Isaan Rom Yen

Average: 2 (1 vote)

Soi Rangnam has (or at least had) a bit of a reputation when it comes to Northeastern Thai food. We think it’s mostly unfounded and, while there’s worse to be had on the street, Isaan Rom Yen is another pretty average joint that backs up our point. A worrying tell-tale sign is that half the menu is actually Central and Southern Thai food, which might be a result of the many foreigners in the area­—inter faves like masaman curry and stir fried chicken with cashew nuts feature prominently. The heart of Isaan Rom Yen’s kitchen, though, is in Isaan. Although the quality is reliable, the flavors are dull, with MSG and spice doing most of the heavy lifting. We couldn’t taste any lime in the laab ped (minced duck salad, B80), on our last visit, so we asked for some extra wedges and were brought a little saucer full of nondescript liquid. It doesn’t fill us with confidence that any fresh lime was used to make this dish. That might explain the somtam’s lake of pizazz, too (from B30). The green papaya is cut with a peeler, which (although common) doesn’t get you the nice crunch of a knife-chopped papaya. A more serious offense is that it’s not very well pounded. The papaya ends up dry, having failed to absorb the sauce’s juices. The pla chon (snake head fish, B150) is a muddy-tasting fish if not properly prepared, and Isaan Rom Yen’s measly stalk of lemongrass stuffed into its jaws just isn’t enough to cut through the nasty flavor. Too bad, the fish is otherwise fresh and well-cooked. If you’d like to indulge in some upscale treats, you can splurge on Thai-French beef, to be boiled in a hot pot or cooked on a hot plate. At B250 for a big plate, you probably shouldn’t expect melt-in-your-mouth wagyu, but the bland, frozen meat cooked in a rank butter is far from the best deal on the menu. (The dipping sauces were pretty good, though.) On the topic of prices, portions are generous (the tom saep, B80, for example, comes with a lot of meat), but the bill still ends up on the high side for a non-air-con Isaan joint. Overall, Isaan Rom Yen appears to use decent meat and fish but then cuts corners on certain flavoring ingredients. We say, head further down Soi Rangnam to Isaan Rot Det instead. No corkage charge

Venue Details
Address: Isaan Rom Yen, 33/1 Soi Lert Panya (corner of Soi Rangnam), Bangkok, Thailand
Phone: 02-248-2295, 086-554-8972
Cuisine: Thai, Isaan
Price Range: B
Opening hours: daily 9am-9pm
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