Korat Thai Cafe at Orchard Towers has legit Thai food
Sometimes, the best food you’ll find is not in the prettiest of places, and my virgin trip to Orchard Towers brought home that point. I was there to hunt down Korat Thai Cafe, a spot that’s been there for years and years, but was recently bought over by Class 95 DJ’s The Muttons.
Food at Korat Thai Cafe
Fans of Korat Thai Cafe need not worry that new management equals new menu. They’ve retained the tried-and-tested favourites, and expanded it to include a spread of new dishes as well. We started with Leng Saap ($22/$38), which they’ve named Volcano Pork Spine in English—for the way they’ve stacked up massive cuts of pork backbone on the plate.
Sold in 1kg and 2kg portions, this dish sees the backbones simmered till the meat is tender enough to pick off the bones.
You’ll have to get your hands dirty to fully enjoy this, with its base of a tangy broth dressed with fresh herbs including coriander and chilli. It’s pretty clean-tasting but with enough of a zing that makes it rather appetising with the pieces of meat.
Your best experience at Korat Thai Cafe is better guaranteed if you go with a group, because you can then order Chu Chee Sea Bass ($35), prepared with fresh sea bass that’s sent directly to the eatery from Jurong Fishery Port. It’s deep-fried Thai-style, then drenched in a rich, savoury red curry gravy that’s house-made.
I appreciated how the fish wasn’t overly fried to smithereens, which IMO would have wasted the use of fresh fish. It’s also not entirely drenched in curry, so you get a good balance of fried bits, and curry-draped crispy fish.
The queues at Michelin-recommended Jeh O Chula are infamously long, and have spawned replicas everywhere. Korat Thai Cafe joins in the fray with Korat Tom Yum Mama ($32), which is good for two to three. Else, you could go for the $65 serving of Tom Yum Mama Ultra that’s suggested to be shared among four to six diners.
The tom yum soup base here is house-made, and on our visit was a tad too sour for our liking. The pot is a trove of liao, including prawns, meatballs which I didn’t particularly fancy, crab meat, squid and more.
Taking this pot of tom yum noodles a notch up were tasty slices of sio bak, with crackling skin that had a good amount of crunch, and lent extra savouriness to our noodles.
If you’re here for a solo meal, consider Chu Chee Beef with Rice ($8.50), which you can have with other proteins such as chicken or pork. This one’s for the curry rice fiends, because I loved how generous they were with the red curry gravy, which wasn’t as thick as the fried fish version, but no less addictive.
The beef was just the right amount of tender and I liked how the thin shreds of kaffir lime leaf added an extra, aromatic lift to the flavours here.
Khao Soi ($12), or Thai curry noodles, is a Northern Thai noodle dish that has seen some increase in popularity here. It was even ranked on TasteAtlas as the best soup in the world!
This bowl comes with the requisite thick egg noodles, as well as the deep-fried strands on top, in a coconut cream-based gravy. Fresh lime, shallots, and extra chilli are included too, which cut through the creamy curry base.
A whole drumstick, cooked in this same gravy, completes the bowl of noods. We were surprised to find it still tender and juicy within, flavourful inside and out.
Another must-order at Korat Thai Cafe is their Signature Crispy Omelette ($9.50/$12.50), which you could get with chicken, beef, pork, prawn, or simply plain. It left me ultra guilty, thinking of the amount of oil this utterly crisp omelette was fried in, but so incredibly crispy. We had ordered the prawn version, but the chunks of seafood in this were secondary to the deep-fried egg.
Snack-wise, go for Deep Fried Pork Belly ($15.90), a dish that held its own after all the other stuff we had. Like the fish, it wasn’t overly fried, and the layers of fat were melt-in-your-mouth tender.
We enjoyed how the slices of pork belly weren’t tough, and were thoroughly marinated so we didn’t get any porky flavour coming through. Plus points go to the crispy chilli dip on the side, which we definitely recommend you dip the meat in.
Upcoming on the menu is Tom Kha Pla Bee Hoon ($12), or Thai coconut milk soup with fish. It’s the fish version of the more commonly found tom kha gai, aromatic with herbs such as lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves.
Fresh sea bass slices feature here, and they come in thick slices which didn’t disintegrate into the broth. The creamy soup, with its lightly spicy, herbaceous notes, highlighted the natural sweetness of this fish.
It could get jelak because of the coconut cream in this, but I loved it. Where the tom yum mama was too sour for us, this was balanced perfectly.
My only gripe was that this was served with thick bee hoon, which I felt didn’t complement the broth as well as glass noodles might have.
Ambience at Korat Thai Cafe
Korat Thai Cafe is nestled in a corner on the third floor of Orchard Towers, a five-minute walk from Orchard MRT Station. The set-up is basic and no-frills, and is a little tired and grimy—to some, that’s all part of the experience.
There are plenty of seats, albeit simple plastic chairs and foldable tables; they’re prepared for a crowd too, evidenced by the extras stacked by the side. On the plus side, it’s air-conditioned, since they are located in a building, after all. Focus on the smells of your meal wafting out from their kitchen, and tune out the other, less palatable ones that greet you when you enter the building.
Don’t expect a fancy dining experience at Korat Thai Cafe. Orchard Towers has a rep for being dingy and shady, but the good news—not for all of us, I assume—is that the nightlife entertainment scene here is no more. That aside, the food at Korat Thai Cafe deserves the popularity it’s gained over the many years, and the new dishes should only add to its name.
For more Thai food options, check out Let’s KINN Thai, a hawker stall in Tanjong Pagar Plaza that also serves tom yum mama pots. Alternatively, Tha Chang Noodle Bar, which some might recognise from their days at Golden Mile Complex, has relocated to a glitzier locale in Telok Ayer.
Address: 400 Orchard Road, #03-28 Orchard Towers, Singapore 238875
Opening hours: Daily 11:30am to 11pm
Tel: 8208 0651
Korat Thai Cafe is not a halal-certified eatery
Photos taken by Ke-ian J Leong.
This was a media tasting at Korat Thai Cafe.