COCONUTS HOT SPOT — I got in the queue at 6:25pm on a Saturday night. There were exactly 86 people standing in line in front of me (Yes, I counted!). This number doesn’t include friends and family members who sent their proxies to queue up, and thus were free to wander around the area.
Don’t let the length of the line scare you though. The line at the famous Pad Thai Thipsamai, also known locally as Pad Thai Pratu Phi, moved quickly and it’s easy to see why. As we moved up the queue we could see into the open kitchen, where dozens of plates of Pad Thai were flying out of the kitchen every few minutes. Every member of the kitchen staff seemed to work with such diligence and dexterity that it was almost like witnessing a magical Pad Thai-making machine. Within just 30 minutes, we were being seated.
“Would you like a seat in the air-conditioned area inside? Seats opened up now. Just THB10 per head,” was a staff member’s way of greeting us.
Ten Baht? It’s definitely not much money but damn, it’s annoyingly petty to be charged for air conditioning. Since I didn’t want to wait any longer, my seat would cost me an extra THB10. To be quite fair, it was a THB10 well spent. The newly-renovated air conditioned area that I was taken to was way nicer than the outdoor tables by the street. The new room was neatly decorated, well ventilated, air-conditioned, not too crowded, and most important of all, very clean.
This crowded restaurant only has a handful of dishes you can choose from — a few variations of Pad Thai, that is. The staff won’t even give you five minutes to decide. Literally, you can only choose 1) regular or special Pad Thai, 2) with or without egg wrap, 3) rice noodles or glass noodles and 4) regular or extra large prawns. That’s it! That’s really all they have.
Special Pad Thai
We tried the special Pad Thai with extra-large prawns (THB300), and the standard Pad Thai with regular prawns and egg wrap (THB90). The former is the most premium dish you can get at Thipsamai, while the latter is what people actually come here to eat — it’s the most affordable option as well as being the dish that made the restaurant so famous.
Special Pad Thai means that the fried noodles arrive with generous toppings of crab meat, dried squid, large prawns and green mango. Add chili, coriander and lime to make the dish complete. Some say this dish is more like a “yum” noodle dish than a fried noodle dish, and I completely agree. It’s because there are so many toppings that the noodles get buried in the dish and are no longer the stars of the show.
With this dish, all the parts add up to a greater sum — peanut sauce-flavored fried noodles with a bit of sour lime juice, some spicy condiments,and a whole lot of yummy seafood make for a whole new kind of Pad Thai. If you are a fan of somtam, or any Thai-style spicy salads, you might love this dish. Personally, I have become a big fan. Despite the steep price, this is a noteworthy meal. And you can’t find this kind of Pad Thai anywhere else.
Standard Pad Thai with Egg Wrap
Alongside the special Pad Thai, we had to try the standard-issue Pad Thai. This one features your classic fried noodles wrapped inside a thin egg omelet, and on top of that, decorated with a pair of the restaurant’s “regular size” prawns. Generally, this is the kind of Pad Thai you’ve always known — fried noodles, peanut sauce, spring onion, tofu and egg. The signature difference here is that the egg is not mixed into the frying pan. Instead it’s made separately into a thin layer of egg omelet, which is, in turn, used as our Pad Thai’s edible and aesthetically pleasing golden wrapper.
Another element that sets this Pad Thai above the rest is how well it’s been cooked. We’ve all had Pad Thai where you can’t pick up the noodles because they’re too moist to hold up their shape. Or ones that are so dry you can hardly taste the sauce. Or how about those Pad Thais that are so oily and runny that you wish you had grease-absorbing paper with you? Yup, those are all bad Pad Thais that you’ll never find here.
Also, their prawns are large and fresh. The “regular size” prawns are still considerably larger than the standard prawns we have in our everyday meals. When comparing Thipsamai Pad Thai’s “regular” and “large” prawns side by side, there is not much of a difference in taste but, in terms of size, it’s clear that the large prawns are about double the size of the regular ones. So the extra charge is not for nothing.
Speaking of overcharging, I had previously heard raging complaints about how exorbitantly Thipsamai charges for their proudly-presented homemade orange juice (THB90 a glass, THB170 a bottle). So, on this trip, I also made it a point to let the pricey juice stand trial. Surprisingly, even with the ridiculous price tag, Thipsamai’s orange juice won my heart. I’ve never had a more delicious orange juice in my life. It’s fresh, it tastes natural, and it comes with real orange pulp, all of which factors in to help make the THB90 juice seem reasonable. Of course, it’s not gonna be my everyday juice, but when seen as a luxury drink, it totally make sense!
Hours: Every day, 5pm – 11pm
Mahachai Rd, Phra Nakorn