Tonsai in Klong Prao Beach is generally thought to be one of the island’s top restaurants and with friends over from Germany, who fancied a change from our penchant for shacks, wobbly bamboo chairs, som tam and cheap eats, we recently gave it a repeat visit. It’s located up on the freshly widened road by the entrance to Centara Tropicana Resort in the main strip of Klong Prao that runs from the temple, 7/11 and tourist police office right up to the bend by Noren Resort. The restaurant only opens in the evenings and we turned up fairly late for Koh Chang (after 9.00pm), but it was still busy with diners in both of the two seating areas. It’s a roofed but al fresco affair, pieces of art are hung around and about, there’s even a small gallery on one side and with the tablecloths, starched napkins, bamboo mats, low lighting and laid-back music, it projects a nice Koh Chang relaxed sophistication.
The menu is extensive, with starters, mains, desserts, salads and lots of vegetarian options. For starters, we decided to share two classics, pomelo salad with prawns and chicken in pandanus leaf. Pomelos are abundant in Koh Chang, orchard after orchard on the east side of the island grows them and there are some delicious sweet varieties, alongside the more common sharp tasting ones. Whether this was local produce or not, the waitress wasn’t sure but the dish was delicately assembled, a dressing of lime, tamarind juice, sugar, fish sauce and a hint of chili complementing and not overpowering the pomelo and poached prawns. The chef also scattered on finely sliced lemongrass, a surprise, as Thai cooking is stringently disciplined about what constitutes each dish and even the slightest change, this addition, can be frowned upon – here, though, it was a nice touch.
Chicken in panadanus leaf is another well known appetizer. The pandanus leaf grows easily in Thailand, it just needs a good water source and in this dish, you use the leaf to wrap little pieces of chicken, marinated in coriander root and soy. These parcels are then steamed and deep fried before serving them with a spicy dipping sauce (nam prik) and the pandanus leaf imparts a wonderful smoky taste and aroma. Tonsai presented it beautifully.
For mains, we plumped for a couple of curries, a simple seafood soy noodles and a veggie option. Always listed in top ten favourites, Massaman chicken curry, this time with chicken, is the Thai Muslim dish that leans heavily towards Indian cooking, using spices such as cumin, coriander, Thai cardamoms and cinnamon in the paste. Tonight’s offering was once again well judged, it’s not meant to be spicy, with a generous use of coconut milk and pleasingly, the meat was left on the bone, making for a fuller flavour. Red curry with duck is not so well known though it should as it features a delicious combination of roasted duck and pineapple in a coconut red curry sauce. Despite sounding a bit like a blast from the 70’s, if prepared properly, the fattiness of the duck is offset by the sweetness of the fruit, with a hot kick running behind it all from the curry paste. Tonsai’s version was good, but maybe the paste could have been somewhat bolder, which would have given the curry more fire. The vegetarian option was tofu fried with holy basil, where the tofu was replacing minced pork in what is another classic day to day Thai staple, normally cooked with yard long green beans and chillies. Indeed, this was what we were expecting, but it came more as a tofu stir fry with vegetables and a little bit of basil, so for us, it was a disappointment. The seafood noodles, always made with the wide rice variety, is a simple dish but it was perfectly executed. We also shouldn’t forget the presentation of the rice, shaped on the plate in sweet little conical banana leafs, another fun touch.
For drinks, we went for some cocktails, a pink lady and a mojito, both looked good and importantly, packed a punch and for the non drinkers, it was refreshing to see a menu offering a pot of green tea, a terrific drink with spicy food. Service, though understandably a little slow on a busy night, was charmingly polite and helpful and we took our leave, more than satisfied, around 11.00pm after a long leisurely evening, though there were still another couple of tables chatting away, it’s that kind of place. Overall, despite a few minor points, for us, Tonsai remains firmly established as one of Koh Chang’s top Thai restaurants.
Price: Around 1000bt for 4 including two cocktails
Open from 6.00pm daily
Menu Tips and Terms
yam somo kung, yam meaning salad, somo-pomelo, gung-prawn
gai haw bai toey, gai-chicken, haw-package, bai-leaf, toey-pandanus
gaeng pet phed yang, gaeng pet-red curry, phed-duck, yang-roasted
gaeng Massaman gai, gaeng-curry, massaman-the variety, gai-chicken
pat siyu taleh, pat-fried, siyu-soy, taleh-seafood
pat bai krapow, pat-fried, bai-leak, krapow-holy basil