Quaint eatery offers genuine southern Thai cuisine in the heart of Bangkok's poshest strip
Thong Lor is always up to date. In terms of fashion, the one-kilometre-long strip may be regarded as a neighbourhood catwalk for urban fashionistas. In terms of speed, you won't find any other road in the country that regularly enjoys as many super cars roaring and spurring per square metre. And in terms of gastronomy, there's almost no cuisine this posh soi doesn't have on offer.
Yet, there's one particular local fare no one seemed to notice missing until the arrival of Phuket Town, a lovely little eatery which started its business a few months ago.
Behind the wooden doors of Phuket Town's mustard-yellow coloured shophouse at a corner of Thong Lor Soi 6 is where you can find the authentic pungency of the Southern-style Thai cuisine prepared according to the recipes of a native family. As its name suggests, the menu straightforwardly represents the island's famous cuisine. You'll find anything from its signature khanom jeen nam ya poo, moo hong and khua kling, to provincial versions of nam phrik, soup and some seafood dishes.
We were there at noon on a weekday and the place, decorated in "Sino-Portuguese style" with coloured-glass windows and vintage wooden furniture, was completely packed. The crowd was a mix of office workers, doctors and young proprietors.
The menu was simple, featuring all the regional classics. The restaurant, owned and run by young siblings from Phuket, uses only fish from the Andaman Sea which is air-freighted regularly from the island. And when it comes to crab, it uses only blue swimming crab.
I recommend that you don't miss its best-selling dish. It says on the menu "rice noodles with steamed crab and coconut milk sauce", but this English subtitle for khanom jeen nam ya poo (130 baht) was quite misleading.
This famous dish of Phuket should have been translated as Thai-style fermented rice noodles with sweet and spicy curry sauce and blue crab meat.
The dish was also served with a traditional variety of condiments, namely bean sprouts, pickled soy bean sprouts (thua ngok hua toh), boiled egg, crispy caramelised tiny fish, pickled cabbage, pineapple chunks, cucumber, basil leaves, chamuang leaves and deep-fried dried chillies - all to offer a healthy combination of different textures and tastes to the dish. Meanwhile the curry, in which chunks of naturally sweet crabmeat were bathed, was very rich and tasty with a hint of fieriness and sweetness.
Unless you have a heat-sensitive tongue, nam phrik koong sieb or, according to the menu, shrimp paste with sun-dried shrimp (150 baht) is another must-have. The very fiery hot yet truly delicious chilli dip generously topped with dried shrimps arrived with cha-om tips omelette, pickled bean sprouts, string beans and eggplant, and was enjoyed with rice.
Another noteworthy side dish to be savoured with rice is hor mok pla mong, or fish curry souffle (50 baht per piece). It was made with pla mong (trevally fish - locally claimed to be the best fish for hor mok) - to yield a velvety, oily meat. The texture of the souffled curry was very smooth, while the flavour was a blend of aromatic red curry and coconut cream with a hint of sweetness.
Should you be looking for some crunchy treat that can offer you a tasty break from all that spicy fare, order deep-fried chicken wings with sticky rice (120 baht). The order presented 15 deep-fried wings lightly battered and seasoned with turmeric powder and salt, along with a basket of well-cooked sticky rice. The wings were very pleasant, with a flavourful crispy exterior and juicy soft centre.
Ask the staff if they have pla sai on the day you visit. Because the restaurant's pla sai tord khamin - deep-fried sea bream with turmeric (200 baht) - is really worth ordering. The fish, of a medium size, was well-seasoned with salt, pepper and spice to offer a salty herbal taste before being deep-fried. You can eat the whole fish, including the head and the bones, which were all crispy and addictive.
For dessert, noina nom sod (55 baht), or custard apple popsicle laced with milk, offered us a soothing and luscious finish to the spicy meal. Service was pleasant and food came out quick. The amiable owners always came in to help during the very busy hours.
Full review at: http://www.bangkokpost.com/leisure/cuisine/192021/straight-from-the-pearl-of-the-andaman