Thai Gallery Sits at the back of Jing’an Park and overlooks a pond. Serenity! The food is quite decent for such a long-running restaurant and it’s a nice, unique environment in the heart of this busy shopping district / tourist destination. Fills up in peak hours, especially during the summer. Call ahead for reservations.
Shanghai is full of Thai restaurants, and it can be very difficult to find any that stand out in the sea of green curries, mango salads, and BBQ pork neck. It's not to say any of them are necessarily very bad, per se, (although they usually can't hold a candle to Thai cuisine in Thailand) it's just that they're all so...samey...little clone restaurants all serving the same basic dishes with the same flavors.
Thai Gallery, hidden in Jing'an Park, provides an opportunity to break out of that that mold, but you have to know what to order. We were a party of two on a weeknight evening, eating out for a special occasion (my dining companion's birthday). We arrived and were shown to a downstairs seat, which isn't quite as nice as the upstairs seating (that would have views of the small pond), but the upstairs seating was full and we didn't have a reservation. I imagine that on the weekend, a reservation would be advisable. Decor was warm and charming, without crossing the line into kitschy, which can sometimes happen with so-called authentically decorated restaurants.
Immediately after the meal, we had tickets for a show, so we let the server know that speedy service and food preparation were key. Right away, the server gained some points for himself and the establishment, helpfully steering us away from dishes that he felt would take too long with our time limitations. We ended up selecting the specialty curry prawns, tom yum soup, fried crab salad, and stir-fried pork with holy basil.
The food came out very quickly, with the longest dish (the prawns) only taking 15 minutes. The prawns were undoubtedly the highlight of the meal, with the uinque sweet and savory flavors of the curry providing a nice break from the standard green/red/yellow curry options at Thai restaurants. It seemed to be based on a massaman curry, but brought in many additional flavors that I wouldn't normally expect in massaman curry - very delicious and well worth the higher price tag (128 CNY). The prawns themselves were fat, juicy, and tasted fresh.
The rest of the dishes were good enough - the tom yum and the stir fried pork with basil were perfectly acceptable, if not especially noteworthy. They scratched the itch. The fried crab salad we were not a fan of. The breading on the crab was very thick and quite oily - basically impossible to taste anything except fried batter. In general, I should know better about getting deep-fried things at Thai restaurants, since they are often very oily, and this confirmed my past experiences. Aside from that though, the rest of the meal was very good, and the excellent prawn curry really carried the meal. This is a good option for a smart casual meal (like a date), without pricing itself into silly ranges (our meal for 2 came out to just about 300 CNY). We were in and out in just about an hour, with time to spare for our show.
4 stars, which is about as good as it gets for Thai food in Shanghai.
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