The thing we like most about Thonburi is that it’s home to so many good restaurants that also tend to be very inexpensive, especially when compared with downtown. Charoenthai is yet another example—and a very popular one. Its small shophouse gets so crowded that the tables spill out all over the footpath. Of course, you do have to forego some creature comforts for this low price point. There’s no air-con and no cute retro furniture. Yet you probably won’t care once you try the food. Most of the dishes are Chinese classics and some are truly wow-worthy, like the poo pad prik gluea (stir-fried crab with garlic and chili, B500). The sauce is a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and given an extra lift by the aromatic chopped garlic, while the roasted young kale is tender and fresh. The star of the dish is the mud crab, though: it manages to taste meaty, sweet and wonderfully natural (it’s also very big for this price). The hae guen (deep-fried shrimp cake, B150) is equally impressive. Its fluffy, pink-tinged interior is a testament to how stuffed-full of fresh shrimps it is. There’s no sign of greasiness and the accompanying namjim buay (Chinese plum sweet sauce) tastes wonderfully homemade and fresh. Even better, the pla kao dang tom buay (red-banded grouper in Chinese plum soup, B350) is quite simply unmissable. The refreshing and succulent soup has a delicious tang of Chinese plum and we love the addition of turmeric, which gives the dish a little spice and heightens the flavors of the other ingredients. Sample any of the above and it’s pretty clear what brings the diverse crowds, ranging from grandmas playing a game of mahjong to rich kids in their fancy cars. Too bad the entire menu isn’t quite this amazing. The bamee ob kaa haan’s (baked goose legs with noodles, B200) and accompanying tom palo (five-spiced Chinese blend) comes across a little bland—and so do its noodles. The pad pak bung (stir-fried morning glory, B80), too, lacks flavor. It’s also slightly overcooked. Despite this, the lack of fancy décor and the brisk unsmiling service, this place serves some of the best Chinese dishes in town, using great produce and at great prices. No corkage charge.
|Address:||Charoenthai Pochana, 113 Somdet Chao Praya (in front of Somdej Chaophraya Soi 5), Bangkok, Thailand|
|Opening hours:||daily 3-10pm|
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