It's the last weekend of the Edinburgh Festival yet amazingly I’ve managed to bag a 9pm booking at a Thai restaurant to dine after a show. I have heard nothing but good things about Dusit – but that’s just the kind of build-up that can produce unfeasibly high expectations.
Opened in 2002, the owner is originally from Bangkok and committed to using fresh produce. Equally important, the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate, ubiquitous in Asian food, is not used in any of the cooking here.
The small, unprepossessing front door of the restaurant on Thistle Street opens into a modern dining room, then through to a second dining area, where we are seated. Stone walls have alcoves with glass-fronted cases displaying Thai figures as artworks. Combined with the low ceilings and subdued lighting, this feels like a warmer, more intimate space than the first.
Both rooms are full and the atmosphere is buzzing. It is a mixed age group, ranging from couples to larger parties, and the atmosphere is lively and welcoming; the hum of laughter and conversation fills the room.
After perusing the menu, my veggie husband is well pleased with his five main course choices, being more used to having a solitary option when we go out. I, on the other hand, am simply bamboozled with the breadth of what’s on offer – everything from stir-fries from the wok cooked with soy sauce, to curry specialities, served in coconut cream and Thai fish sauce, to seafood specialities and vegetarian dishes, with options ranging from chicken, beef, duck and king prawns to sirloin steak. I have to send the waiter away three times before I manage to make up my mind.
My happy veggie kicks off with Popia, the Thai-style vegetarian spring rolls (£5.50). Served with a fresh, tangy dip that has just enough spice, these are delicious. A light, crisp pastry is tightly wrapped – anaconda like – around glass noodles, mushrooms and spring onion. (And if you are old enough to remember those old Spry Crisp’n’Dry ads, these little fellows wouldn’t leave a mark either.)
The starters also have amusing English descriptions following their Thai name, for example, Satay Gai – marinated supreme of chicken – is “made-up hen”. Obviously, because I am out with my other half, I choose Koo Saneha – “a loving couple” – (£9.50), or was it really because it features two of my favourite things, jumbo prawn and king scallops? The large char-grilled prawn is served with two divinely plump scallops and a garlic, chilli, lime and coriander dip with a kick like a seriously het-up mule; delicious, but can require cautious dipping.
"My veggie husband is well pleased with his five main course choices"
For wine, we have gone for a Dusit red recommendation of Shiraz Cabernet (£17.95), which isn’t too heavy but easily holds its own against the taste sensations swirling around it.
Starters have set the bar high, but my veggie partner’s nutty curry (£10.95) shows no signs of faltering. The thick red curry and peanut sauce still manages to feel light, with a pleasant, not overwhelming, spicy heat, despite its creamy texture and is the perfect partner for generous chunks of fried bean curd.
Clearly overwhelmed by so much choice, he orders Pad Thai too (£9.50), presumably because he needs a little something extra to go with the sticky Thai rice (£3.70) – the stickiest either of us has had the pleasure to stand our forks up in.
The Pad Thai noodles are delicious with their sweet tamarind dressing, peanuts, fresh vegetables and tofu (there are also king prawn and chicken versions). It comes with a little bowl of ground nut and roasted chilli powder, which again should be approached with a caution.
My main course is from the fish specialities. Pla Ka-Pong Pad Heang (£18.95) is a stir-fry featuring crispy sea bass fillet with mushroom, cashew nuts, roasted chilli, chilli dressing and Chinese rice wine. The chunky pieces of white fish are the perfect foil to the spicy flavours, with the mushroom and cashew adding depth.
Portions are generous and we have clearly over-ordered, so pudding is not an option. Thai cuisine is not known for its desserts, but there are a range of rice puddings, ice-creams and sorbets – the prosecco one did sound intriguing.
Despite expectations being so high, Dusit easily lives up to them. Our final bill comes to £79.95, with £58 of that on food, which is at the steep end of the scale for Thai cuisine, but when it is as fresh and delicious as this, it feels well worth it. And with so much on the menu yet to try, we’ll be back.
ALSO ON THE MENU
Dusit runs a set lunch menu, which changes every two weeks and costs £13.95 for two courses. Starters range from the likes of crispy king prawn tempura to spicy duck salad, and marinated chicken satay. You might also be lucky enough to get those fabulous vegetable spring rolls. Mains range from stir-fried prawns with asparagus and oyster sauce, and hot red beef curry, to crispy chicken topped with sweet and sour sauce and longan fruits.
There is also a takeaway option available, but you will have to collect it yourself – well worth it in my opinion.