Cairo is constantly being introduced to new restaurants that promise authentic cuisines and one-of-a-kind experiences; however it is sad, but true, that most of these ventures fail to make the mark. Not Bua Khao, though. Just off Horreya Square in Maadi, this Thai restaurant is no secret to the residents of Maadi; on the contrary, it is their proud and hidden gem.

On the same block as Cellar Door, Bua Khao is very humble despite its popularity. Going upstairs to reach it, the actual interior is not that impressive. In fact, it's actually quite shabby, but the downplayed décor adds to the charm and experience in a way – it highlights the food, which is the whole point.

After choosing a seat towards the back of the restaurant, we received our menus and quickly made our orders from the different selections of appetisers, soups, curries and noodle dishes. Feeling hungry, we settled on the vegetarian spring rolls (10LE) and papaya salad (30LE) to start; the green chicken curry with coconut milk (25LE) and Pad Thai with shrimps (35LE) for a main. First though, we ordered Thai iced-tea (15LE) and coconut water (17LE) to quench our thirst. The tea looked like regular tea with milk, only it had ice added to it. It wasn’t the ideal choice to have before a meal since it was quite sweet but its smooth texture was pleasing. The coconut water on the other hand was outright delicious. Although it was also relatively sweet, the drink was light, refreshing and irresistible – it didn’t interfere with the meal ahead.

Headed by a Thai chef who has been there for years, the ingredients are imported which comes as no surprise considering the quality of the food. The spring rolls came in a serving of three with a sweet dipping sauce. They were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside - they finished quite quickly. The papaya salad, though requested mild, was rather spicy but it didn’t matter because it was just so good. A mix of grated papaya, tomatoes, green beans and peanuts, the salad was invigorating with all sorts of flavours and textures coming together.

Leaving us ample time to finish nibbling on the remainders of our starters, the waiter then brought the two main dishes. The Pad Thai noodles were tasty; the shrimp were well cooked and appropriately cleaned, though the noodles were slightly on the gooey side – some parts were clumped together, however this did not prevent the plate from being finished. The curry on the other hand was absolutely wonderful. Served in a small China pot with a matching spoon, the sauce was perfectly creamy without being too heavy; the balance of flavours between the coconut, curry and spices was ideal. The flawless chicken pieces were cooked to perfection, softly breaking apart with the chopsticks.

Although the kitchen was almost closing, the chef was kind enough to make us a dessert anyway. We decided on the traditional far-eastern fried bananas with ice cream (25LE). The banana was beautifully crisp on the outside and warm and mushy on the inside, while the ice cream's cool creaminess complemented it. The parts came together with a slight hint of cinnamon and like the dishes before, it was eaten up pretty quickly.

Bua Khao is not the most visually appealing place, but the service is relaxed and amicable. In addition, the quality of the food is like few other places around town and its prices are remarkably low compared to other venues. So for all these reasons, nice interior or not, Bua Khao is definitely one of the top restaurants around.