“I’ve lived in Thailand. And given my love for Thai food, any Thai joint I come across in Pakistan comes under great taste scrutiny! Not to mention my own passion for cooking Thai food and taking Thai food classes..”
This was my (rather full of myself) introduction to Sana, who runs Tiger Temple in Islamabad’s upscale Beverly Center with her partner Shahram. As soon as this place opened, we knew we had to try it!
The two have made a gigantic leap from their beginnings at a small food court to a pricey outlet in the center of Islamabad’s highbrow neighborhood. It’s a testament to their true entrepreneurial spirit. They took almost 8 months to build out their new outlet before opening it’s door to customers. What did they do during that time? Well, they perfected their recipes and ironed out sourcing and operational matters. Sourcing the right ingredients is one of the biggest challenges in this business. Sana and Shahram started Tiger Temple as a result of their mutual love for Thai food. Sana had been part of a Thai joint close to her campus while studying abroad.
The outlet layout and design is refreshing with stark white tables and chairs contrasted with bright abstract images on the walls around themes of Buddhism and Asian culture. The origami table centers and huge drip painted pots were very pleasing to look at and really enhanced the experience.
We ordered the Tom Kha Gai, Fish and Scallop Dumplings, Chicken and Mushroom Dumplings, Steamed Lime Fish and Pad Ke Mao.
In terms of flavor, I believe the Tom Kha Gai it is the hardest Thai dish to pull off (and I told Sana as much). And I have to say they did a brilliant job with it! In this soup you have creamy coconut broth , which looks deceivingly plain but has those spicy notes to it, which can surely you sweat! Sana cooked this one especially for us and was spot on with the flavors!
Next was the Lime Fish. When they served it — it looked as pretty as the cover photo on their page. You know it’s Thai when you can smell the zesty flavors and aromas while pouring it into your bowl. This is what Lime Fish is all about! It’s as close to a perfect dish as you can get!
This triggered a whole debate about the type of fish to be used; sea bass or sole. In Pakistan, you get Sormai fish (known in Thailand as King fish), and can be used as an alternate to Pangasius that is traditionally used for this dish– making it even more flavorful.
Pad Ke Mao, also known as ‘drunken noodles’ had the beautifully crispy fried basil leaves on top, with noodles made fresh in-house. I have to say that I missed the taste of traditional rice noodles, but these were great too and we easily finished all of it.
As for price, I think the big serving sizes of each dish makes it a good buy. I think two people can easily leave happy by splitting two dishes.
We ended our hearty dinner with Thai Iced Coffee infused with sesame seed flavor. The coffee had a surprisingly refreshing flavor and I would love to try it again on a less full stomach.
In the end, what we look for in a restaurant is the passion that drives it. In this case, Sana and Shahram are both driven towards perfection. They focus not just on the facade, appearance and ambiance, but pay meticulous attention to the food that leaves their kitchen. Sana has a clear vision — to make Tiger Temple the best Thai dining experience in Islamabad.
Have you had the chance to visit Tiger Temple? What were your favorites? Let us know in the comments. As for us, it’s definitely Pad Thai and Red Curry next time!