Royal China Recipe (Yang Seng Tang)
We always think it’s a good sign at a Chinese restaurant when your waitresses speak limited Thai and jot down your order in Chinese. And while there’s no doubting the authenticity and culinary skills of Royal China Recipe (more commonly known as Yang Seng Tang), the gritty digs and poor service do distract from the restaurant’s reasonably priced culinary delights. The kitchen is partly to blame, cranking out dishes too slowly given the place’s immense popularity, even on a weeknight. But we understand good food takes time. What’s less forgivable is the staff, who manage to forget orders for extra rice or drinks with a remarkable level of consistency. Mostly though, it’s a small price to pay for what we think is some of the best Chinese food in Bangkok. In fact, we’ll start by claiming their roast duck is better than that served at the Paragon’s Four Seasons Restaurant. The skin is wonderfully crispy, the flesh firm yet tender, the soy sauce savory and addictive. And even the small plate (B220) comes heaped with meat. The sweet and sour sauce dishes are just as thrilling, a perfect balance of tart and sweet. We recommend having the whole snow fish (B350), where cubes of perfectly cooked flesh, tender on the inside and crispy on top, can be picked off the fish for an experience that’s both big on flavor and mouthfeel. You’ll even be scooping up all the slices of peppers and green carrots in the sauce. That classic of Chinese seafood restaurants, the pad pong curry (B490 with either crab or some 10 plump shrimps), is here executed with rare subtlety. The texture is wonderfully silky and the color a bright yellow, but the curry and egg notes remain surprisingly restrained, allowing the fresh seafood and chopped chives to shine through the thick sauce. Just like in the aforementioned dishes, the salads boast both super fresh produce and perfect seasoning. The seaweed salad (B70), on top of the heaps of garlic we’re accustomed to, seems to have been given a local tweak with some dry chili flakes, making for a potent combination that shakes up the palate. Even humble stir-fried green beans (B120), although we prefer them a bit more charred from the extra hot pan, make for an addictive, savory and rich treat, as if they had been cooked in butter. Of course, you’re also advised to avoid close inspection of the oily tablecloths or the grotto-like toilets—nor should you be in any kind of hurry. But if you’re looking for great, authentic and affordable Chinese food to share with friends or family, Yang Seng Tang is a very solid option. Corkage charge B100 per person.