IT’S strange that a restaurant should decide to describe itself as a kitchen.
Oriental Kitchen in the heart of Huddersfield town centre used to be known as Shangthai, but that all changed around 18 months ago.
With new owners came the new name that some might think downplays its restaurant status, but this remains very much a quality restaurant in terms of food, surroundings and service.
And when those three are right, then reputation should quickly follow.
While serving our food chatty manager John Kit revealed his plans to change the menu in the coming months and add more Chinese choices alongside the Thai.
Would it bring in more customers? Possibly. Time will tell on that but he’ll need to aim at the same quality he’s producing as a Thai restaurant.
It’s a smart place on King Street, virtually opposite the main entrance to Kingsgate. You can’t get more central than that. But it’s also a bit of an odd set-up as there’s a bar downstairs with the restaurant up some steep steps.
But as you get up you certainly get away from any hustle and bustle in the street below. Not that there was on the Tuesday evening we went. The town centre was deserted.
Oriental Kitchen has an ambient atmosphere with mood panels and a striking decor with big and bold wallpaper that works on its big walls. Had Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen stopped by, I wonder.
Tealights in small red holders personalise everything while the tables are covered in crisp white cloths topped off with a single red rose and the brown leather seats offer instant comfort.
There is a sense of pride and an eye for detail here.
Although there is talk of extending the menu, it’s not exactly a quick read now with a choice of three banquet style meals along with an extensive A La Carte.
We’re in plush surroundings so why not go for the most expensive at £23.95. Why not, indeed. After all, it’s a three-courser that kicks off with a mixed starter – chicken satay, prawn on toast, spring roll and fish cake and served with three sauces from sticky peanut to hot chilli.
The chicken was a large piece of marinated meat on a stick, ideal with the peanut sauce.
The spring rolls are delicately cooked and not over-facing. Some restaurants can overdo them, making them far too big and heavy, but not here.
The prawn on toast also had a natural lightness to it which it should at this early stage of the feast while the fish cake had a slightly rubbery texture and begged to be dunked in the chilli sauce.
Then it’s on to a ¼ crispy aromatic duck with extra thinly sliced leeks, cucumber and hoi-sin sauce wrapped in pancakes.
The duck is cut up at the table. It’s a rich meat made even more robust with the sweetness of the sauce all wrapped up in the dainty pancake.
All the dishes come with vegetables cleverly cut into roses. The detail is amazing. Just how do they do that?
The main course for our banquet for two is a selection of four very different yet vibrant dishes.
These were Thai green curry featuring aubergines, fine green beans, peas, sweet basil, green curry paste and coconut milk; beef in black bean sauce featuring spring onions, carrot and chilli; mixed seafood stir fry with cashew nuts, mushrooms, spring onions, red and green peppers and chilli; filet of fish in sweet and sour sauce including cucumber, red and green pepper.
The mixed fish has huge prawns in it and some of the ‘fruits de mer’ in there will certainly challenge a non-fish lover with their weird texture. If you’re not fishy then stay on dry land for this one.
The hottest dish was the green curry that was spiced up to the hilt with a slightly delayed reaction before the full flavour dances all over your tastebuds, but the impact is transitory.
Large chunks of fish with a crispy coat nestle up to pineapple in the sweet and sour fish while the tender beef and the dark, full-flavoured black bean sauce was a good example of a staple oriental dish. It all comes with a large portion of fried rice.
Had enough yet? We certainly had long before the dishes were empty so we took enough home for our meal the next night.
If we’d gone A La Carte the choice could have included hot and sour soup which includes shredded roast pork, thin strips of bamboo shoots, thin sliced Chinese dried mushroom, spring onion, beaten egg and chilli oil. Starters include chargrilled spare ribs marinated in herbs and barbecue sauce or Royal Weeping Tiger (£7.95) which is chargrilled tenderloin of beef or lamb with a spicy Thai chilli dipping sauce. Or how about a Golden Bag (£3.95) which is minced prawn mixed with chicken or vegetable flavoured with garlic and golden deep fried in rice paper parcels and served with plum sauce.
As for mains, the grilled sea bass wrapped in banana leaf with chilli sauce (£10.95) sounds outstanding. There is also a Panang curry (£7.95) which is a choice of meat cooked with coconut cream, lime leaf and red chilli.
With any of the mains you have a choice of meat – chicken, pork, beef and sometimes lamb or seafood.
So, it’s far more than just a kitchen. The Oriental Kitchen is a restaurant through and through.
32 King Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2QT
Tel 01484 531999
Website One coming soon
Opening hours Monday to Saturday noon to 2pm. Closed Sundays.
Disabled access No
The bill £60.10
Would you go back? Yes