Remember a decade ago – before ramen and ceviche and poké bowls – when the most ethnic excitement you could get in Amsterdam was Indonesian rijsttafel or Thai green curry? I’ve always been a spice fiend, so I used to go out for Thai food a lot back then… Serving the usual mix of curries, stir-fries, pad Thai and salads, I always liked Little Thai Prince in Chinatown, Kinnaree in the Jordaan, and Take Thai on the Utrechtsestraat. But a few years later the international cuisine scene that we know today erupted in the Dutch capital and I just, kinda, forgot to go to Thai restaurants in Amsterdam anymore. Just recently,
Slap-bang in the middle of Gerard Douplein is the chipboard-clad, unassuming Bar Mash – which, despite its name, seems to be more Thai restaurant than bar. Helpfully, they serve a slightly different menu at lunchtime than dinner, with smaller portions and smaller prices. Great for a pit stop between work meetings. The lunchtime I dropped by, I ordered a hearty bowl of spicy tofu noodles (a sort of chilli, veggie version of pad Thai) for just €8. They were full of flavour from the fish sauce, chilli, veggies and spices – only perhaps lacking in a fresh hit of lime. But for that portion at that price, I can’t complain.
So good they named it twice (?), Boi Boi claims to have invented the “crispy pad Thai” – which is pretty much what you think it is. The noodles are deep fried instead of steamed, so you end up with a pile of crispy curly string, punctuated with fried chicken in the usual pad Thai flavours. Of all the things we tried at Boi Boi, this was not my favourite (I think I’d go with the regular pad Thai next time) but I applaud the restaurant’s efforts to do something a little different.
Meanwhile, all their starters were a hit: fragrant fish cakes, savoury rice “monkey balls”, veg-packed spring rolls, tender chicken satay skewers… and the dipping sauces they came with were excellent, too. Along with our crispy pad Thai main, we also tried the sweet sambal stir-fry with shrimps. It was a little less spicy and a little more sweet than I’d hoped, but the flavours were promising enough that I’d go back and try one of their curries instead. And the atmosphere was fun and relaxed, too.
We made the mistake of choosing Chok Dee purely on the basis of Google reviews (what was I thinking?) and ended up paying almost €20 for a plate of sweet, gloopy rice noodles with too-fishy (i.e. not very fresh) shrimps and sauce that tasted like ketchup. My pad Thai cravings were far from satisfied. Meanwhile, Mr Foodie ordered the fried beef with white pepper and garlic, which was so heavy with the latter that it radiated from our bedroom all night in a garlicky funk. Oh, and the glass of wine I had tasted faintly oxidised. Nope, Chok Dee was one Thai restaurant experience we won’t be repeating.
A group of six of us were celebrating a friend’s birthday, so we headed to SOI 74 in de Pijp for pre-party dinner and drinks. An ice bucket of six bottles of Thai beer for €20 added to the festive Saturday-night atmosphere, as did the other revellers in the restaurant. The music was perhaps a tad loud for eating – but then again I’m in my late 30s so it’s probably best to gloss over my occasional grumpy old woman tendencies.
To start, we ordered a couple of platters of mixed meaty snacks to share: chicken satay skewers were marinated in fresh spices and served with a clearly homemade peanut dipping sauce; chicken meatballs were fragrant with lemongrass and Thai basil; sausages were a surprising hit with plenty of Southeast Asian flavour (we also tried the raw sausage as a borrelhapje with our beer – something like a Thai version of ossenworst, I naturally loved it); and pork belly came in a sticky, moreish marinade. My red curry main with shrimps was properly spicy, full of flavour, and a generous portion size for the price. The prawns were fresh, unlike at Chok Dee, and the dish also comprised pineapple and tomato, which added to the curry’s hot ‘n fruitiness. Thai ribs and the other curries were also a hit with those who ordered them. The bill came to €35 each, including the two courses, G&Ts, wine and beer – SOI 74 was a proper Saturday night out with a very friendly price tag.
I had high hopes for this Thai hole-in-the-wall because a friend of mine used to go there every week when she lived in the Nieuwmarkt area. However, the night we went it was a different chef in the kitchen – which perhaps accounts for the lacklustre food. Pork massaman tasted more like a penang curry – the flavour was fine, but it didn’t have the depth of spice you’d expect from the dish it was supposed to be. Pad Thai was equally lacking in pizazz, although Mae Somjai’s version was nowhere near as bad as Chok Dee’s and had the virtue of at least being considerably cheaper. On the plus side, Thai fishcakes were tasty, with plenty of flavour from the kaffir lime leaves and sweet-chilli dipping sauce. Mains at Mae Somjai only cost around €11-13, and they also offer takeaway and delivery – so I might have to give them a second chance when my friend’s “Thai Mom” is back in the kitchen.
In the meantime, I’m still on the lookout for new Thai additions… Which are your favourites? And don’t forget, if you liked this article, you might also like to download my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide!