Must Thai Harder – A Disappointing Dinner at Thai Ayutthaya, Belconnen

  • Friendly staff
  • Disappointing food
  • Unreliable knowledge of coeliac requirements

In the week between Christmas and New Year, Michael and I were lucky enough to be kid free on the Monday night. We tossed up whether to cook, get takeaway or eat out, and decided that, being civilised child-free adults, we would head out. 

The family and I recently moved to Belconnen and have been looking out for our new “regulars” – the restaurants I can eat at or get takeaway from without stressing about cross contamination or accidental glutening. In Gungahlin, Thai Herb was my go-to place for Thai food and I was hopeful that Thai Ayutthaya on Emu Bank would be a winner. For me Thai food is something I consider a safe option. It’s usually gluten free, the flavours are robust and vibrant, and the dishes are healthy with heaps of veggies.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. We arrived at the restaurant which sits on Lake Ginninderra around 6:20pm. There was plenty of parking even though it was still busy down at the lake. We went in and after a few seconds wait, a staff member came up to us. I explained my coeliac requirements and the wait staff confirmed they could cater gluten free. She showed us to a table by the window and left us with some menus.

Thai Ayutthaya is a large restaurant on the lake. Two of the walls are painted bright orange and the other two, are floor to ceiling windows looking out on to the trees and path next to the lake. It looked as if there was seating outside, however the chairs were stacked up and the area looked a bit worse for wear with weeds and flaking paint along the rails – I’d guess its dilapidated state was a result of lack of use during Covid, although with the warmer weather, I think they’re missing out by not using the space.

There was a bar and service area next to the entrance, kitted out to resemble a temple with a diamond pattern. There were also a few pictures on the walls. My favourite was a large portrait of a group of men who I think were the Thai royal family. There were cupboards against the walls which were piled with takeaway containers and knick knacks. It looked a little disorganised but not in a bad way. It felt like a very large suburban restaurant rather than something that was in a prime location on the lake. 

Thai Royals

We spent a while browsing the menu. There was a good range of options and many were labelled as gluten free. When it came time to order, we went for Satay Chicken and fish cakes as appetizers, followed by chicken ruammit, chicken lard nar, chu-chee curry with fish and sticky rice.  Michael opted for a bottle of Singha beer and I asked for the fresh coconut juice.

When we ordered, we asked the wait staff to check how the fish cakes were cooked, explaining that if they were deep fried, we would skip them in case anything containing gluten was cooked in the same oil. After a few minutes she came out of the kitchen and said the fishcakes were deep fried, and they were out of coconut juice due to the difficulty getting coconuts and their high price at the moment. I was a bit disappointed but I went for a lemon, lime and bitters instead.

After a short wait, the satay chicken came out and it was a good start! The chicken tenderloins were really well cooked, and the satay sauce, although nothing special was nice. The sauce looked quite oily but it wasn’t greasy and was quite thick. It was a bit sweet but mostly a little bland. On the plus it was a violent neon yellow colour!

We polished off the satay, and the first main came out quickly afterwards. The chicken lard nar was described on the menu as rice noodles in special Thai sauce. It was weird. The dish came out in a brown, translucent gravy that was gelatinous and not particularly appealing. There was plenty of broccoli, carrot, zucchini and baby corn as well as chicken piled on top of rice noodles but the dish was pretty average. Although the vegetables were nicely cooked, the sauce was off putting. It tasted mildly like fish sauce which was not bad but the texture was like slime. 

The chicken ruammit came out next with the sticky rice. The ruammit was a stir-fry containing snow peas, corn, mushrooms and cashews. The sauce was boring and contained a large clump of ginger that was not dispersed throughout the dish. It looked colourful and bright but was another dud. I also think the corn and mushrooms were tinned because they had that sweet, over cooked flavour and texture. There wasn’t a lot of difference flavour wise either between the chicken lard nar and ruammit.

The last dish to come out was the chu-chee curry with fish and fortunately Michael tried this before I could. The curry looked pretty normal when it came out but Michael noticed that the fish was coated in batter. We asked the wait staff to double check with the kitchen who confirmed it had been deep fried, making it a risk of cross contamination. Michael said the curry was probably the best of the three dishes we had, tasting the least bland and most like a traditional Thai dish. It still wasn’t particularly good though. 

I was quite disappointed overall with Thai Ayutthaya. The well-labelled menu made me think that they would be ok catering to coeliacs but it was a close call with the fish cakes and the fish curry. Combined with the tinned veggies, no coconut juice and overall standard of the food which was bland and boring, I left a bit flat. The overall cost of the meal came to $78.60 which is normal for a reasonable meal but I felt a bit ripped off because the food was so mediocre.

2/84 Emu Bank Belconnen ACT 2617
0433 959 495

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