The area around Shibuya station offers a head-spinning array of dining options, from standing noodle bars to elegant French and Italian restaurants. Just off bustling Center-gai, one that I like is Thai Garden, which manages to provide tasty, reasonably priced Thai dishes in a serene setting, allowing you to escape the hubbub and enjoy your food in peace.
The garden tone is set by the plants outside and the striking statue at the entrance, a welcome in a burst of flowers. The interior sees the same blend of elements: light wooden paneling and elegantly simple furnishings are offset by carvings, glittering elephant statues in a bright alcove, and what looks like tall grass growing along the stone path between the counter and the main dining area.
On the walls are photographs of vividly colorful flowers and scruffy tuk-tuks, posters advertising Thai beers and the restaurant’s occasional vegetable-carving class, and the garden theme maintained with decorative leaves and flowers festooning the upper parts. In this setting the cheesy Thai pop was a little incongruous, but the volume was low enough that it didn’t disrupt the peaceful atmosphere.
The lunch menu features a range of dishes, all priced between ¥850 and ¥950, coming with soup, a small salad and dessert; there are five choices on each day, some of them fixtures, some changing daily. Alongside standards such as red and green curry, Tom Yum ramen and basil stir-fry, there are on some days more esoteric dishes to choose from, like a tempting salmon coconut curry, a definite for a future visit.
I played fairly safe last time and went with the fried chicken curry, and had reason to be pleased with my choice. They didn’t skimp on the sauce, which was milder than the red curry that it looked like, but fragrant and flavorful with a pleasantly smooth, creamy texture. The chicken was tender and tasty, its batter slightly softened by the sauce, but still satisfyingly crispy; the soup was salty and a little spicier, balancing the main dish very nicely. After that the semolina dessert was just what I needed, light and a little sweet rather than heavy and cloying.
In one of the city’s liveliest districts, Thai Garden is a good place to get out of the crowd, catch your breath, sit back and relax.