La Mer, Wisut Kasat, Bangkok, Thailand
Nearest Train:MRT Bang Sue
Opening Hours:daily 11am-9pm
If La Mer (“The Sea” in French) conjures images of typical seafood restaurants on the Mediterranean coast, you won’t find this humble, inexpensive eatery aptly named. Located by the bustling Wisutkasat Road that leads to Rama 8 Bridge, this shophouse restaurant is surprisingly devoid of human traffic. (We are always the only table there.) The foreign name is its only cachet; the tacky four-table dining room, with faded photos, dusty, yellowish curtains, dark green tablecloths and pink napkins, is still waiting for a long overdue makeover. But La Mer does have its charms. The ageing owner, who triples as a chef, waiter and cashier, deserves praise for juggling every role with passion and efficiency. Though the name card says the restaurant opens till 11pm, La Mer usually closes at 8pm. But if you just knock on the door, the uncle is more than willing to whip up a dinner for you. He can also remember your likes and dislikes (since you’re his only customer) and prepare the meal according to your special tastes. Now how exclusive is that? The preparation, as well as the presentation, is frank and straightforward. For an appetizer, it’s a tough decision between the richly smooth chestnut soup and the soft shell crab salad, which sees a huge perfectly deep-fried crab paired with crisp iceberg lettuce and spicy dressing. We can’t say the same thing with the main course, though. Since the menu, which tries to include everything from fried frog legs to fillet mignon, is too ambitious for a one-man-show eatery like La Mer, performance sometimes wavers. Our spaghetti alle vongole turned out to be done pad khee mao style with small clams and basil instead of white wine sauce. The recommended La Mer Duck was a disappointment as the meat wasn’t tender and the orange sauce was sickeningly sweet. But a spoonful of La Mer’s wicked crepes suzette and strawberry Romanoff (fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream and rich cranberry sauce) will quickly make you forget about the previous misfires. A nice spot for some salads and sweets. Note that the uncle only takes cash.