Taking diners on an edible tour of Thailand
Occupying a space at the start of Thong Lor’s endless cavalcade of restaurants—mostly pretentious and pricey and decidedly un-local—is where one will find Soul Food Mahanakorn. The virtues of this tasteful, pint-sized combo bar/eatery, and the reasons for its ongoing survival and loyal patronage, is that it shares none of the aforementioned characteristics. Founded by Jarrett Wrisley, who has gone on to partner in the excellent Appia and is currently bringing more “Soul” to Hong Kong, the menu offerings, both edible and liquid, have remained true to the spirit of basic dishes and flavours done well with the aid of an especially appreciative outside eye (and nose, and set of hands).
As their restaurant philosophy states, it’s street food in a comfortable setting—actually umber-toned and wood-lined to resemble a log cabin à la Isaan—carefully sourced in upcountry farms. What could go wrong with that? Got a craving for honest crab fried rice, a smoky eggplant salad, red curry with rambutans, battered sea bass with Thai basil? All are priced between B220 and B280, which at one time would have seemed excessive but now seems very reasonable.
The Pad Thai may lack a little of the street version’s burnt sizzle, but it does come with blue crab. The gimmick, if there is one, is that these samplings of true Thai, while generally snack-sized, are all pretty much as good as they sound—and won’t leave you chewing on the aftertaste of old, gristly fish or meat. And they look nice on homemade trays, not just slopped around. You won’t feel burned either by the chilies or haphazard preparation. In fact, it’s one of those places where you can fashionably, and without embarrassment, linger awhile and keep ordering dish after dish to form a mini-banquet or edible tour of Thailand. End it all with a finishing Lychee sorbet (B80), or a Mango sticky rice that may be a bit expensive at B180, but where you actually know the quality of mangoes and where they come from.
And who wouldn’t want to start, or end, an evening of Thong Lor rambling by trying original, but not too fanciful, booze concoctions with names like Rainy Season, Bangkok Bastard and Lo-So Mojito (all B250)? Mine was appropriately titled The Exile, and it went down perfectly.
Better than all that, look for changing chalkboard specials that mingle the magic of the loyal Thai cooks with the instincts of their Americano boss—like the only sumptuous helping ever seen in this town of lightly spiced fried chicken served atop good ol’ breakfast-style waffles.
Now there’s soul food on either side of the International Date Line.
By John Krich
Soul Food Mahanakorn
56/10, Sukhumvit Soi 55 | Open daily: 5:30pm-midnight
Tel: 02 714 7708 | www.soulfoodmahanakorn.com