Thai at Silk, Chef Cecile Chang’s first venture, was one of those restaurants that’s always quick to get a reaction when mentioned. Tucked away in the corner of Serendra where restaurants always seem to die a relatively quick death, my memory of it remains a good one. It was one of those places you ate lunch at with your family on Sundays, and you were hardly ever disappointed. The execution of their dishes was much, much better than at other Thai establishments in the metro, but they also had no great draw to set them apart either. Fortunately, it looks like the’ve fixed that last part.
Chef Chang’s new venture, Silk Road, has made its home in a very different part of Fort Bonifacio. Although those who frequented Thai at Silk will be glad to see familiar items, keep in mind that this restaurant is a whole other creature. Silk Road is That at Silk’s fun cousin, the hip older sister, and the fabulous aunt who comes to reunions in pearls all rolled into one. The food is a lot more grown up, the place definitely more refined, and best of all, the food is just as good as you remember—if not better.
When it comes to the textbook Thai standards, Silk Road does them well. Their pad thai, and I’ve tried many, is definitely one of the best this side of town. Silk Road offers guests sugar, fish sauce, chili, and vinegar sauces, although you don’t need it with their take on the national noodle dish. It does say a lot about how well thought out the presentation of their dishes are. It really makes a huge difference when you are served the condiments tableside, just like at roadside carts in Bangkok. The egg net its presented in may feel a little old school, but tradition doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good. Thai spring rolls were excellent, from the soft shell crab to the more ubiquitous prawn, and curries were generally delicious across the board.
When you venture out of your comfort zone at Silk Road, you’ll never regret it.
I feel the need to point out, however, that Silk Road shines most when they introduce different dishes, whether fusion or regional, to diners. The green chicken curry may be wondrously milky, but please try to be more daring with your choices at Silk Road. I’ve never seen foie with tamarind or a fish fillet in a curry mousse at a Thai restaurant here before, but when you venture out of your comfort zone at Silk Road, you’ll never regret it. The Sala Daeng, lemongrass florets stuffed with a mixture of minced chicken, is incredibly fragrant, and a great surprise. The soft shell crab covered in a sticky black pepper sauce is all at once sticky, sweet, crispy, and savory. The Thai Ravioli, which seems to be the signature dish at Silk Road, is as good as the hype makes it out to be. The rice paper is evidently fresh, and is light instead of being impossibly chewy, as most interpretations are. Sesame beef, and shiitake mushroom may not seem Thai at all, but when enhanced by herbs, and chilies from the region, it seems like a native dish rather than creative fusion.
However, there’s still something off about Silk Road. No matter how good the food was, there was something about the place that prevented me from completely enjoying the experience. Yes, it is the hip older sister, but some things felt just a little contrived. The place was too dark, and while more refined than its previous incarnation, doesn’t fit in with the joyous food coming out of the kitchen.
Who knows, maybe that’s Chef Chang’s point exactly, to create a more upscale setting for diners to enjoy her cooking, a clientele with a palate that will really appreciate the strong Thai flavors she’s capable of producing. Unfortunately, when the dishes feel like they’re made by a loving Thai grandmother cooking for her favorite apo, the interior design choices don’t add up. If you can get past that however, Silk Road’s food as well as attentive service staff is something Thai restaurants in Manila should be afraid of.