The Simply group has put their stamp on Shanghai’s restaurant world with a polish that still shines today. Simply Thai’s first location has been a success for many years as it brought a fresh sophistication to foreign food here in Shanghai; these days, only a few Thai restaurants in a relatively crowded market can compete. The menus are thoughtfully explained and colorful, the setting is cooly casual, and there is a solid list of wines. The restaurant follows a simple formula that works.
Simply Thai, which feels a bit crowded, has few flourishes but manages to capture a contemporary Southeast Asian vibe. The food, like the service, is surprisingly consistent but occasionally unextraordinary – straying from favorites can result in disappointing dishes.
Simply’s som tam, or papaya salad, is crisp, fishy, and searingly spicy – an authentic rendering of a Thailand staple. The green curry is also good; there is a subtle balance of sweet and spice, with plenty of Thai basil adding a characteristic complexity to the dish. Other dishes were received with less fanfare, like a steamed fish in a heavy-handed tom yum reduction: the stickiness of the sauce, which was at once cloying and sour, did little to complement the river fish. A roast duck curry erred on the sweet side, but crisp, deep fried money bags, and a stir fry of shrimp and snowpeas rounded out a solid meal at what is, in this young restaurant scene, a Shanghai institution.