Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Open 11.00-22.00 daily. Address: Kazimierza Brodzińskiego 3, 30-001 Kraków.
Phone: +48 515 922 890. @ http://me-thai.pl/ ; https://www.ubereats.com/en-PL/krakow/food-delivery/me-thai
Despite the influx of Asian options in Krakow – some of which, as I've written about previously, are very good indeed – there have been very few out and out Thai restaurants to thrive in the city. Big Mango has done well, though I have to admit its location has always been a factor putting me off going. Last year, the very good Taj opened in Kazimierz. Both are quality Thai eating experiences according to some knowledgeable foodies. But Krakow is definitely big enough for more, and so it was with some enthusiasm that I noticed one of the old red-fronted Chinese/Vietnamese eateries that I scorn so often had changed its image and décor, and become a Thai place. Located half way between the footbridge and the road bridge at the end of Krakowska on the Podgorze side, Me Thai has joined the food revolution on this side of the river and since last summer offered another option for those of us who just can't get enough spice in our diets.
In place of the rather dingy decorations of the old Chinese that occupied this ground-floor diner there are now some pleasant Oriental paintings, light shades and furniture. A lick of paint, a lighter and breezier atmosphere. Yet, it has got to be said, this restaurant falls far short on the ambiance front. For one thing, there is a terrible music policy. Every time I've visited, and this time was no different, some fast-beat bland pop music was playing, usually on the radio, lending the place no sense of calm at all. This is such a no-brainer that I can't believe any restaurant can have this problem. Secondly, there are rarely any customers here, and you will usually have your pick of seats. That includes weekends. Fine if you want a quick eat by yourself, but not so fine for a meal with friends, and forget it as a romantic date-type of destination. I call it the UberEats Effect. Some restaurants have become de facto takeaway joints which survive via takeaway portals such as Pyszne.pl, and seem to be able to survive without sit-down customers. I went to a (relatively new) pizza place in Kazimierz last weekend with one customer, and was told I'd have to wait a minimum forty minutes for food. You do the math(s). Anyway, we had the place to ourselves at 8pm on a Sunday. No bookings needed here.
So, it's all about the food at Me Thai. And here's the thing: it's very good indeed. The menu includes quite a few Thai favourites, but focuses on various types of Thai curry, and there is no question you should try one if you come. All offer a choice of meats – chicken, pork, beef or duck – and prawns – for varying prices. There is a chili scale indicating hotness. Dishes come in at 25-35zł on average, so it's pretty reasonable. The menu also features a Vietnamese section now, which is a new addition. Vietnamese and Thai have more in common with each other than Chinese food (which both are often combined with in restaurants in this city) as they both lack the MSG-heavy, deep fried food with sweet/sour glutinous sauces that Chinese often features. I suspect that, depending how many orders the Vietnamese section gets on Pyszne, this restaurant may become more of a Vietnamese one over time as the chefs and owner are all from Hanoi.
I ordered a healthy-looking starter: Prawn Salad (23zł). The menu is not in English, and there aren't many indications even in Polish as to what the dishes contain, so it was with mild surprise that what arrived was an absolutely excellent Thai-style salad with shredded green mango and papaya, carrots and plump, crispy, fried prawns. I haven't tasted one so good and so authentic since travelling in Thailand. It was that good. Bursting with flavour, fresh veg, and tasty prawns – and a good portion too. I had a Singha beer to go with it (330ml, 12zł). Other beers on offer are Żywiec and Tyskie, and then you're down to soft drinks, although there are a few 'oriental fruit' varieties like guava and lychee.
Next, I decided to order from the Vietnamese part of the menu and decided on a Pho Bo (23zł) with beef. Again, the menu gave very little away about the dish, but I was pretty happy when it arrived. A rich broth with bean sprouts, spring onions, coriander and a generous supply of thinly-sliced beef arrived in a large 500ml bowl, which would have made a decent main course in itself. This is a real signature Vietnam dish, and I've tried many in Asia. I'd compare this favourably with those again – you are able to adjust the spice level with an extra chili pepper and sliced garlic – which is an authentic touch. I found the small dish of spicy sauce which was served with it a bit ketchup-like for my tastes though. The dish is traditionally garnished in Vietnam with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, Thai basil, fresh Thai chili peppers, lemon or lime wedges, bean sprouts, and cilantro (coriander leaves) or culantro. I'd have appreciated the sour taste that lemon adds here, but most of the rest of the boxes were ticked. The noodles were also well-cooked - flat rice noodles. So far so good.
My main was a Thai red curry with crispy duck (35zł), while Kasia ordered a black pepper sauce curry with tofu and broccoli. I've had curries here before, and have never gone away disappointed with the flavour and freshness of ingredients. This one, medium hotness on the scale, certainly contained the requisite chili, and the sauce, creamy with coconut milk, was fine. Plenty of veg – crinkle-cut carrots and potatoes, green beans and peppers. The duck – a huge portion – tender but very crispy and sliced, slightly overdone in places perhaps. But overall, a more than acceptable curry for me, as honest and authentic as I've had in this city. Kasia's meal was also a well-executed one, showing a flair for spice with the use of fresh green peppercorns on the stem – plenty of them – an ingredient I haven't seen used in this city. A good indication of a willingness to create authenticity.
A rather uneventful dessert of fried banana with a dollop of cream (13zł) was an understandable anti-climax (when will I learn to just skip dessert in Asian diners?). This restaurant is a curate's egg: good in parts – and in the parts it's good, it can be very good – worth every penny. I've been on repeat visits, and have never been let down by the food so far. Prices are also fair. But, add in that rather drab atmosphere and what I'd have to add was somewhat lack-lustre service, and you have half a restaurant here. I'm not sure the owners are really making enough effort to make this work as a sit-down restaurant. Even the website hasn't been updated from when there used to be a Chinese menu here, and their Facebook site doesn't feature a menu either. There's a lack of care in the venture as a whole. I can't wholeheartedly recommend it as a restaurant-going experience - at least for now. Which is a shame. But then there's that food. Get on the phone now and order your takeaway. In that, you surely won't be disappointed.
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