Friday 14 October 2011

100 Up @ Kaosarn

[Update Oct 12 - a second branch of Kaosarn has opened in Battersea and is reviewed here.]

Assuming my maths isn't wrong, Kaosarn has the proud honour of being the 100th London eatery to feature in my blog. And it's entirely fitting that somewhere like this Thai café gets that accolade. Whilst I really can't be that arsed to write about eating out in London nowadays, I will always blog about inexpensive unpretentious indies like Kaosarn. Especially when they have noodles on the menu!

I did consider going for Kaosarn's signature dish of gai yang khao neaw som tum (£11.50) – but I wasn't hungry enough to take on this combination of half a grilled chicken, sticky rice and som tum. Instead I plumped for soup noodles in the form of kuay tiew tom yum Bangkok style (£6.90).

The most important aspect of any soup noodle dish is the soup. And in this case, the tom yum soup was bang on the money, with deep hot and sour flavours seemingly sans any artificial enhancements. After that, it's imperative that the noodles are properly done, and I'm pleased to report that the slippery smooth kuay tiew rice noodles were.

The toppings of deep-fried king prawns, fishballs and minced pork were also pretty good. My favourite were the prawns, and if you order this dish, do polish them off before the batter gets soggy. The fishballs were bought-in, but don't be put off by that, as few places make their own – that'd be akin to a gastropub making its own sausages. All told, one of the best noodle dishes that I've eaten in London this year!

Not everything was just so, though. For instance, one of my dining companions was less than enamoured by his pad Thai w/prawn (£6.90). Having said that, he didn't mind his starter of coconutty chicken soup aka tom kha gai (£4.90).

My other dining companion plumped for khao pad kra-proaw w/pork (£6.90), a very home-style stir-fry with chilli and holy basil. It was nothing special, but I liked the fact that it came with a runny fried egg – a very east Asian touch.

We also shared a side of som tum Thai (£4.90); this papaya salad is often dumbed-down and disappointing in London. This one, I'm pleased to report, was the real deal with a proper fiery kick.

Whilst not every dish was a winner, there's more than enough promise at Kaosarn for me to return. Ironically, the only thing working against this superior Thai joint is its location in Brixton Village. As any foodie knows, there is so much choice in this complex that it could be a while before you return to the same place twice! For example, in addition to Kaosarn, I've 'done' Elephant, Honest Burgers, Federation Coffee and Lab G, and on top of these joints, there must be another dozen, if not more, places to check out!

Kaosan on Urbanspoon

Kaosarn, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PR (Tel: 020-7095-8922)
Nearest stations: Brixton

PS: Special thanks to Kay for reminding me that my blog was coming up to a century of London eateries!


  1. Ah-ha! The runny egg touch is rather endearing especially for rice dishes. Just the thought of breaking that yolk and letting it run through the rice gets me salivating. lol.

    For battered prawns, I would normally ask for them to be set aside lest they get damp. Most places that I've been to would oblige.

    This is a bit out of the way for me. But for its noodles, I just might make a trip down. Thanks for the write up!

  2. I liked Kaosarn enough but thought the dishes way too dumbed down. The grilled chicken and som tam dish was nice but the som tam was barely lip-tingling; I have since been told that you can ask for it 'authentic', so I guess it warrants another visit.

  3. Thank you for this review. I now have (at least) two reasons to go to Brixton. The noodle photos make me ravenous! I have a business card from my favourite Thai restaurant in Seattle on which is written (in Thai), please made this dish "Thai spicy." (At least I hope that's what it says -- since I don't read Thai, it could say, "don't forget to wipe your arse before cooking this dummy's food.") Anyway, I'm looking forward to going to Kaosarn and flashing my card.

  4. Happy 100th post! aahh.....I was about to ask you for recommendations again for Brixton....and this is one of them right??
    I think I have long ago lament enough about decent cheap eats and why we don't have that in is always great when places like Kaosarn gets discovered...just wish there were more.

  5. LChow - runny egg yolk on rice is one of life's simple pleasures!

    Lizzie - really? I didn't need to ask and thought the flavours were properly full-on and uncompromised. That said, I guess it does no harm to make sure you get it authentically seasoned.

    Susan - welcome! Let's hope the crew from your fave Seattle haunt don't have a wicked sense of humour! I hope you enjoy it.

    Kay - that's the beauty of Brixton Market & Brixton Village - there are heaps of affordable eateries. It's almost like a London version of a hawker centre or a dai pai dong! And that's no bad thing.

  6. Congratulations on your 100th..... Looking forward to the next 100th.
    Am also looking forward to Kaosarn and wondering if it will be as good as Thai Kitchen 101...... We shall see.....

  7. Mzungu - do give it a try although the two places aren't directly comparable, as Kaosarn's menu is much briefer than 101 Thai Kitchen's.

  8. Tried it and loved it. Yes totally different style of food comparable with Thai 101.
    I like their short, brief and well cooked menu, which with what we had was far superior to Thai Kitchen 101.

  9. Shame the pad thai wasnt good but the other noodly soupy dishes look pretty tasty!

  10. How topical! I was there yesterday and had the Pad Thai which wasn't amazing but am definitely going back for the gai yang khao neaw som tum next time though! Great pics. Have you tried out Mama Lan? Their dumplings are yum!

  11. Mzungu - glad you liked it!

    catty - yeah, the tom yun noodle soup is fab here.

    Crispy - pad Thai is seldom any better than average in London. Best off checking out other stuf on their menu. Went to Mama Lan yesterday, you'll have to wait for the review though...

  12. It's a shame that it's almost impossible to find a good pad thai in London. But Some of the dishes at Kaosarn are very good indeed. I had a decently spicy pork stir fry that was pretty tasty indeed.

    I haven't tried the noodle soup, but from what you say, it sounds like a winner. Next time i am down that way, i'll give it a go.

    Apparently they cook everything on electric, which is kind of impressive if you think about it.

  13. Gworm - Surprised about the 'electric' revelation - it doesn't matter for a lot of stuff but it's a given that wok cooking is gas-fired. And on an aside, kudos to most, if not all, Brixton Village places for knocking up such super food with such limited kitchen space!