Esarn Kheaw has been plying its trade near Shepherds Bush Green for many years now (dating back to the 1990s), and clearly has a local following. The menu is lengthy and features dishes from the north of Thailand as well as more familiar fare. Tables are packed close together, and despite a distinctly quiet evening we were allocated a tiny table for two that was clearly going to struggle to accommodate more than a couple of dishes, when there were numerous larger tables available; perhaps they were expecting a late rush. To be fair, when the main courses arrived they eventually pulled another table across to make some more room, but this was out of necessity unless the plates were to be balanced on our laps.
The wine list was the sort of joke list that some Asian restaurants seem to go in for, with choices such as “Chardonnay South Australia £19.80”; no pesky details like the grower, let alone the vintage, but we were informed that it was “rich and powerful”. A restaurant would be unlikely to put a dish on the menu that read “Unspecified curry, maybe with meat or fish, but quite hot” so why do they commit such sins with wine lists?
Tom yum goong (£7.95) was the dish of the night, a well-made rendition of the classic soup, with mushrooms and prawns that were properly cooked, and above all with a nicely balanced stock with a rich blend of spices (3/10). Fish cakes (£4.95) were sadly not of the same calibre, greasy and slightly chewy in texture, served with pickled vegetables that lacked the advertised spicy sauce (0/10).
A main course of green chicken curry (£7.95) was reasonable, the chicken a little overcooked but the curry blend capably put together (1/10). Pad Thai noodles (£8.95) were also well made, with good texture and properly cooked prawns (2/10). However a minced pork salad (£7.95) was practically inedible, wildly over-salted even for a salt lover like me; there may have been some lemon juice, lime leaf and coriander somewhere in the dish, but I just tasted salt and more salt (0/10). The bill came to £28 before service for two courses and some beer, which is not particularly excessive by London standards. My main concern was the inconsistency, with some nice food but with two of the dishes of a really poor standard.