The Asian Chipotle? Pacata lets diners mix and match for culinary success

COCONUTS HOT SPOT – Even if it didn’t provide stellar lunchtime fare, Pacata would warrant mention simply for having wrested the title of “Most Tasteful Establishment on Khao San Road” from its previous claimant – Burger King.

The diminutive eatery, located next to Rikka Hotel in the middle of Bangkok’s backpacker melting pot, easily outshines its surroundings. An electronic, sliding glass door divides the dining area from the street; cool tans dress the restaurant’s interior and throw pillows help diners relax in air-conditioned comfort. The laminated menus, table cards and branded cutlery bespeak a restaurant whose genesis benefited from more thought (and funding) than its competitors.

Both Pacata’s cuisine and its spotless trappings owe to the international reach of its parent company – Boon Rawd Brewery, best known as the purveyors of Singha beer.

An octopus-like corporate entity, Boon Rawd in fact owns several restaurants in Bangkok already, including Est33 and Konaya. Pacata, however, comprises the company’s maiden foray into lunchtime fare, having come into existence thanks to a tertiary project that grew to unexpected scale.

Originally an experimental pop-up shop developed by Singha’s restaurants division, Pacata began its life in London’s Covent Garden. During its formative months in a farmer’s market within that neighborhood, Pacata accumulated a variety of culinary influences, which it distilled into its current mixture of Thai, Japanese and Indian flavors.

The menu at Pacata borrows its form from the mainstay of lunchtime fare that the restaurant most closely resembles – the Mexican eatery Chipotle.

Like that favorite of the American office worker, Pacata allows its customers to create their meals from a combination of preordained options. After choosing a base of rice, noodles or pita, customers festoon this starchy bedrock with curries, mayonnaise, meats and vegetables.

All told, these dishes weigh in at a respectable THB95 apiece. Even when disposed towards the purchase of drinks and an appetizer, one can typically get away from Pacata for under THB175.

All Pacata’s ingredients enjoy a robust level of freshness, and, especially in the restaurant’s curries, a touch of elegance makes its way into the mix as well.

Developed by Japanese chefs Yasuji Morizumi – the man behind Chabuton and purveyor of the first Michelin-starred ramen restaurant in the world – and former “Iron Chef” winner Masahiko Hagiwara, the menu at Pacata provides admirable variations on long-established forms. Try the Massaman pita for one such advantageous partnership, or the restaurant’s faintly spicy, green curry spring rolls for another. Rice bowls can come topped with green curry or khrapao sauces and breaded pork katsu or grilled chicken, amongst other options.

French fries are on offer as well, a concession to the restaurant’s globetrotting character.

A corkboard map of the world, which dominates Pacata’s dining area, reinforces this theme. Upon it sit polaroids of the restaurant’s wide-ranging visitors, each pinned to his or her country of origin.

Since its mid-December opening, Pacata has fielded visitors from across Europe, Asia, Africa and America. One group even happened upon the restaurant after having traveled to Thailand from Siberia.

The Singha business group behind Pacata’s development had originally planned the restaurant for locales other than Thailand, but the flagship store (the formula is intensely replicable) wound up in Bangkok nonetheless. The multi-ethnic eatery has done a decent job of making itself comfortable in its heavily trafficked home. From a certain angle, you could say it has already succeeded in developing an international reach.

Khao San Road, next to Rikka Hotel


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