Everyone who lives in Bangkok has a stable of restaurants from which they choose their meals throughout the day. First there’s the fruit stand where one will grab some fresh pineapple or mamuang on the way to the office. Then there’s the street stall near the office where you grab a quick and cheap lunch. After that you might have a handful of “fancy” restaurants to choose from when you’re entertaining out of town guests or on a first date. Most important of all though is the neighborhood restaurant where you get your normal dinners. This is the restaurant you’ll frequent the most… the one where you’ll forge your first relationships with Thais… and the one where you’ll stuff your face most often. For us this was P Kitchen on Sukhumvit Soi 18.
P Kitchen isn’t much to look at. It’s a bit more polished than most neighborhood Thai restaurants… but that’s not really saying much. There are menus in English with pictures of the food… something that normally foreshadows a bland, spice-less tourist trap meal. Generally you’ll find the tables occupied by sock-sandaled tourists or other farangs (foreigners)… again a normal tell-tale sign of the flavorless Thai meal.
You’d be wrong to assume that however. This open air eatery features some quality Thai food. I was amazed the first time I sat down for a meal here… Joanna went with her usually Kra Pao Gai and I tried to show off ordering the Yam Pla Duk Foo. Both came out fresh and lovely. They didn’t short the spice on the Kra Pao… making the food clean and appealing to the foreigners in the area doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice on taste!
Be sure to get the Kra Pao Gai (or Moo for minced Pork which is a more traditional way of eating the dish) sai Kay Dao (with fried egg). This will show them that you mean business. Not only does it look cool but the egg yolks work to cut the heat down a bit and give a complexity of flavor as it mingles with the phrik khi nu peppers.
This isn’t a restaurant you travel to in order to get fancy fare. It’s the antithesis of “Royal Thai Cuisine“. Not that that’s good or bad… it’s just more rustic. This is the kind of restaurant you go to when you just want some Panang Curry or Fried Rice.
These are the restaurants that make your time in Thailand truly memorable. They’re not necessarily the ones you’ll drive across town to eat at… but they’re close by, comfortable, and most importantly – CHEAP! They’re a quiet (well not always so quiet) refuge in the city… a place to sit in the open air sipping cold Thai beer and eating spicy Thai food while street kittehs beg for food.
But then again maybe P Kitchen is special. On a recent visit to Bangkok Joanna introduced our good friends Kitty and Jeremie (the chef from previously reviewed Amantee) to the Soi 18 eatery and they declared it excellent saying that it was just like eating in a real Thai kitchen. Between this and Soi Polo they marveled at these Americans who seem to be able to find the real deal Thai food in Bangkok
If you’re coming from Sukhumvit on Soi 18 it’ll be on your left about half way up the street.