Ayatana’s sleek, minimalist interior and mood lighting are worlds away from your typical suburban Thai joint. So is the menu, which has been separated into the rather Western divisions of entrees, mains and desserts. There are some obvious influences from other cuisines (tacos, bao, brioche sliders), however classic Thai flavours are still retained, giving the menu a bit of cohesion overall and preventing it from being too fusion-y.
Caramelised crispy pork belly ($14.90)
Unfortunately, the crackle was more hard than crispy. The meat was dry and chewy, as though much of the fat was absent. I’ve definitely had better pork belly before.
The caramel sauce was well-balanced, with the sweetness offset by the sharp lime, mint, coriander and red onion.
Soft shell crab ($14.90)
Crisp fried soft shell crab was complemented by a fish-sauce based dressing, julienned apple and carrot and the obligatory fresh herbs. It was lovely; light and fresh with a slight hint of chilli in the sauce.
Beef massaman curry ($18.90)
This classic sweet, mild curry was fragrant with cinnamon and star anise. The beef was apparently slow braised, however there was still quite a bit of chew to it. While it wasn’t tough, it was still firm and didn’t have that melt-in-your-mouth quality of good braised beef. Perhaps it hadn’t been cooked long enough?
Red duck curry ($23.90)
This is one of my favourite Thai dishes, and Ayatana didn’t disappoint. Thin slices of tender roasted duck breast swam in a creamy, aromatic gravy, while chunks of pinapple and cherry tomatoes helped cut through the richness.
Black sticky rice pudding ($10.90)
The black sticky rice had a smokiness to it; it was a little different to the sweet black sticky rice porridge I grew up eating. However, while unusual, it was a good foil for the sweet, eggy custard sitting in the centre of the pudding. Fresh and toasted shreds of coconut added extra flavour and texture.
Steamed banana ($12.90)
Soft, gooey and sticky with spiced palm sugar caramel, the banana was lovely. Vanilla bean ice cream and toasted honey macadamias topped off this killer dessert.
The food total for the two of us came to $111.90, or roughly $55 each, which is reasonable for this level of restaurant. (If you’re doing the maths, we had sides and rice in addition to the dishes listed above).
The main downfall was the texture of the meat – the pork belly and beef had room for improvement. Hopefully it was just a case of a malfunctioning slow cooker.
In general, the food was good. Ayatana have done a good job of modernising Thai food without straying too far from its roots. Throw in friendly service and a romantic atmosphere, and you’ve got a rather pleasant dining experience. Oh, did I mention they take bookings too?Ayatana 97 Chapel Street Windsor