I start off this article with an exhilarating “wow”. After two years from my last review on serving up modern Thai cuisine along 38 Martin Road, KHA refreshes its menu line up with a new Chef on board and a focus that brings back the regional Thai onto the plates of diners in Singapore. It was the flavours that got me excited, yearning to write this very article. My immediate takeaway were bold words that entertained the strong, impactful, lasting, and memorable. They were plates of pleasure that took your palate to delicate extremes lovingly and fierily. A tingling sensation on the tongue, with a clamour for the next visit. This is KHA, revitalised!
A different world within KHA.
Executive Chef Adam Cliff is no stranger to Thai cuisine. A protege of the acclaimed Thai cuisine chef David Thompson, Adam has worked in some of the world’s most famous Thai restaurants such as the Nahm London, the first Thai restaurant awarded with a Michelin star, Nahm Bangkok, Bo.lan Bangkok, and Sailors Thai in Sydney. Chef Adam influenced the menu at KHA with his memories of the Northeastern Thai Isaan cuisine culture. Isaan food is distinctively different from the sweeter flavours found in central Thailand, with a focus on the strong, intensive and the wholesome. Flavours that left me very impressed in almost every dish.
I started off the night with drinks to warm up the body. After getting caught in the sudden downpour from my way along the Central, Clarke Quay, I needed something to heat things up. The waitress kindly recommended the Thai Whiskey Sour ($12) made with bourbon, tamarind, fresh lime and palm sugar. Slightly sweet, mostly tangy with a refreshing aftertaste, this was really good. And if I may add at this moment, this is an excellent drink of choice to accompany the dishes to come.
The Kha Martini ($12) on the other hand, is more of a pre-dinner or post-dinner drink. Served up with Vodka, and shaken with melon liquor, fresh pineapple juice and kaffir lime, the flavours of alcohol might be too strong for some. As a drink its good, but as an accompaniment, I would go for the whiskey sour any day.
The first dish of the night left a beautiful memory. The Som Dtum Malakor ($16), a pounded green papaya salad, cherry tomatoes, chilli, dried shrimp with a sweet and sour tamarind dressing and a side of candied pork carries the bold flavours of sweet, sour and spicy all in one. The crunchy and refreshingly tasty papaya salad, speckled with the crisp nature of nuts, is given a sharp contrast with candied pork that was lovingly dry, sweet and savoury. A flavour that reminded me of crosses between bak-kwa and charsiew. The hotness from the papaya salad is not to be undermined, but those unnerved by the sight of chilli, you can request for a slightly less spicy offering. Though honestly, it is best served as is. A must order and prepare a glass of iced water.
The green papaya salad is recommended by the restaurant as best eaten with sticky rice. I was initially quite clueless when these two baskets of rice appeared on the table and didn’t know what to eat it with. On its own, its smooth and deep, continued chew, slowly reveals an inner sweetness and fragrance that cannot be so distinctively obtained from the non sticky rice. However as dinner progressed, I found that the sticky rice complements the various sauces and meats very nicely. Savoury and fragrant with delicate sweetness!
The restaurant’s focus on grills displays beautifully in the dish of Gai Yung Essan ($15). Two skewers of boneless chicken thigh is marinated for 24 hours in garlic, pepper, coriander and served with a side of jhim jeaw. The fragrance of garlic and grilled meat is distinctive, and the glimmering reddish brown colour, tantalizing. Dip the grilled meat into the side of spicy and sour Thai sauce and allow the flavours to develop and intensify as it permeates the meat. Thumbs up!
This was the only dish that might be acquired for some. The Nahm Dtok Nuer ($22) is a creation of spicy grilled Wagyu salad with shallots, coriander mint, lime, fish sauce and toasted rice dressing. The first piece itself was already a sharp acidic, with the intensities of saltiness amplified. To put it one way, it really opens up the tastebuds, but after that I would rather down the dish with some beer to tone down the flavours.
