Monday, May 26, 2014

Just Thai Authentic Thai Restaurant: Sa-THAIs-faction Guaranteed

Wazzup Pilipinas!

My visit to Bangkok several years ago introduced me to Thai foods the most hilarious way because even though I knew it would be spicy as told by friends and colleagues, I never knew it would go pass the boundaries of our also famous Bicol Express in terms of spiciness.

Whoah! I was surely surprised to sip a soup that would have me reaching for the nearest drink within my proximity. I had to quickly drink a friend's glass of water because it was not so tolerable for me. I felt the spice go burning down through my throat like it was on fire. OMG! I literally screamed for water! I was all sweating afterwards!

It was my fault! It was warned! I smelled that spicy aroma! But ignored everyone of them. I was asked if I wanted it milder before we ordered, but I said "Bring it out as it is!" I thought I've tasted the "hottest" dish in my years of existence in this world, but that 10-day trip in Thailand became so memorable because of that darn Tom Yum!

Now you could now imagine me giving that Pad Thai a long hard look before I took a bite of it. You'll never know if those noodles or bean sprouts may be hiding something despicably spicy that's equally unbearable for culinary noobs like me.

Just Thai signage

But those were the yesteryears. My taste buds has already turned from a bread crumbs-gathering pauper to a gastronomic prince (and so I keep telling myself). I've eaten at countless numbers of restaurants already that I am able to identify a dish's even when blindfolded (you gotta hate the arrogance). But don't expect me to give you its ridiculous-sounding hard-to-remember foreign names without my "kodigo". Though, I would request you to please don't quote me on these statements. But wait, do I smell a challenge? Nah! It must have been just the aromatic spices from the Thai dishes that were already coming out from the kitchen of Just Thai.

We were actually pampered during our visit at the Just Thai restaurant located at Bonifacio Global City. When some Thai restaurants would be a bit hesitant to alter their spice meters too low because they were saying it will not give us an authentic Thai dining experience, we were allowed to enjoy our dishes minus the spice factor at Just Thai. That decision may have been detrimental to our impressions of the dishes served to us, but it made us taste the cuisines unmasked by the traditional "hotness."

Just Thai first level may give an impression that the resto is a bit small
Simple table setup at Just Thai

The resto at BGC was quite small. The ground floor had very little space to accommodate a clan, but the second level might just do the trick to keep you all warmly snugged and comfy. The front area is preferable for those who like to enjoy the fresh air, slightly bask in the sun or smoke outdoors, chatting away with friends or colleagues while people pass by minding their own business. But since the majority of the crowd there comes during the night, many will also be hanging out at the many other restos nearby while swiping on their smartphones or phablets.

The decors were few but good enough to bring out some elegance to the place. However, I was actually looking for an elephant among the few decors since the giant-sized land animal is an iconic symbol of Thailand. The elephant has been an integral part of Thailand’s history and culture so I was a bit surprised this restaurant doesn't have any, or perhaps I have not looked harder.

Though I am sure the place looks a lot better at night when the crowd is at its peak, it was a bit dim-lighted at the second level if not for the windows that sadly offers terrible back-lighting dilemma for our phone cameras. What was hard to accept was that there were very little spots that were Instagram-worthy because of the terrible lighting.

Second level of Just Thai restaurant
Ceiling lamps with flowery designs
Windows offer a view of other establishments nearby
Decors at specific spots and corners but I never saw an elephant
Al white except for the spoon and fork

True enough, the decors were subtle, the lighting was dim, and even the table set-up were plain all white except for the silverware. I merely thought it was intentionally meant to make customers focus instead on the exotic appearance, flavors and fragrance of the dishes and not on the other intricacies distracting to our dining experience.

Gai Sate or Chicken Satay

Meant as starters or appetizers, the Chicken Sate (Gai Sate) or Satay are tender slices of skewered chicken marinated in curried coconut milk, then grilled (or sometimes broiled), and served with peanut sauce. The satay were said to be originally hawker foods (street foods) which originated in Indonesia and adopted by other Asian countries until it became among the favorites of other countries.

