Starland Restaurant & Bar
Thailand at its best is represented by many things: the people, the culture, the food and the atmosphere. When you can find all of these elements coming together in balance, you know you’ve happened upon a real jewel. That’s exactly the feeling I had when I stopped in for a meal at Starland Restaurant and Bar in Thailand’s Petchabun Province. Nestled at the heart of Amphur Lom Sak, Starland provides an oasis for refreshment from the heat, and a pleasant way to rehydrate and refuel for my continuing tour around the area.
The restaurant is owned and operated by a Thai family, but smiles need no interpretation. Friendly staff and customers made the language barrier almost unnoticeable, and a dual language menu with good photographs meant that I had no issue being understood while choosing my meal.
The smells that filled the air would have whetted anyone’s appetite. The aromas reflected the unique taste combinations that define authentic Thai food – sweetness meeting the heat of chili, basil dancing with lemongrass, garlic and cilantro teasing the nose and exciting the tongue. This mouthwatering bouquet urged me to order generously and quickly!
The menu has plenty of options, but is not overwhelmingly large. I had the choice of anything from steaks, salads, pastas, or typical Thai dishes. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in Thailand, do as the Thais do! Deciding to stick with local cuisine, I ordered a Pad Thai with chicken. While I waited with my taste buds on high alert, I was served with a cocktail from the bar. The bar sets Starland apart from many other local restaurants. While the beer selections are the standard Singha, Tiger, and Heineken, the cocktail menu serves to brighten up your day. The menu is boldly presented on a blackboard behind the bar, advertising a variety of bright, colorful, and fruity concoctions. I wanted a cocktail, but was spoiled for choice and asked the bartender to choose for me. I was treated to the Starland Whiskey Sour, a tantalizing mix of American Bourbon whiskey, sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice. Great combination! The oakiness of the Bourbon sets a nice bass note for the cocktail, and the sour and sweet elements were in perfect balance. Highly recommended.
I enjoyed the local music playing in the background. In daylight hours the music plays on an overhead system and has decent variety and good sound quality, while at night live music from a two-piece band is provided. I watched the hustle and bustle of the passing tourists and locals, willing them to come in and join in this wondrous experience. It wasn’t long before my food arrived, interrupting my people-watching and putting an end to my hunger. After the first bite, I knew that I would have been willing to wait an hour for such deliciousness, but was glad I didn’t have to! I’ve had Pad Thai many times before, but nothing like this, ever. The fluffy fried rice carried a mixture of herbs and spices that I just could not place. The chicken was tender, juicy and beautifully browned. There is nothing more off putting for me than chicken that is pale and undercooked, but the crew at Starland had this done perfectly.
I questioned the Chef on the spices and flavorings used in the dish, but I was met only by a cheeky grin. I can understand the desire to keep the secrets – this is what brings so many customers back a second time. I will definitely be going back for more. As my plate was whisked away by the very efficient busboy, my dessert arrived. I love coconut, so I settled on the Khanom Krok. These were the richest, creamiest coconut cups I have ever put to my lips and the few pounds on the hips were worth every heavenly bite. A freshly brewed cup of espresso rounded out the meal nicely.
What made the whole experience so wonderful was the cheerful disposition of all the staff. The atmosphere among the customers was festive, and laughter rang out through the dining room frequently. I did not hear one complaint on the night and I certainly had none of my own.
I am sure that there are many of these hidden treasures in Thailand. All you need to do is look around, remain open minded, and take that step into the unknown. Order a local dish and experience local hospitality and culture. I decided to experience Thailand in every aspect, and to me the food and people are what make the nation great. You might be pleasantly surprised, just as I was. I stepped out of that restaurant back into the steamy afternoon and made a mental note to plan a return visit on my way back.
Written by: Cedric Shaddy