Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TBA Day 24: Pancakes, Laziness, a View, and Hustlers…

Our last day in Bangkok was relatively eventful, considering how little we actually did. I woke up at 3am to watch the Bucs lose. Stanley joined me at 4pm but then went back to bed after the game (at 6am) for a few more hours of sleep. When he (finally) woke up we headed out to find some breakfast. We’d seen a lot of really good-looking crepe-like pancakes around in several restaurants, so when Stanley saw a restaurant with banana pancakes on the menu we decided to stop there. Stanley ordered his banana pancakes with Nutella and I went with the ham and cheese variety (more into savory than sweet most mornings…). The pancakes came. Stanley’s were as ordered (though not crepe-style) while mine were… just plain half-raw pancakes. Originally I thought they’d just left out the ham and stuffed it with cheese, but the “cheese” I thought I saw was actually just raw pancake batter. The whisked the plate away to fix things (I tried to explain about having ordered the ham and cheese version), but then just returned the plain pancakes, now less raw.
Afterwards we went over to a place that’s more my style of breakfast, with US$1 bowls of spicy delicious noodle soups. We both got the Spicy Rice Noodle Soup with Pork, Fish Balls, and Bean Sprouts, and it really hit the spot. As Stanley can attest to, I get disproportionately disheartened by crappy food, so I really needed something like delicious cheap spicy goodness to lift my spirits, and this did the job.
Feeling a bit lazy after our early morning and a busy day the day before, we spent the early afternoon just sitting around with a cocktail watching atrociously bad movies on the Stars movie channel before getting dressed up to head down to Moon Bar.

Rain ended up delaying things a bit (Moon Bar, on the 59th floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel, is an open-air bar, so they couldn’t set up chairs until the rain subsided) but we sipped Manhattans in the posh lobby while waiting and, when we finally made it up there, it was definitely a view worth the wait. Most times I go to really tall buildings for views of a city the observation area is glassed in, but it was cool (especially for picture-taking) to be outdoors getting the panoramic view. There were fireworks off to the west, lightning in the sky to the north, and gorgeous views of the city lit up at night all around.
Leaving Moon Bar to head over to Lek Seafood for dinner was when the fun started. As I mentioned yesterday, there are apparently many impostor branches of Somboon Seafood that taxi drivers try to take you to rather than going to the real thing. I was a little disappointed to have had our trip to Somboon go so smoothly, and was starting to wonder if all of that was a bit exaggerated. It isn’t. Stanley has a (good) theory that since our hotel is so far away from Somboon the cabs near our hotel aren’t in cahoots with the restaurants in Somboon’s area. Lek, on the other hand, is just down the street (about a block) from the Somboon branch we’d eaten at the night before, and was also near (~8 blocks) Moon Bar, so the taxi drivers in the area were up to no good.

Stanley asked our first taxi if he knew where Lek Seafood was. The guy says yes and starts to take us there on the meter. Once we get going he says he’s never heard of Lek, but can take us to a very nice seafood restaurant somewhere else. “No,” we say, “We are meeting people at Lek. It is the only place we can go. If you don’t know where it is, take us to Somboon Seafood and we’ll find our own way to Lek.” He seems OK with that and starts driving again, but again doesn’t seem to be heading in the right direction. Finally he stops in front of a hole-in-the-wall seafood counter and tells us we have arrived at the branch of Somboon we’d asked to be taken to. Now, Somboon is a 3-story building with a giant red sign with a crab on it I had assumed that the imposter restaurants would at least have the sign, but in fact they’re just random seafood places with no sign (so you can’t be sure you’re in the wrong place). I was rather irritated (Stanley much less so), particularly since he was leading us on a wild goose chase on the meter. When he insisted that we were in the right place we got out to find a new cab.

Our next taxi (an auto-rickshaw) started driving and, again, hadn’t heard of Lek but said he could take us to the branch of Somboon we’d requested. He kept insisting that Somboon is too expensive and we should go somewhere else, but we gave him our “meeting people at Lek” story and insisted that he take us there. A bit later he acts like he has this epiphany “Oh! Lek Seafood. Near Somboon. I will take you there,” then heads off in what is clearly the wrong direction and stops in front of a busy seafood restaurant. “Lek” he says. We tell him no (there’s no sign, and this is not the right road), and tell him to take us to Somboon as we’d asked… The difference with this guy is that he’s agreed on a fixed price of 50 baht, so instead of making more and more money (as a metered cab would) the longer he drives us around, he’s actually costing himself time and thus money. He did indeed take us to Somboon next, and we headed down the street and found Lek Seafood right where it was supposed to be.
As I mentioned yesterday, some people feel Lek is superior to Somboon, and I can end the suspense right now by telling you that really is not the case. It is, however, a really great restaurant, probably tied with Sabinglae for second best on the trip. The food was great, just not as spectacular as Somboon. For about half the price, though, and being much better than half as good, I could see why a lot of locals choose to come to Lek more often than Somboon.

First up we ordered the Tom Yum Goong. The lime leaves and lemongrass in the broth weren’t as intense as in the others we’ve loved, but there was a nice spiciness and an interesting smokiness to it that made it really unique. Good stuff.
We also tried the Spicy Triple Crispy salad (Stanley is my official salad-selector, and he hasn’t let me down yet), with three types of seafood, some veggies, and a really nice (quite spicy) sauce.
This was followed by Sizzling Prawns, which were tossed with beans and Thai basil. After the disappointing basil at Hemlock it was nice to taste really fresh Thai basil (which, in case you haven’t tried it, has strong anise accents in the flavor profile) and the shrimp were fresh, delicious, and perfectly cooked.
Finally, we had to order the Crab Meat Curry to compare with Somboon. It was quite good (miles better than the disappointing dish at Bangpo) but it just couldn’t compare to the heavenly curry at Somboon. There were nice big chunks of crab, though, and again the crab was not overpowered by the other ingredients. In conclusion, Lek Seafood certainly rocks, but Somboon Seafood rocks much more.
All in all, a nice last day for this adventure. (I’ll stop bogging this down with daily posts when I make it to Dubai.) his trip has been an amazing experience, and it’s been fun to document it for friends and for my own future reference. Up next: hanging out in Dubai.

1 comment:

maggie said...

where's the dubai post? i got the email today saying you were there! being lazy with your words or something!? and i want to see pics of stanley and alicia's place!