There is something about Thai food that manages to mesmerize me every time I taste it, but I’m not quite sure what it is. Is it the subtle taste of different spices that blends together perfectly in each dish? Or the colorful visual grab of vegetables that picks at you from the rich main course or the beautiful light aftertaste that you feel on your tongue minutes after you finish your meal? With my limited knowledge of this cuisine I will leave us both—writer and reader—to ponder that mysterious element and invite you for to lunch on the fancy tables of The Bird Cage.
Located on the second floor of the Semiramis InterContinental overlooking the Nile, the restaurant is said to be one of the top three Thai restaurants in the whole of the middle-east. The place bolsters its location and reputation with a pricey menu and limited number of tables, making it impossible for normal people like me and you to go there for an occasional dinner and limiting the venue to special occasions.
It seems however, as though the management of the restaurant has finally caught onto that fault in their otherwise perfect design. Lately, they have started a new lunch menu under the name of the ‘Bento Box’.
The original ‘Bento Box’ is actually a Japanese invention, which usually consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, served in a box-shaped container. The Bird Cage uses the idea of that container and fills it with an incredible selection of wonderful Thai cuisine.
As the only guests at that early hour in the restaurant –the Bento Box menu operates from 12.30PM to 4.00 PM only– we had the whole space to ourselves, enjoying the relaxing Thai music. The food took a while to arrive, but we had complementary chips with sweet and sour sauce to nibble on while waiting.
When you visit the Bird Cage, don’t forget to ask for the complementary ginger drink they offer throughout the hotel. It has the right mixture of sweet and tart, and the perfectly sized portion leaves you wanting more.
You have two options to pick from for each course: appetizers, soup, main course, side dish and desserts. The appetizers are either a tord maan pla, which is a fried marinated fish cake with red curry paste orpoh pia sodkkai, a fresh spring roll filled with vegetables and chicken. The fish cake was delicious with amazing spices and crushed nuts covering it whilst the spring rolls were perfectly cooked, although the taste of chicken did not work that well with the rest of vegetables. I would have preferred seafood spring rolls, which would have complimented the rest of the meal perfectly.
Two kinds of soups are then presented for you to pick from, a hot and sour chicken soup with lemon grass or spicy fish noodle soup with vegetables. I’m not usually a big fan of lemon grass but it was used subtly and to great effect in this soup.
Then come the main dishes: you either can choose the paneang kai (red chicken curry with peanut sauce) or neua naam maan hioy (stir-fried beef fillet with oyster sauce). Always a big fan of chicken I’ve ordered it on both my lunch time visits to the Bird Cage can recommend it highly. Your side dish is either the fired rice or the stir-fried noodles, both go well with the either choice.
The highlight of the meal would be –for me at least– the desserts: the pollamai ice cream; a ball of vanilla ice-cream served with exotic fruits and the kangkhaya litchi which is basically a steamed custard and caramelized ice-cream. After being greedy and trying both the desserts I decided I preferred the second option because of the simplicity and satisfaction of the flavors.
The Bento Box costs you a reasonable LE135 plus taxes but, if you are on a tight budget, you need to be take care when ordering side-dishes or drinks as they can elevate the final total on your bill quite considerably.