Sukhothai is quite the institution here in Yorkshire, with three popular restaurants dotted around Leeds and one in Harrogate. If you’ve lived in the area for the last 15 years or more, chances are you’ll have to been one of them at least once, if not multiple times.
The problem you’re faced with when you become an institution, however, is that you can sometimes be forgotten. As someone who ranks Sukhothai on South Parade as the no.1 Thai restaurant for miles around, I hadn’t been back for almost a year myself. Thankfully, Sukhothai decided that their menu needed a reinvention and unveiled an impressive array of new dishes recently, alongside the very best of their classics.
I was privileged to be invited along as part of a group to be a guinea pig if you will, and what an evening it was. The first thing I cleared up upon arriving was that my go-to dish hadn’t been taken away from the new menu; woe betide the day I can’t enjoy my precious Gai Tod Prik Gang. The dish, (which is no.145 on the menu should you ever wish to indulge), features deep fried dusted chicken, served with a creamy red curry sauce, and is an absolute belter.
Turns out, I’m not the only fan and the dish has remained intact due to overwhelming popular demand. However, as the evening was all about the new dishes, the no. 145 was off limits. This wasn’t a problem, however, as each new dish my little group tasted was nothing short of electric.
Ban and her dedicated team talked us through the menu before we made our choices, demonstrating just how much these guys know their stuff. It’s refreshing to come to a restaurant which is effectively a micro-chain, and still see the same key team members 15 years on from launching in 2003.
The restaurant itself is decadent but at the same time, authentic. The vibe is relaxed, and the private dining area downstairs we occupied is stunning, with some lovely family photos from Ban’s private collection adorning the walls. This is the perfect space to enjoy the very best Thai cuisine you’ll find in Yorkshire.
Inspired by the nouvelle cuisine explosion happening in the North of Thailand, each new offering really did pack a range of new flavours unlike anything else I’ve tried. At the advice of our lovely host, we avoided the spring rolls (‘’you can get those anywhere’’ we were told – you gotta love their honesty) and went with the delicate stir-fried scallops (no. 4) with diced peppers, garlic and cracked black pepper.
Notoriously difficult to cook (I’ve failed so many times myself), these sweet and succulent scallops really were to die for. Next came the marvellously presented crispy chicken with spicy Thai-Issan dressing, which blends lime juice, dried chilli, toasted ground rice, mint, shallot and fish sauce to create a truly harmonious flavour.
Even the crispy prawns (no. 3) had a hot new remix, covered in a delicious lemongrass batter and served with homemade sweet chilli sauce.
Picking out mains wasn’t easy, but it was a damn sight easier than before as the one-sheet, two-sided menu is a breeze to peruse (it often took me a Singha or three to plough through the old, Bible sized version).
First up came the Chef Recommended 12oz Roaring Rib-Eye (S4), which is a new cut of beef for Sukhothai and amen to that. Served on a bed of red and green peppers, fine beans and drizzled with a flaming Panaeng curry sauce, the combination of spice and the juicy, marbled ribeye was an absolute winner and will easily win over Weeping Tiger fans.
The exquisite spring lamb shank (S7) followed, which was braised in a Massaman curry sauce, with hints of cinnamon and star anise. Easily one of the most ambitious lamb dishes in town, the soft tender meat was sheer perfection.
The final dish was the grilled duck breast (D4) which was another high note. Served with a spicy Isaan-style sauce and garnished with spring onion, shallots, mint, lime leaves and dried chilli, the dish was rich and satisfying. We skipped dessert, and instead ended the evening with a good cup of coffee.
When a restaurant as beloved as Sukhothai launch their first new menu after 15 years in the industry, expectations are high. Ban and co. have well and truly delivered, with a rousing collection of incredible new dishes that will make you fall in love with Sukhothai all over again.
I’ll be back very soon and may even forego my no. 145 in exchange for one of the many new offerings. An institution this iconic restaurant may be, but this joint isn’t going anywhere just yet and continues to lead where others can only but try to follow.