Sukhothai, the Thai restaurant attached to the Sheraton Hotel, is recognized as one of the leaders in Thai cuisine for Taipei. Earlier this month, it made a bold venture out into the wider world and set up A Roy Dee, a slightly less expensive version of itself at Breeze Center. The restaurant aims to bring its top-shelf Thai cooking to a wider audience by locating it in the popular shopping center and by dropping its prices slightly. The mood is less formal, with A Roy Dee opting for the ambiance of an ever so slightly dilapidated Thai temple, and its flavors chase an elusive mix of sophistication and casual abundance.
With the support of chefs from Sukhothai and the resources of the Sheraton Hotel, A Roy Dee has a lot of advantages, the most immediately evident being in the high quality service. Staff are neatly uniformed and well presented, have basic knowledge of the cuisine, and seating and ordering are friendly and efficient. This all makes for a good first impression. But there is also something just a little mechanical about it all, a quality shared by the quality of the food.
The a la carte menu is extensive, with main dishes starting at NT$350 and topping out at NT$880. Many of the dishes are prepared in the style of Isan, an area of northeastern Thailand. The style is definitely there, but with a clear eye to a mass market, the pungent herbs and intense hot and spicy flavors of the region have been dialed down considerably. This is not to say the food is bad, but simply to suggest that you are not going to be broadening your culinary horizons when you dine at A Roy Dee.
It must be said that there are some pleasant surprises, most notably in a twist on the conventional deep fried shrimp cake (NT$420), which is a thick slab of densely packed shrimp more than twice the thickness of what you find at most Thai restaurants. The thickness allows for a good contrast in textures between the crisp skin and rich shrimp meat, and this succeeds in providing a good opening salvo for the meal.
Address: Ground Floor, Breeze Center, 39, Fuxing S Rd Sec 1, Taipei CityCity (GF 微風廣場, 台北市復與南路一段39號)
Telephone: (02) 6606-551
Open: 11:30am to 2:30pm
Average meal: NT$600
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted; 10 percent service charge
On the other hand, the chicken or beef satay served with spicy peanut sauce (NT$300) proved to be both bland and tough, and despite its elegant presentation, rather a disappointment. For a dish coming straight off the grill, it all looked very neat and tidy, but there was a distinct lack of flair, the kind of zingy flavor and gloss that is absolutely essential to make something so simple as satay stand out and be something more than just meat on a stick.
For my money, A Roy Dee showed its best form in mild curries such as the stir-fried crabmeat with yellow curry sauce (NT$500). The mild sauce was rich with complexities and it was a joy to taste the crab’s delicate flavor coming through so effectively. The classic Thai hot and sour soup “tom yum goong” (NT$480) was also very well balanced.
A Roy Dee offers a good range of desserts, and while one can accept that some Asian desserts are difficult to serve elegantly, the presentation of something like taro jelly with perfumed coconut milk cake (NT$120) seemed sloppy, and a homemade mango ice cream seemed a little lacking in refinement. A second option of lychee ice cream was very creative and much better executed, but given the restaurant’s aspirations, the sweets gave the meal an anticlimactic last act.
There is a lot of choice at A Roy Dee and while the quality is still a little uneven, it is less than a month into service and these inconsistencies should be easily ironed out. Set menus for between four and eight people are NT$599 a head.