Joburg’s Thai restaurant scene is phenomenally underrated. Jintara Restaurant, previously known as Erawan in Riverside Shopping Centre, will keep you coming back for more self-inflicted pain. It may not be scientifically proven, but spicy food is addictive – especially here. From pad Thai to die for to fiery regional fare, this hip, buzzy spot serves up the most terrific Thai food in the city.
There’s so much more to the southeast Asian cuisine than the cartons of pad Thai you always order at your go-to delivery restaurant. Gather a hangry crew and head to Jintara Restaurant, where you can feast on piquant bowls of khao pad from the northeastern Isan region, smoked salmon trout salad with a medley of fruits and dim sum that will make you go dumpling crazy. In Thai, Jintara means ‘to imagine, to dream’ – a fitting name for both the interior and the menu at this long-running restaurant.
Jintara’s dining room’s contemporary feel is matched by the enthusiastic young staff. Tapas-style sharing is the name of the game at this Bryanston favourite, and the menu attracts foodies citywide: Not only does it span the culinary regions of Thailand, but it includes twists from Japanese food, too. We recommend starting with the chicken spring rolls, the tempura prawns as well as the spicy duck and prawn gao dim sum. The appeal of this dim sum innovator doesn’t seem to have dulled since it rebranded – served in bamboo baskets, the delicate steamed buns come with fillings such as chicken, spicy beef, butternut, spinach and cream cheese, and soft prawn. The other dumpling varieties are well worth sampling too: Don’t leave without trying the seriously smooth prawn and spring onion wontons, served with a sweet, vinegary sauce.
If you’re dreaming of sushi, you’ve also come to the right place. Jintara’s sushi counter takes its art seriously: Expect platters of 4×4 Prawn & Rolla rolls with tempura prawns atop tuna or salmon California rolls and tuna or salmon California rolls topped with the same fish, mayo, avocado and caviar, sprinkled with spring onion, teriyaki and seven spice. Every plate is beautifully presented with slivers of vegetables and dots of wasabi. Sushi connoisseurs are welcome to go off-menu here, but we recommend the melt-in-your-mouth delicious salmon roses and the rainbow rolls layered with salmon, tuna and avocado, topped with mayo and caviar. Even if you skip the sushi-inspired dishes, the spicy, incredibly complex curries are still a radical departure from most pad Thai-pushing joints.
Much of the main course section of the menu is built around less familiar street-food options, such as gaeng ped Thai red curry featuring peppers, bamboo, fresh basil and coconut milk or the nam prik pao – egg noodles stir-fried with cashews and fresh vegetables in a traditional Thai roasted chilli paste. Beware: What Jintara calls ‘medium spicy’ is hellaciously hot. More delicate tongues can rest easy with the rich, mild gaeng keow wan Thai green curry with chicken, vegetables, fresh basil and coconut milk or the pad khing with stir-fried ginger, garlic, mushrooms and other vegetables. To drink, you can choose from a decent selection of spice-friendly wines.
If you’re looking for stellar Thai food including elevated street food and regional specialties, we couldn’t recommend Jintara enough. When you tire of eggs for brunch, try a communal style of cuisine at Jintara for a dim sum brunch (the restaurant opens at 11h00 daily). Or, try it for your next girls’ dinner or date night – just make sure your credit card is charged up as prices can add up quickly.
Riverside Shopping Centre, 317 Bryanston Drive, Bryanston
011 706 8000