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Ayuthaiya is one of those restaurants that’s always been right there under our noses, centrally located on Hollywood Road, which you walk by every day thinking you’ll get around to trying one day. If you haven’t tried it yet – get there, because you’ve been missing out. While the space is not large, it’s been thoughtfully designed to feel inviting yet intimate, hip yet unpretentious. Plush velvet booths perfect for two face the open bar which sits at the heart of the restaurant. The cosy space makes large group dining challenging, but a table in the back can accommodate up to eight. The only glitch was the air conditioning, which appeared to be either broken or very weak, resulting in a slightly stuffy dining room.
The chefs at Ayuthaiya have an excellent, sophisticated palate, turning out dish after dish of the perfect Thai balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Ayuthaiya’s relishes, served with crispy rice cakes, fried wonton skins and fragrant betel leaves, are a great appetiser or bar snack – try the goong lon, a rich, savoury and slightly sweet dip made with prawns and coconut milk, or the addictive nan prig long ruea, a pungent dip made with minced chicken, shrimp, salted egg and pickled garlic. Ayuthaiya’s version of pomelo salad is a delicious balance of Thai flavours, made with juicy pomelo kernels, fried shallots, peanuts, shredded chicken and tiny dried shrimp. For a contemporary take on a classic Thai favourite, try the pad kee mao, prepared with black squid ink spaghetti rather than the traditional rice noodles and tossed with seafood, vegetables, Thai basil and lime leaf. Theyellow curry with lobster is beautifully presented, featuring a whole baby lobster prepared with shirred eggs and pineapple. To get your greens, make sure to order the cabbage sprouts sautéed with garlic and ginger, which complements any meal. To end on a sweet note, try sweet coconut milk soup served warm with pastel-hued chewy rice balls.
The drink menu features an impressive offering of creative, fruity cocktails including a Tom Yum martini made with lime leaf and chilli-infused vodka. Wines are priced very reasonably, with most bottles in the HK $300-400 range. For a non-alcoholic choice, try the young coconut with “Thai pearls,” prepared with basil seeds.
Service is friendly yet non-intrusive, with waiters always ready to tend to diners’ needs only a few feet away. Some courses can take a bit long to arrive from the upstairs kitchen.
Dinner for two will average around HK$700, offering excellent value for a delicious meal.