Indulge your taste buds in a medley of flavours of Thai cuisine

You are greeted by a giant standing Buddha — gold and glinting, a palm raised in blessing. Couple that with an orange elephant as a logo and how wrong can you go. Thai Express, the international franchisee, has an outlet in Hyderabad that aims to serve Thai cuisine in a relaxed ambience.

The interiors certainly deliver. On entering the restaurant, the wooden flooring and beams, the warm orange upholstery and the attentive staff make for a wonderful welcome. Ceiling to floor windows wrap the side of the restaurant, giving one a view of the busy street below.

Thai cuisine is known for its harmony of tastes. The balance of sweet, sour, hot, salty and even bitter is what gives it its distinctive flavour. We started our meal with avocado juice; the fact that the menu stated that it was healthy made us feel rather smug.

The juice was thick and creamy. It had a delicate sweetness tempered by a slight bitterness. If you would rather not experiment there are plenty of options such as the Chiang Mai Mango Blend, which is akin to a rich mango milkshake, or you could try the run of the mill sweet lime juice. For starters we had the prawn toast and the ubiquitous chicken satay. The golden brown, toasted bread which was fried in a prawn batter was indulgent and delicious. The chicken satay was smoky and tender. The accompanying peanut sauce, which was a blend of the sweetness of peanuts with the spiciness of chilli, maximised the flavour.

Other starters to try are the Poo tod kratiem phrik which is Thai soft shell crab made with the chef's secret batter and, if you are vegetarian, the Tau hoo tod which is tofu squares.

The main course of the menu lists a variety of dishes. There is the ever favourite pad thai which is stir fried rice-noodles with eggs, tamarind juice, red chilli pepper, plus a combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu according to your preference topped with crushed peanuts, coriander, lime and various other condiments. This dish signifies Thai cuisine: with each bite one can taste an explosion of flavours from the crunchiness of the peanuts to the smoothness of the noodles.

The restaurant also boasts of its tom yum soups. The clear, savoury broth comes with chicken, sea food or vegetables according to what you desire.

By the end of the meal one is simply too full for dessert. But if you managed to save some room try the red bean dessert with homemade red bean paste or the Thai banana fritters with coconut ice-cream.

What comes through in all the dishes is the authenticity. There has been no attempt to water it down or tweak it to suit an Indian palate. It is exotic and hearty without being overly rich. The restaurant offers a true taste of Thailand

Thai express

Road no.3, Banjara Hills (next to Q-Mart). Contact: 40213538

Seating capacity: 110

Average meal for two: Rs.1000

Valet parking: Available