Booking a restaurant on the night of a certain do-or-die football match could have gone two ways - packed with fans getting a filling while especially-brought in plasma screens blared out the scenes from Brazil, or finding yourself with tables to choose from and attentive staff all to yourself.
Luckily, it was the latter that met us on a trip to Amala Thai.
Warmly welcomed, we selected a table for two by the window and perused the drinks menu. We were a little early but our waitress didn’t mind.
Billing itself as ‘proudly traditional, distinctly modern’, our first glances around the room confirmed that.
It may not be the most extravagantly decorated restaurant but it was full of little touches that made it all the more attractive. Clean whites and bright greens made it feel fresh and bright.
And even though the hosts may not have been expecting a full house, every table had a lit candle, which made the atmosphere all the cosier.
Buddhist and Thai-inspired ornaments decorated the nooks and crannies and the walls were sparingly covered in fitting artwork.
The table settings, chairs and covers were all pristine and the only thing that let down Amala Thai on the decor front were the toilets, which could do with updating.
Away from Wakefield’s main dining areas on Cross Street, Amala Thai has been open for just over two years and recently started a new lunch menu and opening on Sundays.
The large menu has been carefully constructed to combine contrasting flavours of hot, sour, salty and sweet, in artfully presented dishes you won’t necessarily find at your regular Thai restaurant.
The menu itself was difficult to navigate, with a selection of banquets to choose from on one half, and Chef’s Specialities, small plates, big plates, soup, curries and sides throughout the rest of the menu.
After initial disappointment that there were no dumplings to be found on the small plate section, my dining companion was delighted to find steamed chicken and prawn dumplings under the Chef’s Specialities.
For Oliver, it was a tough decision between the Amala mango papaya salad, which sounded mouth watering with its palm sugar, lime and tamarind dressing topped with crushed nuts, and honey soy caramel pork ribs.
But when it came to the crunch, the carnivore won and the ribs were ordered.
It was 20 minutes before our starters arrived - it didn’t feel like a wait as we demolished a tasty plate of Thai crackers, served with a tangy dip.
My dining partner raved so much about his dumplings that I had to try, and I enjoyed the flavours, especially when contrasted with the two dips. The garnish was equally impressive - two large and incredibly fresh-tasting prawns.
My beautifully presented ribs could have easily suited me for a main course. Six succulent ribs with the meat falling off the bone, with a pretty sesame seed garnish and presented on a bed of dressed lettuce. The meat was lean and not greasy, and melted in your mouth.
While waiting on our mains, we eagerly eyed up the starters arriving at a neighbouring table, which included some beautifully presented tempura prawns, arriving standing to attention in shot glasses.
Our main course arrived quickly, and we were soon struggling for space on our table as we realised we may well have over-ordered.
After foregoing my usual Thai favourite, Massaman Curry, for something a bit different, I plumped for the Duo of Amala Fish, a belly-busting combination of tempura fish fillet in tamarind sauce garnished with cashew nuts, and poached salmon sitting in a red curry sauce.
The two contrasting flavours were a delight together, with the tart tamarind of the tempura fish perfectly offset by the creamy sauce of the salmon, which was beautifully cooked.
A large portion of coconut rice was barely touched as I struggled to finish the portion.
The grilled Waterfall Pork in a spicy dressing with shallots, Kaffir lime and mint, was a carnivore’s heaven.
My partner said it was the “most aromatic, most succulent” pork he’d ever tasted. Although not in a traditional sauce, the dressing packed a lot of punch and added flavour to his ‘glutinous’ sticky rice. Again, the presentation far succumbed the reasonable pricing, with caramelised onions topping the pork and the rice served in a traditional bamboo steamer.
Although I could have happily left Amala Thai content and full after our first two courses, the small but more-ish dessert menu was begging.
My dining partner went for the Coconut Banana Fritter, served with his choice on handcrafted artisan ice cream.
We barely had time to discuss who might be winning the dreaded football when our deserts arrived, again beautifully presented.
The Voodoo Brownie was a large slab of soft chocolate cake made with sour cherry and single malt whisky. The stem ginger and rhubarb ice cream which accompanied it ensured Amala Thai lived up to its contrasting flavour promise. Despite being full to the brim, I could’ve ate a bowl full of it, and the choice of flavour was a lovely nod to Wakefield’s Rhubarb Triangle heritage. The brownie itself had a slight smoky taste as the whisky fought its way through.
My dining partner’s fritters were piping hot and a feast for the eyes with black sesame seeds punctuating the golden brown batter.
Before we knew it, we’d spent two very pleasant hours in Amala Thai - the quiet, peaceful music and attentive service making for a relaxed atmosphere.
Overall our meals, with two glasses of wine and two bottles of fruit cider, came to just over £70, which felt like great value considering the high quality of the food, and the fact Oliver had to undo his trouser button when he got home.
Certainly worth a second trip.
ADDRESS: 9-11 Cross Street, Wakefield, WF1 3BW
OPENING TIMES: Mon - Sat noon - 2.30pm; 5pm - 10.30pm. Sun noon - 8pm. Closed Tuesday.
TEL: 01924 374771