In the journey in search of great food, you could travels for miles and miles and still find mediocrity, and that’s fine, because it’s a journey.
Thip Samai restaurant in Bangkok has been dubbed by many as serving the “best pad thai in Thailand”. And since I was spending my weekend in the Thai capital, there was no better time to check out if it’s worth all the hype. So, after a fairly fulfilling shopping experience at Platinum Fashion Mall (you can only do so much shopping at Platinum, especially if you’re a guy), I headed down there for dinner.
This dining instituition located in Phra Nakorn, which is essentially two-thirds of the way from Siam to the Grand Palace. You’re best getting there via tuk tuks, to be honest. Cab drivers seem clueless about the place, and my cab driver only knew where it was after consulting with the tuk tuk drivers at Platinum Fashion Mall’s sort-of taxi stand.
It’s a quaint little establishment once you get there. Unlike a typical restaurant set-up, the “kitchen” is located right out at the front. No, not an open concept, but it’s quite literally along the sidewalk in front of the store. This unconventional layout is effective, with the titilating aromas of the classic Thai dish calling out to your senses miles before you even reach the restaurant. The mostly female cooks masterfully whip up the stir-fried noodles in huge, charcoal-fired woks. It’s quite an art, just watching them serve. There’s a precision to their laid-out assembly line that’s just hypnotic.
Sorry Singaporeans, no Thai Iced Milk Tea here. The options are a very sweet but welcome Thai orange juice (available in two-sizes), and Thai coconut juice.
Besides your stir-fried noodles, there’s an accompaniment of fresh greens. I know we have salads and all, but the idea of having raw beansprouts will always sound weird to me. Nevertheless, when sprinkled and mixed in with the pad thai, it offers an added layer of crunch and texture to it.
Pad Thai is known for its flavors, but more than that, it’s known for the wok-fired taste. In Singapore, we call it the “wok hei” flavor. In New York, it’s dubbed “umami”, which is the elusive fifth sense. This one, at Thip Samai, was sadly lacking in that. Sure, it was a delicious plate of noodles, but it was only as good as the ones served at Thai Express. There just wasn’t any “life” to the noodles, and it’s disappointing, you know. You’ll easily find better pad Thais in more convenient spots in Bangkok.
Best in Bangkok? Not really.