When Shiok first opened on CMH Road, way back in 2003, my girlfriends Melanie, Marianne, and I were amongst the first visitors. One of us liked the cocktails, one of us loved the pan-Asian food, and one of us loved the discreet little booths that let us bitch with abandon – sometimes about people sitting barely a few feet away. (Which of us liked what? Amuse yourselves by guessing). We began eating there often, and over the years, I took to visiting Shiok with family too. Why? Because Shiok served some of the most authentic Thai food you could get outside of a five star restaurant in Bangalore.
So you can imagine my distress when I learnt in June that Madhu Menon, the ex-techie who chucked his well-paying corporate career to open the restaurant, was downing shutters. “It’s only temporary,” he assured me – but I was certain some evil, binary-spewing behemoth had won back his soul with the lure of the lucre. Where would I go for perfect Gaeng Phed Kai that hadn’t been thickened with cornstarch and wouldn’t break the bank? Who would serve me Hor Mok, or even know what it was?
Madhu put me out of my misery a week ago when he reopened Shiok on the Inner Ring Road (closer to my home than it had been in its earlier location) with a sexy little cocktail lounge attached for good measure. Parking outside the restaurant is, at the moment, impossible with a capital “I”. You need to drive a couple of feet past Shiok, turn left onto the dirt road that leads to the rear gate of the KGA, and park in an empty site.
The decor is tasteful and understated – polished bamboo, some nice latticework to hide the air conditioners, and a few classy objets d’art of Southeast Asian origin placed in wall niches. The booths have been replaced by open plan seating (sorry ladies!).
The menu hasn’t changed at all. Madhu knows when he’s got a good thing going. Although he does plan to update the menu at some point, right now, he’s focusing on delivering better service. And the guys at Shiok are doing a great job. One waiter gets full marks for smiling all the time – even when merely casting an eagle eye around “his” tables to see what needs to be done. The martini I order is pretty good. Have I had better? Sure I have. But I’ve also had much, much worse, and at much, much “better” establishments that charge much, much higher prices. My dining partner, being, at the age of nine, a mocktail connoisseur, pronounces his Red Sunset “delicious” although “a bit too heavy on the apple juice.”
We start our meal with Pla Tod Sahm Rod, crispy fish in a sauce of tamarind, chilli, garlic, and palm sugar. I choose this dish because it epitomizes a basic tenet of Thai cuisine: the delicate balance between salt, sweet, sour, and spicy. I’ve never tried it before, despite having been a Shiok regular. I am suitably impressed. The topping of basil leaves is fried correctly, neither dripping in oil nor fried to a cinder, and the coating on the fish is just enough to allow the flavor of the fish to come through. I’m not sure what fish was used the day we ate, but I’d have prefered a more delicately textured fish – sea bass, perhaps. Should you order this dish, be sure to finish it quickly – it doesn’t stay crisp for long.
Having come here with the express intention of committing the deadly sins of gluttony and greed, we also order a plate of drunken beef, an old favorite. Strips of beef stir-fried with chilli, garlic, and basil are the perfect accompaniment to beer or other pre-meal drinks. I remember this dish as being much spicier. It seems to have been toned down, perhaps for the likes of the obnoxious person at the next table who demands that a spicy noodle dish be “tweaked” with “absolutely no chilli” for his daughter; sends back a meat dish because there isn’t enough broccoli in it (“kya hai yaar?”); complains that the yellow curry “has no kaffir lime leaves in it” (it isn’t supposed to!); and finally announces loudly that he learned all he knows from a chef at “Pan Asia restaurant”… like we’re all supposed to know what or where that is.
Nine year-old and I opt for different entrees, but stick with the restaurant’s specialty – seafood. He opts for Cili Sotong, calamari done to perfection in a tomato-based chilli sauce, and combines it with a simple Egg Fried Rice. I need no urging to order the Black Pepper Crab – live whole crab fried in roasted peppercorn, chilli, a hint of oyster sauce, and a lot of garlic. The crab is fresh and has the texture of butter. The seasonings enhance rather than overwhelm the recently-deceased crustacean. All you need for this is a bib, which Shiok does not provide. Madhu, are you listening?
Needless to say, we are now stuffed silly, and must return another day to sample other delights, including vegetarian options.
Shiok Far-eastern cuisine
96, Amar Jyoti Layout
Inner Ring Road, Bangalore
Bangalore – 560 071
Phone: (080) 6571 5555/6666
Lunch: 12 PM – 3:30 PM
Dinner: 7:30 PM – 11:30 PM