Some recipes of satay would directly marinate the strips of chicken on peanut sauce (Malaysia) or sweet soy sauce (Indonesia) but the Thai version is less sweet because coconut milk is used instead.  I prefer it that way since the peanut sauce dip complements the grilled yet still succulent chicken. There's also a bit of leafy salad on the side to add color and texture.

Poh Piah Tod or  Thai Fried Spring Rolls
 The crisp and crunchy golden treats called Poh Piah Tod or Thai Fried Spring Rolls undoubtedly closely resembles the more common "lumpiang shanghai" recipe composed of finely chopped ingredients and rolled into "lumpia" or spring roll wrappers. How do you spot a good recipe for these spring rolls that look so much the same? Well, the only way is to grab a bite, and taste it first without dipping it in its accompanying sauce.

I've read somewhere that good spring rolls must taste good on their own. Poorly-made, bland fillings that exist just to live off of the charisma of crispy spring roll skins and flavorful dipping sauce are too underachieving to be worth the calories. This is why I munched on the spring rolls without any sauce and still the dish got a fair score.

Tom Kha Gai or Chicken Soup in Coconut broth and Lemongrass
The Tom Kha Gai or Chicken Soup in Coconut Broth and Lemongrass is a tasty traditional aromatic soup that's very rich in flavor brought about by the quintessential Thai ingredients: coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal (ginger's Asian sister), chile paste, and probably more depending on the chef who may vary the taste by adding more herbal ingredients to add more kicks to the flavor.

I am a sucker for anything with coconut milk but there are still some that I dislike when the manner of cooking was taken for granted. However, the
"galanga" is the more dominant flavor of this coconut milk-based soup. Kudos to the chef for making this refreshing soup among my favorites at Just Thai.

Tom Yum

The Tom Yum clear soup is an authentic Thai delicacy that has spread around the world and truly unifies a host of favorite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet, all in one bowl. Thanks to the generous use of fragrant herbs and spices, it also has many health benefits due to the potent combination.

This Thai masterpiece is considered as the signature dish and national aroma of Thailand and one of the most popular soups in the world. Some would also serve it with coconut milk to make it creamier, but then you have to call it
Tom Yum Nam Khon instead.

Khao Krok Kapi or Bagoong Rice

The Khao Krok Kapi or Bagoong Rice is served unmixed but the servers will mix it as soon as it reaches your table. It's composed of fried rice with sweet pork, strips of green mangoes, shrimp paste, scrambled eggs, onion and chili slice. I don't like to eat flavored rice along with any viands as I couldn't appreciate the real taste of the viands when combined. However, the dish is good enough as a meal on its own with the inclusion of the scrambled fried egg - not originally listed on the menu.

Pad Thai
The Pad Thai is stir-fried rice noodles with a host of ingredients like our traditional "pancit" except for the scrambled egg that is mixed into the noodles. A squeeze of lime and ground peanuts add more flavor into the dish. The chili flakes will let you add more spiciness. It is another equally famous dish along with the Tom Yum that is very popular among tourists.

I would always order Pad Thai in every Thai restaurant I visit so I could compare the taste, and fortunately I never had encountered one yet that I haven't liked. In fact, the Just Thai version rates a bit higher among some of them.
Bplah Pla Muek Kratiem or Squid with Garlic and Pepper
The Bplah Pla Muek Kratiem or Squid with Garlic and Pepper was amazingly soft and tender though I must admit I wanted this one a bit more salty and spicy. I trust this would have been better tasting if it was in its spicier version to add more character to the dish.

We all know that on its own, squid is not as tasty as prawns, so a little more herbs and spices to add more flavor was necessary to perk up the taste.

Pla Rad Prik or Crispy Fried Tilapia Fillet with Sweet Chili and Tamarind Sauce
The Pla Rad Prik or Crispy Fried Tilapia Fillet with Sweet Chili and Tamarind Sauce would have been perfect with the Khao Krok Kapi or Bagoong Rice if not for our already filled-up tummy.

