Hai Somtam Convent

Average: 2 (1 vote)

This no-frills Isaan (Northeasten Thai) restaurant, now a long-standing fixture on Soi Convent, has a ground floor open to the street, an air-con second floor, and a lot of plastic stools. Despite its nondescript appearance, Hai is rather famous, and you’ll even find reviews describing it as one of the best Isaan joints in town. We disagree. Hai is very conveniently located in Silom, a business district by day and tourist trap by night; and that might explain its popularity with Bangkokian office workers addicted to overly sweet food and the occasional lost tourist who can’t take the heat of a proper Isaan meal. Half the items on the menu are literally coated with a glazing of sugar, whether it’s the sun-dried deep fried pork (B80) or the grilled chicken (B75/110). Even the somtam (from B50) is loaded with the stuff, so that meals here end with your tastebuds clogged and clobbered with salt, MSG and sugar. It’s not the Isaan food that taxi drivers eat, and definitely not what they serve in the countryside. That’s not to say Hai is a horrible place. The food is invariably fresh, demonstrated by the giant vats of ingredients they go through in a single day (a lot of the cooking can actually be seen taking place at the front of the restaurant). Service is usually fast and effective, with remarkably few mix-ups given how busy the place can get. But we’ve definitely had more fragrant Isaan saigrok (pork sausage, B75) that did more than just hit oily notes. We’ve also had noticeably more herbal minced catfish salad (B80) with clearer mint and lime flavors. In fact, lime is an issue in several dishes. It’s not squeezed fresh from what we’ve observed, and it ends up tasting like dishwashing liquid at times. As a final offense, they don’t serve any beef here—a fad particularly en vogue with our city’s bourgeoisie but one that’s very ill-fitting for this cuisine. Our office happens to be in the neighborhood, and we’ll continue to frequent Hai now and then, but our visits are becoming increasingly infrequent as the food served here becomes more and more toned down and industrially churned out. (Tip: head up the road and into Soi Phiphat 2 for a much more exciting street stall.) 

Venue Details
Address: Hai Somtam Convent, 2/4-5 Convent Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
Phone: 02-631-0216
Area: Silom
Cuisine: Isaan
Price Range: B - B
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am-8pm; Sat 10am-7pm
Takeaway available
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