From a distance, some of Bangkok’s tastiest restaurants may not look like restaurants at all. Take Jae Da’s seafood restaurant, for example. A club of finely coiffed women, illuminated by the glow of neon lighting, sit gossiping and admiring each other’s hairdos. There’s little sign of the culinary magic that is conjured in the kitchens here. The key is to look for clues.
See the large, unhappy looking fish hanging gloomily—and lifelessly—from the ceiling. It’s your first hint this place might be something other than a hair salon. The next clue is likely to waft into your nostrils, as aromas from the kitchen drift past the chattering ladies to perfume Jae Da’s main seating area, which can accommodate just four tables of eager and intrepid diners.
Jae Da takes orders, but more often than not gives them, suggesting, sometimes quite firmly, what you should be ordering. On her advice, I opted for a dish called “Super,” which accurately describes the broth concocted from chicken’s feet, Chinese five-spice, and a sour soup like a dark tom yam. It sounds a little weird, but trust me: all who dare dive in will win big time.
Next up on my order (or rather the order I received) was grilled pork ribs coated in Jae Da’s special barbecue sauce, which would make even the most cynical diner swoon.
Just as I thought I was settling down to a standard, if completely delicious, meal, Jae Da launched a final assault on the palate with her suggestion (or demand) of fried tofu. It doesn’t sound exciting, but her kitchen foot soldiers wrought an alchemic transformation, giving the tofu a crunchiness perfectly offset with enough smoothness on the inside to mark the beginning of my love affair with Jae Da’s cuisine. Then she delivered her master stroke—the sauces! The first was a standard sweet and sour sauce and the second a salty version including chives floating in chicken broth.
Like any great work of artistry, a few basic rules are to be respected. Bring the tofu to the sweet and sour sauce first and then bathe it lovingly in the salty broth. Close your eyes and be prepared to change your entire understanding of what tofu can be. It’s life-changing.
Address: At the corner of Mahanakorn and Siphraya Roads. Jae Da is open from 4pm-11pm. Don’t come earlier, as she’ll be busy arranging her hair and that evening’s outfit.