Review: Lemon Leaf

Naomi Boxall dines at the New Town Thai restaurant

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 19.09.2007 14:16 (updated on 19.09.2007)

Written by Naomi Boxall
for Expats.cz

Lemon Leaf is listed here under the category World Restaurants, and scores a ‘expats user´ review average of almost 8/10. It can be found on Myslikova, between Karlovo náměstí and the Vltava. There are outside tables for those who enjoy digesting a meal while being choked by traffic fumes and having your conversation punctuated by tram noises.

I´m of the school of thought that fervently believes cravings should be satisfied. I´d heard that Lemon Leaf did a good job of Thai food and I foolishly allowed myself to get excited.

I should have known better. The downloaded menu should have hinted at what was to come: a palate-twisting confusion of Italian-inspired and Thai dishes all mixed up together – but not in the good, fusion way. It was the first time I´d seen Goats Cheese (albeit temptingly smothered with a honey and pistachio coulis, baked and served on a rucola salad) next to Tom Yam Kai. Overstimulated, we chose within the realms of the supposedly Thai dishes (which include fish, vegetarian, poultry and meat dishes). Everyone is catered for, and children can be served a half sized portion for half price.

Expats.cz Rating
Atmosphere
Food
Service
Overall
From our plate
69 CZK Cold melon soup with orange juice, lemon and Galia melon
69 CZK Tom ka kai – Chicken soup with mushrooms, coconut milk and a lime leaf
49 CZK Finger-sized vegetable spring rolls (4 pcs) with a sweet chilli sauce
67 CZK Thot man kai sap – Fried chicken meatballs with coriander, ginger, sesame and chilli sauce
165 CZK Matsaman – curry sauce with pine nuts, coconut milk, potatoes
159 CZK Kang kiaow wan – Green curry with coconut milk, bamboo sprouts and sweet basil
168 CZK Kai phad khing – Chicken pieces with fresh ginger, spring onions and chilli peppers
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Our appetites were whetted by a gratis orzo contrivance, but given we´d all ordered only Thai dishes, I found it hard to truly appreciate the tasty little pasta, tomato, red onion, basil and balsamic mix.

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We had a naďve Thai diner with us, so we tried the fried chicken meatballs with coriander, ginger, sesame and chilli sauce. And too much salt. The mince had been overground and the sesame seeds would have been tastier for a moment under the grill. However, I do wonder where they got their coriander from – I find it difficult to find tasty fresh “zingy” coriander. The mini (vegetarian) spring rolls were crunchy and tasty, but the best thing about these two dishes was the puddle of chilli sauce and I´m still curious as to why they were served on a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

The Tom Ka Gai, supposedly a galangal soup, was essentially a chickenless fish sauce broth with a few sticks of lemon grass in it. There was no hint of kaffir lime leaf, and certainly no earthy pine-like aroma as there should have been from the (absent?) galangal. We had a culinary adventure with the cold melon soup, made from Galia melon, orange juice and lemon. We were pleasantly surprised it didn´t taste anything like ‘just´ juice. The consistency was much thicker and had more of a vanilla aftertaste, though the fizziness made me wonder for how long the fruit had fermented. Try it for entertainment value, but possibly as a dessert, unless you can have some Tom Ka Gai before you head into your mains.

Which should not be described by your waitress as being ‘probably disgusting´ (more on that later). The Green Chicken Curry did not taste of anything more than coconut milk with an aftertaste of chilli. Watery and insipid, it was a crushing disappointment. The Matsaman curry was missing both the piquancy of tamarind and the perfume of cardamom that should have completed the dish. It was considered very chilli-y when it splashed into my companion´s eye though…possibly due to his over-ebullient serving, having watched us eat from our dishes for a good five minutes before his finally arrived. The Kai Phad King came with onions and paprika, not the spring onions as promised. The dish should have a characteristic taste, owing to the sliced ginger in it, but unless the ginger had been pickled in brine first, then the characteristic taste came only from salt. Or possibly fish sauce, my enthusiasm for tasting had waned considerably.

The saving grace of the entire repast was the wine, but that might have been because we chose something from close to home: a Marlborough Sauvignon (NZ), which effortlessly cut through the tasteless (other than salt) cuisine.

Though the cakes in the display cabinet LOOKED good, we quit while (relatively) ahead.

Admittedly, we sat at the table near the kitchen – infrequently the best place to be seated – but it certainly didn´t explain why the waitress regularly ignored us, especially as she had to pass our table every now and then, to, y´know, serve people. Though her wan expression and lackadaisical approach to service did make me wonder if she was just there for the butter-yellow uniform. She had no idea how to pour a bottle of wine, nor who to serve first. Ideally, it would have been me (and not just because it would have made me less vituperative, but because I was the oldest female at the table) and she would have poured it from over my right shoulder – instead of stretching across another diner´s setting (already poured) and half-heartedly offering a dribble in the bottom of my glass. I was even MORE surprised and upset when she put my friend off ordering the ‘could have been tasty´ Laab Kai, saying that it would be “probably disgusting” and not at all clarifying why this should be so except to say it was “very Thai”. This is, in my opinion, so wholly inappropriate that I was tempted to leave before my eyebrows escaped my face entirely (it was the Sauvignon that held me).

All in all, with the appalling service and the insipid food, I was too vexed to pay attention to the high-ceilinged ambience. I missed the brass bamboo cutlery that I´ve seen in other Thai restaurants. And while I know it’s not authentic unless you’re in a Khao San tourist trap, I do like the addition of roti to a Thai meal. I cared little that the ubiquitous rice paper lamp shades were in attendance here as everywhere else, or that the wood was dark as opposed to Scandinavian blonde. I did wonder why soulful house music was coming out of the speakers but shook my head in dismay and gave it no further thought.

On the night we went, Lemon Leaf was filled with tourists and expatriates – two of us between 25 and 30 brought the average age down to 65. As we left, I noticed that the other diners were eating from the Italian side of the menu. It made me wonder whether the restaurant was catering to their needs in order to bring in sufficient business, or if, perhaps, they simply knew better than me. Will I go back? Not unless I wanted to upset a friend…