Sunday, 13 November 2011

Thai Aroy Dee, Leeds

I'm not sure yet, but I think I might have chanced upon the best Thai food in Leeds. Thai Aroy Dee is up the top end of Vicar Lane, in the midst of Leeds' closest thing to a Chinatown.

It was the large poster in the window that grabbed my attention as I walked past a week or so ago. Dense with Thai script and no sign of the Roman alphabet, it was clearly aimed solely at Thais. I didn't go in at the time, but filed it in the memory bank for a future visit.

I was in town doing some shopping yesterday afternoon so thought I'd go there for lunch. They do indeed have a separate Thai menu. This is an annoying but not unusual feature of Asian restaurants, I've seen it in Thai and Chinese places. Presumably the expectation is that British people can't handle the more challenging flavours of the native cuisine. The spice levels, the funky, fishy flavours, the unusual cuts of meat. Whatever the reasoning behind this menu segregation, we're often missing out.

My ability to read Thai script not really being up to scratch, I had to ask the waitress to explain things for me. She was lovely, but not the best English speaker so we got as far as noodle soup with beef and I settled for that.

First impressions were good. A huge steaming bowl, plenty of meat visible and a decent selection of condiments (chillies in vinegar, fish sauce, chilli powder, sugar).

Second impressions were equally favourable, the broth was deeply savoury and satisfying. Stock based, similar to a Vietnamese pho but with lemongrass and celery in place of star anise and cinnamon. The meat was fantastic, fat chunks of braised, tender, slightly gelatinous beef (brisket at a guess) and also chewy, salty beef balls. Both present in more than generous quantities. Spring onions and beansprouts added a bit of textural variety and the springy noodles (flat rice sticks) weren't overcooked.

Great food, very reasonable prices (£5.95 for the noodle dish) and lovely, smiley service. I'll be back.

The secret list of goodies

Thanks to Twitter and the kindness of random strangers I also now have a full translation of the Thai menu (e-mail me if you'd like a copy). I took a photo of it and speculatively tweeted it asking for translation help. By the magic of re-tweets or hashtags I somehow got a response from a blogger based in the San Francisco bay area suggesting another blogger in that vicinity who may be able to assist. She duly translated the lot for me. By way of thanks here are links to their blogs, both of which are well worth a read if you're interested in street food or Thai cookery.


Thai Aroy Dee
112 Vicar Lane

Thai Aroy Dee on Urbanspoon


Mr Noodles said...

Menu segregation is annoying. I can't really read Chinese, but because I can speak Cantonese and a bit of Mandarin, I can ask for house specials etc. That said, a lot of decent Chinese joints (in London anyway) now work off a single bilingual menu, with all the goodies on there.

In defence of restaurateurs, it isn't easy to translate names of dishes - especially those with poetic names that don't really give away what the dish consists of. And then there's the fear of scaring off less adventurous diners with stuff like pig's blood, duck tongues etc..

Oh, and BTW do let us know what you order next time, now you have the menu translated!

Anonymous said...

Dense with Thai script and no sign of the Roman alphabet

They do indeed have a separate Thai menu. This is an annoying but not unusual feature of Asian restaurants, I've seen it in Thai and Chinese places.

Why are these not racist and illegal?

Dave said...

Mr Noodles - thanks for commenting. It annoys me because I want access to the good stuff, but only in a generally frustrating way. I understand why they do it, there are plenty of people around who would be put off if they didn't see the usual red curry/green curry/pad thai etc menu. The best Chinese in Leeds (Red Chilli) translates everything all on one menu, but it's clearly split into two sections. One part has a list of Cantonese style set menus (not very good by some accounts), the other part all the scary sounding Sichuan stuff.

Anon - racist and illegal is overstating it somewhat. It's not like there's malicious intent and the waiting staff are happy to try and translate. It annoys me that they feel they have to do it, but they're just trying to run a business.

Dave said...

Forgot to say, definitely planning a return visit with friends soon. Will let you know what we order (it'll almost certainly be posted on here).

Anonymous said...

Anon - racist and illegal is overstating it somewhat...

Yeah, maybe you're right. I was thinking of Employment legislation and indirect racism - if a job is advertised in Thai script, then there won't be many non-Thai applicants.

Dave said...

Anon - job applications only in Thai would certainly be a more serious matter than menus I guess. Although if they needed chefs there probably wouldn't be many non-Thai applicants anyway..

Katie said...

sounds great! I want to go!

Anonymous said...

Just visited (Jan 2012) my Thai wife read the menu for me but then an English menu was provided. I don't usually do reviews but would like to see this restaurant succeed.
I'm glad so many like the food as well.

This is my review from Tripadvisor

Stopped to check out the menu after visiting the Asian supermarket across the road, just to checkout the menu really. But ended up ordering almost £30 of take away, we didn't have time to eat in. Then drove back to Harrogate!
My wife is Thai and I've spent over a year in Thailand. The food is very good, even my wife was impressed. And we will definitely be going back, possibly to eat in if we have time!
The food isn't standard Thai restaurant type food as the owner is aiming to feed the local Thai student population so there are many 'street dishes' on offer. However there are the usual green and red curry dishes.
We tried dishes we can't get in the UK which we have missed since our last trip to Thailand.
The food really is as it is in Thailand to quote my wife.
Various window signs are in Thai but don't let that put you off there is an English menu inside.
Aroy Dee doesn't have a licence so bring your own booze and thef is a charge for drinking your own, which is fair enough.

Great food, you have to give it a go!

Dave said...

Thanks for the comment Anon, glad to hear the place getting more positive feedback.

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