This humble Northern Thai food restaurant sticks to its street-side roots.
From street stall to shop-house and now to four-story townhouse, there’s no ending in sight for the Eats Payao feelgood story. The Northern Thai food specialist has just swapped its cramped Nanglinchee digs for a bigger, better premises on buzzing Yen Akat, where on top of khao soi (from B90) and gaeng hang lay (B180), they’re adding a menu of Singaporean food—think bak kut teh and nasi lemak—in deference to one half of the owner-couple’s upbringing. Head there pronto to get one of their sai oua (northern Thai sausage) burgers for the knock-down price of B54.
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They haven’t entirely abandoned their street-side roots in the move indoors: the decor pays homage to that more impermanent time with umbrellas still overhead (Lanna-style, upturned and contributing to the pink mood) and large art pieces depicting (what else?) the outdoors.
The food, too, maintains its street cred with mostly-traditional recipes from Phayao province, like the Lanna Set (B300), a spread of northern bites from Payao sausages and crackling to blanched greens with pitch-perfect nam prik noom and nam prik ong for dip.
Center stage at Eats Payao, however, has always been the khao soi, which the restaurant claims is the “best in town.” That might be true if you’re not a fan of the rich variety served across town at Ong Tong. Still, we’ll give them points for the spread here: the khao soi options are chicken (B90), beef (B130), puff ball mushrooms (B180), crab (B280) and, our favorite because of the plump mussels and tender squid, seafood (B170).
Perhaps overshadowed by the khao soi boasting are some other excellent options, like the kai pam (egg cooked in a banana-leaf boat with herbs and chilies, B70), which comes piping hot but still a little runny, heady from the herbs baked within. Also tasty is the Khaomun Eats Payao (B150), a cousin of Malaysia’s nasi lemak for its earthy, coconut-milk fragrance, here served with a juicy drumstick, shrimp paste and crispy golden anchovies.
Despite the successes of many staple dishes, the balance of flavors can be up and down. A favorite on previous visits, the gaeng hang lay (B180), billed as spicy and sour, last time was cloying, to the extent that it overwhelmed the promise of the ingredients. Similarly the larb nuea tod (fried minced pork with herbs and toasted rice, B180) lacked all larbiness, resembling instead a perfectly fried and entirely plain meatball. The service, too, was irregular. Although it wasn’t crowded when we visited, the kua hed thob (stir-fried puff ball mushrooms, B220) took a full 40 minutes to arrive.
For its many inconsistencies, Eats Payao shows a lot of promise. Thanks to regular booze promos (check Facebook) it’s also more drink-friendly than your average neighborhood Thai restaurant. With a bigger premises promised in 2018, this is one underdog we’re cheering for.