When Thai Thani closed its doors in early March, Mandalay lost one of its best Thai restaurants. Fortunately it was only temporary: the owners were simply moving down the road to a bigger venue. Although distinctively different in style, the menu features many of the original items and the kitchen team, led by a Thai chef, are still the same.

We popped in for a late lunch on a hot Mandalay afternoon to see what this new version, with its new name, was all about. The downstairs dining area has plenty of natural light, high ceilings and seating for around eighty guests. It was not very busy when we arrived, leaving it feeling a bit cavernous, but when full I would imagine the vibe is pleasant. Upstairs was still under construction but will have seating for up to one hundred people and the outside garden currently seats twenty but will soon expand to accommodate larger parties.

But we were here for the food and we were not disappointed. We started with fried shrimp cakes (tod mon kong: 3,800 mmk) and chicken in pandan leaves (gai haw bai toey; 5,000 mmk). These two dishes are seemingly simple, but easy to overcook. But, Maha Chai nailed it, with the shrimp cakes being firm but not at all rubbery and the moist chicken having a nice peppery zing.

Mouthwatering Grilled Chicken

Next up, we had the grilled chicken (half: 8,500 mmk//whole: 17, 000 mmk) – a new dish on the Maha Chai menu – and morning glory sautéed with garlic and oyster sauce (pad hung fai dang: 2,500 mmk). Compared to our beautifully-presented starters, the chicken came out resembling a pile of meat. Which, in fact, it was! We had half a chicken- served with bones to lock in the moisture – and it was superb. The meat was succulent and the skin was slightly crispy. The dipping sauces- a sweet chili sauce and a tamarind-based spicy sauce- were served on the side but not really needed thanks to fact that the chicken actually tasted like chicken! The vegetables were also delicious but we were too busy devouring the chicken to pay much attention to them.

One new feature of Maha Chai is a breakfast menu: an affordable selection of Thai dishes and drinks that the owners hope will draw in customers looking for a pleasant change from tea shop dining. Although we were stuffed from our chicken feast, the owner insisted that we sample a bit of the kuay teow, Thai noodles commonly eaten at breakfast or as a snack. We tried two variations. One was a rice noodle soup with chicken that instantly transported me to my favourite breakfast spot in Thailand- a tiny street stall near my old Bangkok apartment. The clear broth had generous helpings of herbs, crispy bean sprouts, tender chicken meat and al-dente noodles. The second version was a salad using thicker noodles, a richer soy-based sauce and pork ribs. If you are looking for a heavier, more filling breakfast, this is the way to go. The ribs were slightly overcooked but this could have been due to our late arrival time.

Chicken in Pandan Leaves

On the verge of suffering from a food hangover, we ordered an iced latte (2000mmk) and Thai iced tea (2500mmk) to help us stay awake. While we were waiting for them to be served, the staff brought us a complimentary dessert that is served to every guest: steamed banana in coconut sauce. Although the dish didn’t appear too appetising, it was very tasty and just the right serving size.

As we stepped back into the Mandalay heat, we had a quick look at the garden area and dreamed about sitting there on a cold winter night huddled over steaming bowls of spicy tom yum soup and glasses of wine. That may be a few months off but at least we can enjoy the delicious food of Maha Chai in the comfort of the air conditioning for the time being.



Maha Chai Restaurant

27th Street between 68th and 69th Streets


Phone: 09259236878, 09257899784

Opening Hours: 07.00 – 23.00 daily



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