Classic cool

Steamed durian bun. Melalin Mahavongtrakul

Charoen Krung neighbourhood is a crossroads where traditions meet contemporaries — a clash of old and new, past and future, and it is now clamouring with street art, retro shops, galleries, street food and fine dining.

In recent times, the district — once Bangkok’s busiest commercial area some 150 years ago — has manifested itself as a neo-hip locale that drew several restaurateurs. One of them was Fred Meyer, the man who put the likes of Issaya and Le Cochon Blanc on the map of gastronomic destinations in Bangkok. His retro eatery Baan Phadthai that opened in Charoen Krung last year has been quite a reflection of the neighbourhood itself, offering a refined taste of our favourite street cuisine into the setting of an affordable fine dining alternative.

Set in a refurbished 80-year-old shophouse in Charoen Krung 44, the 50-seater Baan Phadthai (literally, house of pad Thai) is quite a charming place with its combination of blue and old woods. Its retro fix and refined taste promise diners the go-to staple of Thai street food without any hassle. Some of the restaurant’s neighbours include a century-old masjid, five-star hotels, Bangrak market, Thailand Creative and Design Centre’s new office at the Grand Postal Office, a durian vendor, and a salon that looks like it’s still finding its way out of 1990s. Taking a stroll through the sois alone are worth the sweat if anybody is looking into exploring the best of both worlds that Bangkok has to offer in this historic precinct.

Of course, the must-order dish is the restaurant’s signature pad Thai — the stir-fried rice noodle with egg, condiments, and reportedly some 18 ingredients that make up its secret sauce. You just don’t go to Baan Phadthai without ordering a serving of pad Thai or two. There are five options to cater to different taste: vegetarian (160 baht), grilled chicken (190 baht), grilled pork (190 baht), grilled river prawn (250 baht) and blue crabmeat (280 baht). The grilled chicken option comes with a juicy and tender chicken thigh that’s been marinated overnight. And we would also recommend you trying the signature crab pad Thai that comes with a generous amount of crabmeat.

The interior of Baan Phadthai. Melalin Mahavongtrakul

The perfectly cooked noodle is served on a round tray lined with banana leaf. These trays are the kind Thai-Chinese families still use to place offerings at the godly shrine in their house, and they’re also popularly used to serve som tam in various restaurants; just another gimmick that gives the place its nostalgic appeal along with other vintage-style utensils and crockeries.

While pad Thai is not to be missed, the restaurant also offers several starters to kick off your meal. Try miang khana (150 baht) — the DIY kale leaf wrap, a spin on Thailand’s classic appetiser. It comes with seven condiments and tamarind sauce that just blend together impeccably with its juicy, crisp and refreshing feel. Som tam khai khem (green papaya salad with salted duck egg, 130 baht) is another interesting choice for anyone wanting to try this world famous salad.

Baan Phadthai comes with several selections of Thailand’s favourite cuisine. Melalin Mahavongtrakul

Once you’re done with the savouries, head over to the eatery’s selection of sweets. For a hot day, give tubtim grob, chestnut-filled tapioca dumplings in sweet coconut milk, (130 baht) a shot for that cool, sugary boost you need. It is served with smoked fragrant coconut milk and ice, which is made from coconut water. So fret not if the ice starts to melt at an alarming rate under the Bangkok heat. It won’t spoil the flavour.

Another sweet highlight is salapao durian (140 baht, you get two buns per serving), or steamed buns with creamy King of Fruits filling made to look like durian, although its green spikes turn out somewhat like a mini-Hulk hedgehog instead. As with durian and its trademark pungent smell, you either love it or hate it. For us, the buns were found to be quite tasty and likeable.

To keep yourself cool, take a sip of iced soda with lime (120 baht). Anyone needing an alcohol boost may want to try the Thai-style mojito (190 baht) that’s made from Sangsom. There’s also yadong, Thai folk liquor, that comes in a shot (150 baht).

The food — both savoury and sweet — is mostly delicious, but the flavour is milder than the usual Thai diners may expect. Nevertheless, and despite coming with quite a small menu selection, they are still a crowd pleaser that possesses both the look and the taste. The meal will please both your Instagram followers and your belly from the first bite to the last.

As with most places in Charoen Krung, it may be best to commute to the restaurant via public transport. The place is quite conveniently located near BTS Saphan Taksin and Chao Phraya express boat Sathon pier. Anyone with a car can find parking at Robinson shopping mall (subjected to parking fees), and then it’s just a few minutes walk to Baan Phadthai.

Miang khana, DIY kale leaf wrap, and passion fruit tea. Melalin Mahavongtrakul

Deep fried chicken wings and green papaya salad with salted egg. Melalin Mahavongtrakul