Tommy Thongchai, Jaya One

May 4, 2019

In a city that's awash with Thai cuisine, most eateries swim with the tide of tom yum goong, green curries, papaya salads and pad Thai that floods so many menus in the Klang Valley. Tommy Thongchai, however, makes a major splash with a gastrobar-style selection that dives into the deep waters of Thai cooking and resurfaces with fresh, reinvigorating recipes that showcase international inspirations with playful, crowd-pleasing skill. Head here for a fun meal that'll easily keep you returning for more.

Rustle up the entire gang for a trip to this restaurant, the better to share in Tommy's Drinking Platter, putting a uniquely Thai spin on pub grub. This princely portion for four persons boasts a king's ransom of spectacular starters - one bite of Tommy's moo ping might convince you that these are the most satisfying grilled pork skewers in Petaling Jaya, made with collar meat, lusciously fleshy and sweetly savoury without being cloying.

There's plenty more for merry munching: succulent Chiang Mai herbed pork sausage with a tamarind chilli dip; fried marinated pork belly that's crisp to the bite and juicy to the chew with a fresh chilli dip; fries heaped with robustly tender pulled pork garlanded with garlic aioli; wonton skin nachos with pork ragout; battered spiced calamari; luncheon meat fries; and pork riblets with fried garlic - an indulgence to devour on those calories-shouldn't-count evenings after a long day or week at work.

And while a platter like this pairs perfectly with beer, it might be best to couple it this time with Thai-inflected cocktails instead (more on that in a bit!).

Salads also secure a mouth-watering makeover: Even if you've eaten hundreds of Caesar salads over the years, it's likely you've never had one like Tommy's, served sizzling on a hot plate with an onsen egg, spam croutons, corn and house-made Caesar dressing - certainly not the healthiest salad ever but certifiably a memorable one, bursting with lip-smacking flavours and textures (RM26). The traditional pomelo salad is also a far cry from rabbit food, tossed with white prawns and imported Thai pomelo in a yum som-o dressing that displays delicious depth (RM26).

Round out the appetisers with a series of protein-powered skewers that span the bovine (Black Angus rib eye and Australian beef tongue), the porcine (meatballs and intestines) and lamb (New Zealand shoulder meat), charcoal-grilled to smoky, sink-your-teeth-into-this succulence (RM5-RM19 each).

What would happen if you transplanted an all-American diner into the heart of Bangkok? Tommy Thongchai offers a tantalising glimpse of that potential - the chili dog brings together Coney Island and Chiang Mai, plopping a punchy northern Thai sausage into a fluffy bun, blanketed across its length with rich pork ragout for possibly the tastiest hot dog we've had in Malaysia in years, bolstered by Thai-spiced fries (RM28).

For burger enthusiasts, Tommy Thongchai could merit a visit for the Thai-informed burgers alone, stuffed with everything from deep-fried battered chicken topped with an uplifting som tam slaw (RM28) to a larb moo tod herbed pork patty with laarb slaw, krapao pork patty with fried egg, and deep-fried sea bass with tom yum aioli. The chicken burger is a terrific ambassador for the art of infusing the classic dynamics of Asian flavours into contemporary burgers.

Ultimately, Tommy Thongchai thrives in serving up comfort food for every palate - from pastas like the Pad Kee Mao Spaghetti (RM26; an Italian reinterpretation of Thailand's stir-fried 'drunken noodles,' buoyed by seafood and holy basil in a slick mix of soy, fish and oyster sauces) and Thongchai's Mac & Cheese (RM35; loaded with krapao pork in ooey-gooey decadence) ...

... to rice platters and soup bowls - the Chiang Mai sausage fried rice brings back the herbed pork sausage that we can't get enough of, a moreish match with aromatic Thai jasmine rice and prawn crackers (RM19), while The Staff's Meal started out as something for the kitchen crew, but it turned out so triumphantly, it has earned a permanent spot on the menu, thanks to the substantial bowl of fall-off-the-bone pork ribs, meatballs and crunchy lard in a soulful broth that a Thai matriarch would approve of, completed with steamed rice for a meal that'll instantly restore your spirits (RM21).

Speaking of spirits, that's the final secret weapon in Tommy Thongchai's arsenal, courtesy of cocktails imbued with influences from the Land of Smiles.

P'month, the man behind the bar, has three decades of experience in the craft of cocktails, having reputedly produced potions for everyone from the late Thai king to the Queen of England, honing his craft in luxury hotels, speakeasy-style bars and beyond - the fact that Tommy Thongchai flew him into KL from Bangkok to be its resident mixologist speaks volumes about the venue's determination to be a serious destination for cocktail devotees, with P'month relying on many own-infused liqueurs.

Tommy Thongchai might have PJ’s best happy hour bargains for cocktails - while its cocktails are typically listed at RM28-RM35 on the menu, Tommy Thongchai is currently serving most of the cocktails at RM20 each, all day long (1130am through midnight) for its opening special promotion. A fantastic bargain, considering the quality of the cocktails, which rely on premium liqueur.

Thai elements abound, in treasures like the Tub Tim Gem (Thai homemade herb whiskey, lime, mint) and Tommy's Tom Yum Thai (vodka, lime, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime). Beverages prove well-balanced and potently refreshing, notably the Bussaba (tequila, mango, passion fruit, lychee, lime) and the Bussarakam Gem (butterfly pea-infused vodka with bourbon, bianco, apple, lime and pandan, presented in ice to keep it cool even if the conversation runs long).

The curation of cocktails is extensive, so it'll require multiple visits to explore its horizons - other ideal introductions include the Amphan Gem (gin, rosella juice, palm juice, lime juice, vanilla), Soi Cowboy (Thai whiskey, lime, mint, soda) and Thai Tea With A Kick (rum, Thai tea, pineapple, lime, honey ginger). Classic cocktails like the Negroni and Old Fashioned are available too. Similar to the food, the drinks here are imaginatively conceived and irreproachably constructed.

All in all, Tommy Thongchai should be a solid recommendation for patrons seeking a distinctive difference in their dining experience. Many thanks to the team here for an enjoyable evening.

Tommy Thongchai

G.005, The Square, Jaya One, Jalan Universiti, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel: 012-901-2848

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