Ruea Thong, 351/2 Thonglor Soi 17, Bangkok, Thailand
Nearest Train:BTS Thong Lo
Opening Hours:Mon-Sat 11:30am-2pm; daily 5-11pm
While hipsters flock to the chain eateries at nearby J-Avenue, diners in the know are more than willing to trade stylish surroundings for scrumptious Thai fare at this long-standing, humble restaurant. The two-story shop house, despite its tatty appearance, makes you feel comfortably at home, as does the family-style service from veteran servers. The décor is nothing to write home about, but the food certainly is. At first glance, the menu might not look that exciting as it lists a few dozen standards you can find at most neighborhood restaurants. But look closely and there’re also homey, old-fashioned recipes which might remind you of your grandmother’s cooking, such as kaeng khua hoy khom (cockles curry) and “boneless” sundried tapian fish, which is fried to a crisp so you can eat the bones. Even on busy nights, the small kitchen manages to feed you quickly and without mix-ups. More impressively, it manages to turn seemingly ordinary dishes into special treats. The health-conscious would be hard-pressed not to gobble up the simple-yet-scrumptious khao pad kak moo (fried rice with crispy pork crackling). The prik khing pla dook foo (deep-fried minced catfish with red chili paste and string beans) is addictively crispy and fragrant with its thinly chopped kaffir lime leaves. Despite a handful of farang regulars, Ruea Thong doesn’t compromise on flavor: what should be spicy is spicy. The namesake nuea Ruea Thong, for example, features tender slices of grilled beef doused in spicy and sour sauce. And those with sensitive palates be warned—when the waitress cautions the yellow curry with pickled bamboo shoots is fiery, she means it. Offering a pleasing contrast between the piquant broth, the crisp bamboo shoots and plump sweet shrimps, the dish will definitely have you sweating buckets but it’s not to be missed. Not every single item on the menu reaches such impressive heights, though. Crowd-pleasers like stir-fried tam leung leaves with crispy pla salid (Gaurami fish) and the fluffy omelet with crab meat are dependably good, but not great. All in all, there’s a lot to like here: a menu filled with things that taste much, much better than they read, efficient service and pocket-friendly prices. No Corkage.