same same, and some difference

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a rustic village made up of cosy little 'houses' constructed of recycled wood painted in pastel shades within which diners can sup on spicy, savoury thai cuisine and insta addicts will find plenty to point their smartphones at - such as the vintage cream fiat parked in front of the restrooms, a tuk-tuk of similar hue in the courtyard and a beautiful electric blue vespa at the entrance. each of the 'houses' sport a different colour scheme and are decorated individually. jerry cans and plastic fruit baskets are among the decorative items that add quirky touches to the rustic decor.

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this pretty much sums up bbq thai (says the menu) or thai street food, as emblazoned on the glowing purple cube at the front gate. And which is a misnomer; bbq thai is a proper sit-down restaurant owned and staffed by thais (mostly) offering authentic fare from our northern neighbour.

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seating is a choice between the festive al fresco courtyard under big plastic umbrellas, private dining rooms (a minimum charge applies) or if you're lucky, depending on your turn in the queue, you might get ushered into one of the air-conditioned 'houses' at no extra charge or minimum bill. open for dinner only, this kampung-style diner fills up quickly and on weekends, lines form throughout the night. It doesn't help that while the long tables in the courtyard can easily fit 8 diners, sharing is not allowed. If you come without reservations, you better arrive not hungry and with patience and time to spare.

even with a full house, the service was quick and efficient - even if not all of the mostly Thai staff can speak english - including the parking attendants, who will guide you to find a spot within the gravelly square that surrounds the restaurant. Double parking is common but their clever system involves taking down your mobile number and a friendly reminder to "I miss call you, you fastly come" should you be required to move your car or if a better spot opens up.

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highlights the unspoken rule as food enthusiasts know it is that a mostly young crowd signals less than stellar food, but bbq thai defies that with rich taste profiles and authentic flavours. The litmus test is always the tom yam of course: for rm22, you get a thai steamboat pot worth of appetisingly spicy, lightly creamy broth with chicken and oyster mushrooms. this is the Large portion and it's enough for at least four persons. for rm3 more, order the petai with prawns - sizeable, succulent prawns in a thick chilli-rich sauce with a balanced amount of pungent stinky beans that were still a tad crunchy, with an enjoyable (though an acquired taste for some) rawness to them. 

we also ordered kailan with crispy pork was a hit-and-miss in itself; the pork was crispy despite being drenched in the starchy sauce, which also drowned the kailan to a soggy, limp mess. The bbq cockles were overgrilled - none of the plump, bloody juiciness you want when you open up the ridged shells - although the green chilli dip that came with it packs a nice zesty punch. Desserts were just disappointing, the rice and coconut milk in the mango sticky rice lacked aroma while the mango was bland, while the coconut jelly were simply four rose-flavoured diamond squares with strips of coconut, served on a bed of fresh lettuce. Food for thought, indeed.

overall score for the good food, charming ambience and quick service - just don't bother with desserts and best to make reservations.

 

bbq thai no 17 lorong jugra off batu 3 1/4, jalan klang lama, KL tel +603 7981 9888 opens 5pm-1am daily www.bbqthai.com.my

find it from mid valley megamall, head towards jalan klang lama. you will see a coca steamboat restaurant (with its big neon sign glowing from afar) on your left. slow down, bbq thai is just ahead, at the foot of the pedestrian bridge.