Southern Thai food in Bangkok has long been dominated by three big names: Khua Kling Pak Sod, Phuket Town and Baan Ice. With the arrival in 2015 of Raya, Phuket’s celebrated 21-year-old restaurant, they got some stiff competiton.
This branch is run by the owner’s niece, Panicha “Prai” Chessadawan, who says she doesn’t sacrifice authentic Southern flavors to accommodate Bangkokians’ sweet palates. The outcome has clearly won over locals, since the cream, Sino-Portuguese-referencing house is packed with customers from across the social spectrum—first jobbers, executives, young families. Honestly, we’re not won over by the decorative attempts to replicate Phuket’s Portuguese and Chinese heritage, which come across as rather gimmicky, but the food definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Though the menu is long and varied, you should focus on the first page, which contains all the most popular dishes. The kua kling moo sub (stir-fried minced pork with Southern curry paste, B200) might be mild at first bite but the flavor grows with a slow burn. Their gaeng som (yellow spicy and sour curry, B300) offers hot and tangy deliciousness led by sour top notes. The highlight crabmeat yellow curry with rice vermicelli (B400/600) delivers with an aromatic, well-balanced curry chockfull of big crabmeat chunks. The flavor of the goong pad kapi sataw (stir-fried prawns with shrimp paste and sataw beans, B250) leans towards saltiness, pacified by the hot steamed rice.
Even when Prai Raya is dealing with sweet flavors, it gets things just right, like in the moo hong (Phuket-style braised pork belly with garlic and pepper, B300) and totally addictive nam prik goong sod (shrimp paste with deep-fried dried shrimp, B200). Too bad the seasonal mamuang bao loy kaew (sour mango in syrup, B50) was not available on our last visit but you can always count on the delicious tubo (boiled taro, potato and red beans in sweet coconut milk, B65).
Prai Raya does have other dishes which break from Southern cuisine, but stick with the big guns and you can’t go wrong. Corkage charge B300
This review took place in May 2016 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.