As times goes by, farang restaurants in Thailand interest me less and less. Maybe being in Los Angeles most of the year dulls the palate for the latest foodie craze or the newest celebrity chef branded restaurant sensation. After all what is so great about Korean tacos or Steak encrusted with blue cheese powder? Watching the popular US cooking shows Top Chef and The New Iron Chefs has pulled back the veil on what chefs do and it has left me with less awe of famous and trendy restaurants. What gets off my palate these days is standard fare made with fresh ingredients where the chef has taken the time to sample everything and apply his palate to adjusting the balance between the dishes’ elements to get the perfect taste profile—tomato sauces with just the right balance of sweet and acid, steaks that have been properly aged, seared, sealed and grilled, salad dressings with the right percentage of sweet, tart, and sour.
As time goes by, Thai restaurants have begun to interest me more and more. The draw is not discovering and eating new Thai dishes but eating the standard fare excellently prepared. Tom Yung Goong with the right balance of sweet and sour that can be achieved only by a good cook tasting along the way and adjusting for the ingredients of the day. Eating the same dish prepared differently, at different places, by different cooks incorporating their own unique slant is what entertains my palate and drives my culinary pursuits.
In Bangkok, I like a certain atmosphere too. Maybe my experience with the down low side of the expat community colors my preferences but I find myself searching out the restaurants that are farang free. Watching poorly dressed farang leering at the Thai women, exchanging lewd comments in not so hushed voices, and abusing the staff who are almost always at least trying to provide decent service grates on my nerves the same way a New Yorker, accustomed to tight quarters, would be bothered by strangers at the next table leaning over to eavesdrop on your conversation, reaching over to grab the salt on your table, or loudly commenting about your date’s apparel. Give me a room filled with Thais dressed according to the local custom, observing standard Thai table manners, observing Asian norms of respecting individual spaces and, for me, that is the atmosphere conducive to a pleasurable dining experience.
There are a handful of excellent restaurants near the farang section of Sukhumvit that fit my bill, but I usually don’t write about them. I don’t want them suddenly “discovered” and inundated with atmosphere destroying farang. I write about one here only so that interested readers, if so inclined, can experience, what in my opinion, is the best of the Bankgok foodie scene.
The Taling Pling is located in a converted house on Sukhumvit Soi 34. It’s patronized almost exclusively by middle class and HiSo Thai and is suitable for treating an extended family for a group dinner. There is ample off-street parking and indoor and outdoor seating.
It’s not a place suitable for bargirls. It would be immediately apparent to both the staff and the other patrons, and, more importantly, your bargirl would know its apparent to everyone, her profession and the game she is playing. Bringing a bargirl would make her uncomfortable, put you on the wrong side of the bars at a zoo exhibit, and, generally speaking not be a pleasurable experience unless you’re completely oblivious to your environment and the people around you.
Office girls and other normal Thai girls, if given proper notice so they can dress appropriately, would love this place and taking them there would impress them with your good taste, manners, and savoir faire. Dining at night, long pants and quality fabrics are appropriate.
Taling Pling is frequently full so calling ahead for a reservation is advisable during peak hours.
The food is a mix of Thai dishes but all made with the best ingredients and excellently prepared and presented and, sometimes, with a surprising twist.
If you want to taste Thai food done right, don’t want to travel far from the farang areas, and want to experience Thai fine dining, Tailing Pling is the place to go.
Here are some pictures of the food and the atmosphere. There’s not much to say about the food except the devil is is in the details and the details are right at Taling Pling.
Your humble Bankgok correspondent,