Suan Kularb, 162 Phahon Yothin Soi 7 (Ari), Bangkok, Thailand
Opening Hours:daily 11am-11pm
Price Range:B - BB
Reservation recommended, Parking available
Despite its name, which means a “rose garden,” things aren’t all that rosy at Suan Kularb. Still that doesn’t stop the loyal regulars coming back to this long-standing restaurant for more pocket-friendly food. The restaurant was started some 50 years ago, selling pork satay near Suankularb Wittayalai School (hence the name), then moved around a few times before occupying its current spot in Ari. The venue itself is a bit drab: lots of tables lined up in rows, two air-con dining areas, an outdoor balcony and two private rooms with karaoke machines. Similar to the sizeable space, the menu is huge, covering almost every imaginable dish you could crave for. Thanks to its reputation, this Ari establishment is usually bustling with Thai-Chinese family regulars as well as a handful of expat residents. Unfortunately, the standard of some of these dishes is below our expectations. The crowd-pleasing deep-fried pork knuckle, for example, is big enough to feed a whole family but the meat was too dry and tough on a recent visit. The same goes for the larb ped krob (with crispy deep-fried duck). The seasoning is zesty all right, but the dish also suffers from unacceptably dry meat. Fish is a better bet. Our favorite is the deep-fried seabass with fish sauce, which was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, so you can still taste the natural sweetness of the fish. Soups were ok, too. The dependable choices are the spicy and sour soup with spareribs and the kaeng som poo khai (sour soup with crab). Though it often has a full house to feed, the kitchen rolls out the food fast and servers are friendly and efficient. Portions are generous and prices are affordable. That’s probably why, despite some flaws, Suan Kularb still remains such a popular choice with families. Corkage B100.