On the reds, you don’t want anything with too robust tannins so the best bet here is probably the Romanian Pinot Noir or the merlot. The former retails at around the £8.50 mark and thus is subject to a much more reasonable mark up (than the rose) with it also being £19 on the list.

They also do (of course they do) cocktails

None appealed (and with the wine list a bit of a wash out), I defaulted to beer.

I prefer Singha to Chang, so with both the same price (£3.45). Singha it was.

My dining companions both went for a large glass of the pinot grigio rose (£7.00). I didn’t dain to try it, but at under £4 a bottle retail I wouldn’t hold out too much hope, with (based on UK duty, VAT etc) the actual cost of the wine making up less than 20p.

The verdict

Despite some inconsistencies with the starters and rice, the quality mains (particularly the excellent duck panang curry) makes this a worthwhile place to visit. Certainly a lot better than the city centre Thai chains (Rosa and Busaba).

Next on the Thai hit list are Moo Moo (refuse to add the “Thai Tapas” bit of their name, as there is no such thing) and Chilli Basil. Turning into quite the Thaifari, my quest to try all of Cardiff’s Thai restaurants.

The details

Address: 22 Crwys Road, Cardiff, CF24 4NL



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