What is up with Khrua Rommai in Bangkok? New ownership???
Have any previous customers of Krua Rommai on Sukhumvit soi 36 in Bangkok been there recently?
This is a restaurant that I discovered on Chowhound and there has been a lot of previous discussion on it. I have been there several times and always had good food, pleasant staff, a comfortable garden setting as a respite from busy Bangkok. We always order Issan dishes at this restaurant and have predictable and enjoyable results.
A few months ago, I had one of the worst dining experiences ever at Krua Rommai. Many menu items were not available. There was an extremely long wait for food to arrive (atypical for this restaurant).
The food was absolutely awful. Everything was absolutely wrong... as if prepared by someone who had no idea how to cook properly. I know I am being very vague... but the problems go far beyond minor criticisms. We ordered som tam Thai (the one with fish sauce and peanuts,etc.) and som tam poo pla rah (Issan style). They were completely wrong... bland and only hot (chili). Gai yaang (grilled chicken) was not gai baan (free range Issan chicken) but large farmed chicken (not the same as before). Chicken of this type can still be good in a certain context, but this example was completely dried out and tasteless and did not resemble any of the issan style grilled chicken available on carts everywhere. It tasted as if it were cooked (and overcooked) in an oven, not on charcoal.
I ordered oleang (old fashioned Thai style coffee.... the one usually made by hand in a coffee bag, served black, iced, and with sugar). This restaurant always had a nice example of this coffee but this time I was served a bitter and disgusting rendition which was obviously Nescafe or some instant coffee. We also ordered another issan dish... Nam Tok or Laap.. .I don't recall, but simply did not taste good at ALL.
The food was so bad that I did not eat any of it other than a couple bites of each dish to try. My Thai companion did not eat any either! I am not one to complain to the staff, especially in Thailand, but the food was so absolutely awful. I am not talking about personal taste and preference here... it was completely wrong. How could this restaurant go from being one of my favorite and reliable places for Issan food to the worst example of this food overnight?
When I pointed out many of the specific and severe problems with the food, the pleasant waitress said it had been sold and was under new management and that it was only the first or second day of operation under new management. No offer for correction or compensation was made, but then again I don't expect it in Thailand where the 'customer is always wrong' (though nearly always spoken to with deference and respect and in a sweet manner).
I paid the bill, left all the food, and went to eat elsewhere (I think on the street at soi 38 nearby).
Has anyone noticed the changes? Now that the restaurant has been operating for a while, what is going on? Is the food still awful? Is it excellent like it used to be? Or is it something in between?
The only way I can see a restaurant falling that much is if it was owner operated and the owner sold it to a new owner and the new owner was not able to retain the existing staff (i.e. the old owners). As a strictly business decision, sounds like a disaster. Are the new owners foreigners? Sort of sounds like it.
The new people I saw working there were all Thai. However, they seemed inexperienced not only with restaurant business but with cooking as well. I'm not sure if there is a foreign 'faan' or spouse or otherwise in the background... but it is not obvious.
Although one girl spoke to us with a relative proficiency in basic english. She sort of took part in the service... but mostly was overseeing things. She was relatively young, was nice, though again seemed inexperienced in general. The whole situation was just a bit atypical.
To be fair, I caught them on one of their first days, so I'm not sure if things have improved. I was the only customer that day.
This is such a popular restaurant... surely someone has been back?
Are there any alternatives? I sometimes go to Vientienne Kitchen (I think this is the name) up the street. Yeah, it's expensive and yeah sometimes I can get better food on the street, but the place is reliable and consistent with nice staff (in my experience).