Soul Food Mahanakorn: Review date December 30
Overall score: 8/10
In the days after Christmas, Bangkok means traffic-free streets, clear skies and restaurants where you can get reservations at the last minute. However it was just as well we booked a table at Soul Food Mahanakorn as, even in a quiet time of the year, the staff spent half the night turning hopeful diners away at the door. Now we know why.
Soul Food Mahanakorn opened their doors back in 2010 and their philosophy has remained unchanged since: “It’s supposed to be satisfying, fun and delicious. An eating and drinking experience with some soul. That’s the point.”
This refreshingly frank, no-bullshit thinking comes from owner and food writer Jarrett Wrisley. Yes, it’s another Bangkok restaurant owned by a farang, in this case a Pennsylvanian. But given the quality of the food at really fair prices, I couldn’t care less for the debate on the legitimacy of foreign-owned Thai restaurants.
The ground floor is more bar than restaurant, where all the pours are doubles and James Brown and Motown put the soul in soul food.
Markers are thrown down from the off, with grilled eggplant smoky and sensational in a baba ganoush way, all the more so when paired with perfectly-cooked duck eggs, mint, coriander and house-cured bacon. (8/10)
The real show-stopper however is Gaeng Han Lay, a Shan/Burmese curry of pork belly with tamarind, ginger and garlic. It is stupidly delicious and somehow hums with the whole Thai quintet of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and hot. At just $7US for a seriously generous serving using wholly organic meat, this is one of my standout dishes of 2014. (8.5/10)
Even the sides put the glory right next to the morning, elevating the humble to the memorable. (7.5/10)
Mango sticky rice is one of my favourite desserts anywhere, probably because I grew up coveting Ambrosia rice pudding. Here it delivers just as expected and disappears from the banana leaf in no time. (7.5/10)
I wish I could have tried more of the menu, especially the southern Thai fried chicken, smoked duck larb or the tiger prawn satay. But it just means there’s a great excuse to return. It was by far the best meal I’ve ever had in Bangkok, at a total cost of 1,682 THB, or just HK$382 – less than one sixth of the bill at Nahm. An utter steal and a complete affirmation of the fact that you don’t need stars or accolades to deliver very fine food. (8/10 for ‘experience’)
56/10 soi thonglor, sukhumvit 55, Bangkok, Thailand Tel: +66 2 714 7708 http://www.soulfoodmahanakorn.com/