, JANUARY 15, 2007 (STAR) By Joseph O. Cortes - Restaurateur Maritel Nievera-Shani is preaching the gospel of noodles. What else comes to mind at the mention of Oody’s, the Thai restaurant she opened four years ago that offers Filipino diners easy access to one of Asia’s most popular foods?

And to greet 2007, Oody’s is slowly updating its many branches around Metro Manila, both in terms of look and menu. Oody’s has always presented Thai food as a hip Asian cuisine, and the restaurant as the in place to be. Now, it presents a more extensive line of Thai dishes, both authentic and fusion, as a delicious one Filipinos should savor and easily adapt to.

There is a new look to Oody’s, too. At its Robinsons Galleria branch, located at the second floor of the annex wing, there are no walls to delineate the restaurant’s boundaries. The whole place is laid out wide open, and anyone can just come in, take a seat, and order their favorite dishes. The old fancy photo wallpapers are also gone, replaced by blowups of Oody’s specialties. On one wall of the smoking area section is a huge enlargement of a delicious plate of pad thai, the popular noodle dish that is one of the dishes that define Thai food.

"Many Filipino diners still do not consider an order of noodles a full meal," says Nievera-Shani. "That’s why we’ve added a number of rice meals to complement our original menu of Thai favorites."

Indeed, diners can have their fill of Thai food here, whether they fancy bagoong rice, pad thai, chicken pandan, or sticky rice with mango. As we chowed down on some of our favorite Thai dishes, she introduced us to a number of others we’ve never tried before. These dishes added a whole new world of Thai taste sensations we’ve never had before.

Often, we would have fresh spring rolls for appetizers. The fresh taste of rice vermicelli and cooked shrimp contrasts nicely with the savory peanut dip, just enough to whet the appetite. Or we would have fried shrimp wanton (P198), the dim sum favorite given a Thai twist with the sweet chili sauce dip.

This time around, we were treated to egg salad (P90), one of the restaurant’s new dishes. Hard-boiled eggs are deep-fried, then sliced, and served with a tangy tamarind sauce and topped with caramelized onions. The flat taste of the eggs comes to life with the sweet-sour sauce.

Those looking for a one-dish meal or a filling merienda should try the tom yam noodles or the chicken curry noodles.

The tom yam noodles (P188) are two delicious dishes in one bowl: tom yam goong (shrimp tom yam) and noodles. If you want a hot soup dish that will satisfy cravings for Thai food, then this it. The noodles make the soup really satisfying. After you’ve slurped through a whole bowl of it, you’ll be ready for the day’s many challenges.

For those who want something spicy but would rather skip the soup, the chicken curry noodles (P138) could be the perfect choice. Think chicken curry and you’re not off the mark. Rather than serving it with a bowl of steamed rice, the chicken curry gravy is mixed into a generous platter of noodles. Talk about a great deal. The chicken meat is shredded, while the vegetables are sliced. It’s a zesty meal that will keep you on your toes.

Those looking for new flavors for lunch or dinner should try the eggplant in black beans with ground pork and basil leaves, fried catfish in sweet and sour sauce, chicken pandan, and breaded pork chop in yellow rice.

The eggplant in black beans (P148) is a savory dish that is not too spicy yet still authentically Thai. The basil leaves give the dish its refreshing flavor. You can have it as an entrée – it goes wonderfully well with steamed rice – or as a side dish to go with any entrée.

For those who want something meatless, the fried catfish in sweet and sour sauce (P168) is a perfect choice. The catfish might be a bit forbidding. After all, this fish has lots of little bones. But the chefs at Oody’s have done their best to debone the fish as much as possible, leaving the flesh easy to pick.

The chicken pandan (P128) is another popular Thai dish that never disappoints. For a quick meal, Oody’s breaded pork chop in yellow rice (P168) comes with a generous cup of rice.

Leave room for dessert! After all those spicy dishes, reward your palate with something sweet, cool, and refreshing. It will definitely bring down the heat that comes with a number of popular Thai dishes.

We are quite partial to the water chestnut in palm toddy and langka (P68), a simple dessert of crunchy water chestnuts in a sweet soup of coconut milk.

And then there’s the sticky rice with mango, a popular Thai dessert. Sticky rice is cooked in a secret mix of coconut milk and sugar for the Thai version of biko. Pair each bite of the rice cake with a slice of ripe yellow mango and you’ll declare you’re in heaven.

There’s also the Thai version of halo-halo (P78). An assortment of sweet and preserved fruits is piled on top of shaved ice.

For something simple, Oody’s also has a number of snow mountains (P78), which are shaved ice topped with a generous splash of flavored syrup and milk. It is as sweet and cool as a flavored soda drink.

Nievera-Shani says Oody’s remains competitive in the market with its reasonable prices. Although she imports most of the needed ingredients from Thailand, they are still relatively cheap.

So, take heart. If you’ve always wanted to splurge on something delicious, Oody’s will surely have the right dish for you.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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