I will try to hold back and not spend 500 words telling you HOW bad the service was at the new Covent Garden Thai restaurants Suda Rice Bar (I went there in the soft opening period about a month ago after I had read the Skinny Bib’s review). I am terribly delayed with my restaurant posts, so the HORRIBLE service I experiencedÂ might have improved by now. I hope it has really, otherwise Suda Rice Bar won’t be around for much longer, let me tell you that much.
Suda Rice Bar is one of these mixed restaurant/bar places which sometimes work but very often don’t…The interior is all about dark wood and little wood donkeys on the tables grazing on grass (see below).Â I spent the whole evening staring at them and wondering what the interior designer wanted to express. I still don’t know if I like them or not. They are certainly… ahmmm different?
From the name I expected the menu to be very rice oriented , but in the end there were only 6 rice dishes on the menu, comparable to any other Thai restaurants. The menu does sound very interestingly though and there is certainly some divergence from the standard Thai fare on offer. This is hardly surprising considering that the masterminds behind Suda are the same people that are also involved with the high-end Thai restaurant chain Patara.
Jumping on the small plate bandwagon, Suda Rice Bar also has a “small plate” section on the menu (they used to be called starters, right?). You will search in vain for greasy prawn toast or other fried monstrosities, but find light and creative fusion style dishes. The Crabmeat rolls (5.95) which were served drizzled with a sweet and tangy tamarind sauce were rather lovely. Less convincing was the pomelo salad (5.50). While the kaffir lime based sauce was gorgeous, I found it rather lazy to just dump some pieces of pomelo and some prawns on a plate without any additional ingredients. What about herbs? Chilli? Peanuts? Anything??
Green curry as a starter, sorry, as a small plate? Not a bad idea really, and the beef curry with rice cakes was the most convincing of the first course. However, Suda tries too hard to please its Western and potentially spice-phobic customers, as none of the dishes was even remotely spicy. Upon ordering we told the waitress that we wanted our dishes hot as one is supposed to be able to ask for ‘Chilli on Demand‘. This request appears to have never reached the kitchen… (or was ignored there?).
I love som tum, the famous spicy Thai green papaya salad, so I was more than intrigued by the ‘Som Tum Bar’ section on the menu. Apart from the conventional som tum, there were several other oriental salads to choose from. To go for the SUDA beef salad with lemongrass and chilli dressing was a mistake. Although the beef was generous and quite nicely cooked, I again resented the minimalistic approach to just lovelessly dump the meat on some leaves of supermarket bagged green salad.
I thought the idea to serve pad thai with green papaya instead of noodles was ingenuous. Basically pad thai for people on carb free diet! In reality there is a reason why pad thai is usually served with noodles. The papaya variant semi-worked, but overall the warm green papaya just made the dish too watery and somehow odd-tasting.
By far the best dish of the evening was the massaman curry. I usually never order this curry because it’s not spicy enough for me and I am not keen on potatoes in curries either. It was something my dinner companions chose and I am glad they did: the beef was deliciously cooked, almost falling apart, and the sauce was full of wonderful rich flavours.
I was terribly annoyed when apart from the banana fritters and the fruit salad, Suda had ran out of all dessert. They sounded very good, I love mange with sticky rice and I would have tried the taro balls in coconut cream. How can they run out of 4 desserts on your menu! They must have assumed that someone might actually order them?
So there were some lovely dishes (the more authentic /classic ones) and questionable ones (the ‘inventive’ or fusion ones). Considering that it’s not expensive and that we are not exactly spoiled with decent Thai restaurants in Central London, I might go back. This all depends however on whether Suda has managed to iron out the mistakes in their lazy cooking and presentation and to employ some waiters that actually succeed in looking after 2 tables without being completely out of their comfort zone. Otherwise it’s just painful and not worth it.
- Food: 6/10
- Service: 3/10
- Ambiance: 7/10
- Value for Money: 7/10
- Chances of returning: 5%
- Verdict:Â mixed bag of modern Thai food.