The Kaset-Nawamintra area is far-flung but has maintained a long-standing reputation for its rows of quality eateries. Lately there has been an influx of the international, fusion kinds that are so popular downtown, but Kieng Uan is an old-school endeavor, the decor more contemporary condo than seaside eatery. This Bangkok branch (there’s another one out town on Kalapapruek Road) of a nearly sixty-year old enterprise, which first opened in 1955 in the Mahachai district of Samut Sakorn and expanded over the generations, under the credo that you don’t have to drive far from the city to get the finest seafood. Well, you do have to drive a fair bit in this case, but it’s still technically Bangkok. And crowds of urban families and office workers do descend upon the place night after night. It’s not difficult to see why: the choices are abundant and most of them are affordable. The menu here is bewilderingly long but thankfully full of pictures, and prices range from B100 to thousands. But due to the size and breadth of the endeavor, things become a little mass-produced and, while mostly sound, fail to wow. The deep fried soft shell crab with garlic and pepper (B250) for example, is lovely to behold, but the flavors of the crab are hidden under excessive amounts of tasteless flour—if you’re not picky, the accompanying chilli sauce does rescue the dish. The steamed seabass with chilli, garlic and lime (B350) is another case in point: the sauce is out of balance but the fish is fresh and firm, giving the dish an overall pass. The same goes for their signature dish, goong su-sa (stir-fried shrimp chilli sauce served on hot plate, B495): like the seabass sauce, it’s a bit too sweet for our taste. And then there are some very solid dishes, like the scallops (B180) and the lhon-poo (pregnant crab in thick coconut milk sauce, B390). So, overall, while the enormity of their brand probably hinders stringent quality control, Kieng Uan still manages to save the face of their ancestors with good ingredients and decent recipes.
|Kieng Uan, 592 Kasetnawamin, Bangkok, Thailand
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