Yes, Singha Beer. Excellent accompaniment for almost all the dishes.
Next up, the Moo Yung ($23). I was quite taken aback with the subtle intense flavours of Iberico pork complementing the mixture of thai garlic, coriander and pepper, chopped chilli, garlic and lime moorish. Each piece of pork boasted a loving garlic fragrance that exemplified the unique savouriness of Iberico. Contrast that with the slight spice from the chillies and lime acids, and create a whole new flavour that would leave one with hearty breaths and yummy askings. A chefs favourite and best with the whiskey sour.
The following dish of Pla Phao Glua ($30) comprises of a whole salt-crusted seabass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanas and Thai Basil stalks. It is then slow cooked over a fire and served with a green chilli dipping sauce. Another chefs favourite, the dish must be ordered at least half and hour in advance.
The green chilli dipping sauce making its impression on the grilled skin.
The moment of revealation for this dish is when one lifts up the salt crusted fish skin to expose the delicate tender white meat within. While the skin remains crisp and slightly salty, the meat is steamed, juicy, with a simple fragrance of freshness. It is not flaky and can be easily removed in whole pieces. It is one dish that would leave anybody impressed. It goes with or without the green chilli dipping sauce, and I must say that I loved it without.
A lasting favourite from the old KHA menu is the Phad Daohoo Sum Rot ($14). Fried crispy tofu with three flavour sauce is best eaten when served to enjoy the contrasting textures of crispy with a steaming hot, soft tofu interior. The sauce is a mild savoury with a refreshing vegetable sweetness, making the combination a textural and flavour delight that boast simple, strong mixtures.
Before heading into desserts, enjoy a serving of Pla Mauk Tort ($14) – baby squid deep fried until crispy, then tossed in red tumeric and garlic, served with a fresh lime wedge and side of sea salt. Excellent!
The memorable favourite of Khao Niaw Mamuang ($12) is one signature dessert that you cannot leave the restaurant without ordering. Honey sweet mango is complemented with savoury and sweet sticky rice. However, the key in this dish is the unique umami fragrance that develops from the sticky rice upon each chew. The flavours deepen and escalates with the sweet combination of mango, and lastly topped with the sweet salty fragrance of coconut cream that harmonizes both ingredients together.
Tan Tim Krawp ($9) is a creation of red rubies, coconut jasmine syrup and shaved iced. Its simple presentation deceptively hides a delicate fragrance of jasmine floral, sweet coconut textured with water chestnuts and pomegranate. A light dessert, yet exquisitely crafted.
The final dessert of Kanom Dtom ($10) is a serving of warm coconut rice dumplings served in salted coconut cream. The soft, chewy texture of the coconut rice dumplings concealed a portion of desiccated coconut infused with palm sugar. When combined with the salted coconut cream, the dumpling’s sweetness intensifies and sharpens, making each serve a joy to take in. Though, I do note that the salty coconut cream might not be for everyone. I thought it was perfect the way it is.
As a whole, the flavours at KHA have impressed tastebuds on a whole new level. The flavours are very unique, distinct, and memorable and a refreshing take from the more widespread central Thai cuisine available in Singapore. I would highly recommend the Papaya Salad, Gai Yung Essan, Moo Yung and Salt-crusted whole Seabass for a taste at the spectrum of flavours available that exhibit the culinary skills of Chef Adam and his team. For desserts, all three are excellent in their own right, but my personal favourite will go to the Mango Sticky Rice and the Kanom Dtom. Sweet and salty flavours, when done right, always work for me. Excellent cuisine at KHA, with dishes that will leave you impressed and maybe even go “wow”.
Thank you KHA for the invitation
Martin No. 38
38 Martin Road
Tel: 6476 9000
Website: www.kha.sgOpens from:
Lunch 12pm-3pm (last order 2.30pm)
Dinner 6pm-11pm (last order 10.30pm)