If you were looking for solid Thai food in a scenic location, would you trust a guy named Steve? You might if you knew his given name was Sorathep and he was the proprietor of a riverfront café—plus a nearby bar and newer outpost in the Ari district—which for nearly four years has been luring locals and tourists to sup from old couches and faux Louis XIV chairs to mellow rock music on the open balcony of a converted house beside the Teak Museum and the Thewes Pier.
“The restaurant is named after his nickname. It’s easier for Europeans to remember,” explains the manager, New. Young ex-hotelier Steve and his wife were inspired to strike out into the food business, thanks to his mom’s recipes. Of course, many places in Bangkok make the claim to offer, as New puts it, “Dining like grand-mom is in the house.” Given the number of mass-produced seafood gardens and tourist coffee shops exploiting the romance of the Chao Phraya, what’s remarkable about Steve is that they come pretty close to homemade.
That’s even more impressive given the wide spectrum of dishes on its menu: Northern to Southern, standard to rare. A featured dish is a mellow yellow fish curry with lotus stems when in season (B190). A hormok-like mousse of steamed river fish was chocked with just the right herbs (B180), and the ground pork grilled on a stick of lemongrass (B190) was outstanding, far better than the often perfunctory version made popular in Vietnam. A special laab stood out for its intense rub of chilli paste (B160).
Aside from these treats, the full range of shrimp, crab, mussels, and bass is augmented by less common standouts, like fermented chicken marrow bones, spinach-like liang leaves tossed in scrambled egg, and a coconut shoot salad, and yam som-o, an increasingly rare pomelo salad (B150). Adds New, “We feel very sad when visitors only know pad thai and tom yam goong. That’s not enough.”
But it is enough to feel that somebody here has put some attention into doing things right. All in all, this is the sort of place where you might want to take visitors for a basic primer of Thai flavours, combined with a nice river voyage. Night times can get packed and the prices—with even small dishes starting around B180—reflect the prime views of the Rama VIII Bridge. But still, a meal here will leave you wanting to shake the hand, rather than strangle the neck, of the elusive Mr. S.
68 Sri Ayudhaya Rd | 0 2281 0915, 0 2280 2989 | stevecafeandcuisine.com | Mon-Fri 11.30am-2.30pm, 4.30pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 11.30am-11pm