It was really crispy and not too salty. The Sweet Chili or Tamarind sauces were also a sweet treat to have it eaten either way.

Pad Gaprow Talay or Mixed Seafood in Basil
Another favorite, for swimming in coconut milk and being part of the seafood category, was the Pad Gaprow Talay or Mixed Seafood in Basil. For me, the perfectly cooked medley of seafood like mussels, shrimps and squids elevates it as among the higher ranking dishes at Just Thai.

Gai Ob Bai Toey or Pandan-Wrapped Chicken
I would have preferred the Gai Ob Bai Toey or Pandan-Wrapped Chicken less deep-fried so the chicken would have remained succulent to the bite. Unwrapped, the one served to us was a bit dry inside and quite hard on the edges as per bite. I think this usually happens when it over-fried under too much heat causing the juiciness of the chicken to dry up quickly. The serving per piece was a bit smaller compared to the ones I've tried in other restaurants but teh five pieces was plenty enough for one person to enjoy.

Moo Sam Chan Yang or Grilled Pork with Tamarind Sauce
The Moo Sam Chan Yang or Grilled Pork with Tamarind Sauce turned out to be another favorite for me. Three slices of sweet marinated tender meat that was good enough even without the sauce. Too bad I was too slow to eat that my companion beat me to the other slice. I best to make sure I eat faster next time I get to dine with him again.

Below are some of the choices for drinks at Just Thai. You'll enjoy each one of them but you have to try out the Tamarind Juice as it will give you a different sensation just only after one sip. If you haven't tried something similar, I promise it will be something quite new to the taste as it is both refreshing and has the "kilig" that you'll definitely take notice.

The Thai Iced Tea may be their highly recommended signature drink but the Thai Iced Coffee kicks as well.

Thai Iced Tea
Thai Iced Coffee
Tamarind Juice
No good meal should end without special sweet treats that would linger long in our taste buds. The Just Thai dessert were made to dazzle even our eyes when they brought out a culinary masterpiece shaped like a yellow-orange flower.

Tha Kho or Coconut Pudding wrapped in Pandan Leaves
The Tha Kho or Coconut Pudding wrapped in Pandan Leaves was always something to look forward to when I dine on a Thai restaurant. It never failed to impress me though some would just refer to it as similar to the Maja Blanka (with corn) or the Tibuk Tibuk of Pampanga, but the creamier Thai dessert along with the pandan leaves presentation makes it a level above the rest.

Khao Niaow Ma Muang or Sticky Rice with Mango Slices
I was surprised that the chef had the time and patience to design a dessert that will stun our senses. It was too good looking to be eaten. It was a shame it had to just end up in our stomach. But he good thing about smartphones and social media, plus wi-fi Internet, we were able to upload the image even before we indulged on the magnificent work of art.

The Khao Niaow Ma Muang or Sticky Rice with Mango Slices didn't stand a chance against our hearty appetite. The coconut cream poured on top of the creation amplified the dining experience into heavenly heights. Such a shame we had to ruin it in just one sitting but maybe when we come back the chef will then make us one similar dessert in the shape of an elephant.

Wow! I can't believe I am still looking for elephants.

Overall, I was actually saTHAIsfed with most of the dishes that served during that afternoon. I know that there's a lot more in the kitchen just waiting to come out as per our signal, but we were just too full to go on. Our taste buds were telling us to order for more but our tummy was too bloated already.  Considering we have not even tried half of the menu, that leaves us just hoping we'll have more opportunities to try out the rest of the dishes some other day.

Thank you for the opportunity to dine at Just Thai. The authentic Thai restaurant currently has three branches, namely at  Forbestown (Burgos Circle) located in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), at the Prism Plaza, TwoE-Com Center near the Mall of Asia Complex,  and another one at the Molito Lifestyle Center in Alabang. Be sure to visit them one of these days, and please do tell me if they have an elephant on display (or take a look inside their kitchen) while you're dining on their authentic Thai dishes.

To get more information about the restaurant, please check their Facebook page:

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