Naming a Thai restaurant Sukhothai is as original as calling a Chinese joint something like ‘Lucky Dragon’. In fact, there are two Sukhothais – unrelated to this one – crowding this town already. So what’s hip at this third joint?
Certainly not the décor. The chintzy gold tablecloths and framed stock photos could have come from an oddly aristocratic tourist stall. But this place is pretty far from royal: the menu is riddled with errors, and the kitchen is actually located in another building. As a result, waitresses are forced to walk across the street to serve plates of vinegary green pawpaw salad (38RMB), which is little more than a pile of tomatoes and droopy, fridge-old shaved papaya drowning in a weepy dressing.
Every Thai cookbook features a pad Thai, and the dish is a useful gauge for a restaurant’s ability, but it’s absent from Sukhothai’s menu: you’ll have to settle for the ‘drunken noodles’ (35RMB): a heap of chewy fried noodles topped with decent shrimp – a dish more Chinese than Thai. The standard traffic-light-style options of red, green and yellow curries are slightly watery, though occasionally powerfully spicy. Our green chicken curry (45RMB) was like liquid fire – great for those who like to sweat over a meal, but the poor balance of flavours meant there was little else past the heat. Meanwhile, the basil beef (48RMB), a mound of off-putting ground beef with barely a hint of delicate basil, would be better served to a stray dog.
The drinks are a reprieve, with a thick, honeyed mango milkshake (25RMB) and a sharp lime soda (30RMB) quenching thirst with a twist of citrus tang. This Sukhothai will stomp out a serious craving, but it will be nobody’s first choice.