MAXINE GORDON finds the perfect dish at a Thai restaurant in York

PANAENG chicken curry at Khao San Road Thai restaurant in York is a thing of wonder.

It is perfection: lip-smackingly delicious every time. And I've eaten it a lot.

In fact, my whole family has eaten it a lot. As have lots of friends. Without complaint.

So I am delighted to report that when we ordered it for reviewing purposes, the dish did not disappoint.

And neither did the restaurant. The food, service and ambience on our visit could not be faulted. Happily, this is usually the case for this popular restaurant in Walmgate (definitely pre-book a table). There has been just one occasion when the service was very poor – but everything was back to top-notch on my last visit, so I am happy to recommend to readers.

The restaurant has almost a split personality: the front is bright and bustling, and tables by the window or door can sometimes be cold. Through the back, it is darker, more intimate, and where I prefer to sit.

So what is the fuss about this Panaeng curry? Perhaps it all begins with the presentation. The dish looks as good as it tastes. It is served in a white, rectangular platter, with a trio of goodies: a garnish of appetising salad, a mound of white jasmine rice, and the main act – chicken and vegetables lavishly bathed in a thick, creamy, spicy sauce, the colour of terracotta.

Everything is beautifully cooked and fresh-looking, but the star is that sauce. Full of the flavours of coconut, chilli and lime (that holy trinity of flavours in Thai cuisine), what's not to like? It's not too spicy, not too sweet - just perfectly judged and leaves you wanting to lick every last spot off your plate.

Everything else is cooked exceptionally well too: the chicken pieces, still lovely and moist, and the rice, soft and fluffy.

There was only one problem. Reviewing rules dictate that the party has to try different dishes from the menu – so we couldn't all have the family favourite.

We did a deal – my husband and daughter would have the chicken Panaeng (£11.50 including rice) and I'd try something new. There is plenty of choice on the menu, from salads, soups, signature dishes, wok plates as well as a selection of curries.

The idea is that you can mix and match curry sauces with meat, fish or veg, with prices varying accordingly. So in theory, you could have the Panaeng with beef or belly pork, king prawn or duck, halibut, seabass or monkfish, or vegetables and tofu.

I turned to our waiter for advice. I fancied the seabass, and wondered what curry to choose with it. She suggested Rad Prik described as "crispy stir-fried with red onion, carrots, spring onion, and Thai-style three-flavours sauce". The three flavours, she said, were "sweet, sour and hot". My dish, with rice, was more expensive at £16.50.

To start, we shared some very good chicken skewers with peanut sauce (£6.50) and chilli duck rolls (£6.95), little pastry parcels crammed full of rich meat, leek, mushroom and chilli and served with a sticky and sweet Hoisin sauce. We demolished them joyfully.

Our main courses were an equal success. The Panaeng as good as ever and my Rad Prik a nice change. Sea bass is a delicate fish and although it had been lightly fried, it didn't ruin the sweet and succulent essence of the meat. And it was well matched by the broth-like sauce, in which I could detect lime and chilli, but for which the overriding taste sensation was sweet. I loved the ribbons of veggies that came piled on top of the fish: carrots, red onion and spring onion, with coriander and chilli slithers thrown in to dial up the flavours even more.

It was most enjoyable, but the Panaeng remains my favourite.

To finish, we shared a dish of banana fritters and ice-cream, £4.95 (the menu says it comes with sweet coconut milk, but it was not bother for them to swap). This was a generous plateful and plenty enough for the three of us to share. It was good, but could have been improved by a lighter batter.

We washed everything down with a mix of drinks: g&t (£3.55); Singha beer (£3.50); mango juice (£1.50) and a small glass of white wine (£3.60).

Our total bill for three came to £70.90 – £12.15 for drinks and £58.80 for food. Good value indeed.

The restaurant also offers a two-course lunch, Friday-Sunday for £10 – which is even better value!

Khao San Road

50-52 Walmgate, York

T: 01904 635 599


Food: 4/5 Delicious

Ambience: 3/5 Depends where you sit!

Service: 4/5 Attentive

Value: 4/5 Very good

Reviews are conducted independently and paid for by The Press