Modern Vietnamese in Phra Khanong.
This review took place in January 2019 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.
Thuyen breaks the mold for Vietnamese restaurants abroad, foregoing both propaganda art and Indochine cliches in favor of a slick townhouse vibe—all geometric wooden screens and garden fairy lights, with the occasional homey touch from book shelves to football trophies. It’s relaxed and welcoming, we just wish they hadn’t deviated from traditional flavors as well.
Take the spring rolls (B150), a Vietnamese classic that here comes served with a wasabi dipping sauce—strange, and not in a good way. Wasabi makes its nasal impression again in the set of nem nuong (grilled sausage meat, B200) wraps. Here you don’t get the typical, roll-your-own variety, but instead the kitchen pre-packages your nem nuong—dry and flavorless—in tiny bowls topped with soggy rice paper with a side of chopped garlic, chili, raw banana and cucumber.
While other dishes like the beef pho (B150) with its watery broth and the oily, oversalted grilled catfish banana-leaf wraps (B180) are also best avoided, Thuyen does have its strong points. The rice flour pancakes (B180) are tantalizingly crispy, stuffed with a generous serving of ground pork, shrimp and stir-fried bean sprouts—hearty and comforting without being too heavy. The banh cuon (minced pork steamed rice wraps, B180) are also tender, soft and light.
Finish your meal with the banana fritters and a refreshing side of ice cream (B120), which go well with a steaming cup of strong Vietnamese coffee (B70). A small selection of wine is also available, but only by the bottle and starting at B1,700.
Though a meal here won’t cost you much more than traditional Vietnamese spots, the portions are less satisfying than most and, while the welcoming interior and professional service in part make up for the food, the concentrated effort to modernize dishes too often comes at the expense of taste, leaving you longing for the comfort of more casual interpretations. Perhaps we caught them on a bad day, but for now it’s safe to say we won’t be ditching staples like Hanoi House or Saigon Recipe any time soon.
|Thuyen, 50 Pridi Banomyong Soi 37, Bangkok, Thailand
|Mon-Fri 4-1:30pm, 10am-9pm; Sat-Sun 10am-10pm
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