Chandphen, 1030/1 Rama 4 Rd, Bangkok, Thailand
Opening Hours:daily 10:30am-10pm
Price Range:BBB - BBBB
One of the greatest measures of a restaurant’s fame is how familiar it is to taxi drivers. Every cabbie in town knows exactly what you mean when you say “pattakarn chandphen.” (If yours doesn’t, then he was probably driving a tractor somewhere upcountry only last week and you wouldn’t want to let him take you anywhere.) And not only will your chauffeur know where the restaurant is, he’ll probably be able to tell you about their famous grilled chicken and, depending on his age, what it was like before the remodeling. For over 50 years, Chandphen has been serving mostly Chinese seafood dishes to a mostly Chinese-Thai clientele. We’ve been there for family reunions, office parties, wedding banquets and birthday dinners. These have nearly always been upstairs in the warren of private rooms, and the food has always been memorably good. In many Chinese restaurants, the food (and often the service, too) in private rooms is superior to what you receive in the dining room. While we have no complaints about the service, which is terrific thanks to the team of grandfatherly managers and captains, we can’t help but wonder after our last visit if the dishes the common customers downstairs receive aren’t treated with the same care in the kitchen as those sent to VIPs upstairs. The first dish delivered to our lazy susan was of course the chicken, which was as we remembered. If you’re accustomed to the tenderness of mass-produced poultry, you’ll want to order the Half-Century Famous Barbecued Chicken, but those in the know (with strong teeth) go for the Charcoal Grilled Thai Farm Chicken, which will test your patience (25 minutes) and give your jaw a bit of a workout but actually has some taste to it. Our spinach in oyster sauce was acceptable but nothing special. The real problems came with the fried dishes. Our shrimp spring rolls were overcooked, chewy and bland, and the Thai-Styled Crab Thermidor was a waste of good crab meat: dry and boring. The biggest disappointment of the evening was the Fried Diced Chicken with Five Assorted Nuts: what was apparently once chicken was transformed by an inattentive cook into what resembled chewy chicken leather and the entire dish was oily and overcooked. Your best bets at Chandphen (at least downstairs) are seafood dishes, thanks to high-quality ingredients. Our whole steamed crab was fresh and delicious, although we would have preferred it cooked a bit less, especially for B1,250. Another winner was the spicy Thai oyster “salad”, which arrives with the ingredients separate so you can mix them together as you please. So, at Chandphen, stick to the fresh and avoid the fried. Your doctor and your taste buds will thank you. No corkage charge.