The Best Thai Restaurants in Seoul

Friday, November 28, 2014

Curry from Yum Thai

Pad Thai from Yum Thai

Our Meal at Wang Thai

Curry from Wang Thai

I love Thai food, real Thai food. Yes, I have been spoiled by my visits to Thailand because I know what real Thai food tastes like. Plus, I worked in an Asian restaurant run by a my Thai friend Winston Chinupakat. Winston!

When I eat Thai, I want the harmony of sour, spicy, herbs and pungency. I want Pad Thai noodles that taste light with a hints tamarind, lime, fish sauce and peanut. This is usually not the case in Korea. When my pad Thai tastes like sweet peanut butter noodles, I put down my fork and ask for the bill. I know that complaining in Korea won't solve anything because they will tell me that is how their "Korean clients" like it.

Koreans like fake Thai food? I don't agree. Thai food has become high-end cuisine in Korea and there are a number of fancy places perfect for the date-set crowds. There are also some hole-in-the wall places that are just as good. In the past Itaewon was the place to go and the famous place was Thai Orchid before it became Thai Garden.

These were the restaurants that started the trend but due to ownership disputes, drama, and trying to placate their Korean customers; quality has dropped tremendously. I don't even go there anymore.

Buddha's Belly has been around for a while but other than the interior I have never been impressed with the food. My Thai in Itaewon is terrible and I am not a fan of any restaurant that Hong Suk-chun does (great interiors but not much else).

So...as of June 2014 where should you go for Thai food? Here are my recommendations.

1. Tuk Tuk (best overall but could use a bit of refinement). Location: Yeonnamdong, Hongdae.
2. Wang Thai (classy and the only Thai I would recommend in Itaewon). Location Itaewon.
3. Yum Thai (long history but has lost some spice)
4. Kaolli Pochana ( for a down-home and dirty atmosphere but with a higher price)
5. Bann Thai (but only for the Pad Thai and the fried rice.)
6. Saint Augustine (classy and expensive for those on a date). Location: City Hall, Sinsa Station, and Seorae Village.

Tuk Tuk is the newest out of the group and I think that is why I think the flavor out of their place is most pure. I think it is because the Thai chefs (I counted 2 there) haven't been told over and over again about what Koreans like and dislike. They keep it real. Their flavors are bright, sour and pungent yet light like really good Thai should be. Of course it isn't as good as in their homeland but they try to hack it, so it is close. Their Pad Thai is my favorite out of the group here. They also have excellent wokked morning glory greens (plain or with crispy pork belly.) They have excellent Thai Fried Chicken as well. In the Hongdae area there are two fried chicken only restaurants. Overall I love the place but I thought their basil beef needs more basil. The quantities are generous here which is also a plus. And keeping it real, they use fragrant Jasmine rice here.
Tuk Tuk Noodle Thai
Phone: 070. 4407. 5130
Address: 227-37 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
http://blog.naver.com/tuktuknoodle

I think that Wang Thai is second best for their quality of ingredients, service, and interior. It is the fanciest out of the group, yet a tad dated. I like their curries and the fried rice there. I recall their red curry duck being quite good as well. They do have Thai favorites like Thai iced tea and mango and sticky rice.

Wang Thai (주)왕타이
Korea Address: Yongsan-gu Itaewon-dong 176-2 2nd Floor
Phone 02-749-2746‎
서울특별시 용산구 이태원동 176-2
Old review http://www.seouleats.com/mango-and-sticky-rice-at-wang-thai-in-itaewon/

I think Yum Thai and Kkaoplipochana are both similar. They have a gutter, street-cart sort of feel and both have good food that can hit and miss. I think both are overpriced for what they are but, generally, the food is flavorful. I think Kkaoplipochana's Pad Thai is pretty decent but I think their curries lack spice and coconut flavor. Yum Thai was my defacto place for years but it can be inconsistent. I will have a great meal followed by an ok one. Oh, and the tom yum gong noodle dish at Yum Thai should be avoided. It is an unpleasant mashup of Thai and Vietnamese. (This also goes for Bann Thai as well.)

Yum Thai Phone: 02. 594. 7988.
Address: 5-4, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam district, Seoul

Kkaoplipochana (เกาหลีโภชนา)
Phone: 010. 6314. 7930 Address: 706, Itaewon2-dong, Yongsan district, Seoul

Bann Thai and Saint Augustine are pretty, Korean-date-crowd and girls'-night friendly places that do things alright for the most part. Bann Thai has great pad Thai and fried rice but the curries are overpriced and don't seem to be made with the best ingredients. It seems too 'out of a package’ which I can easily do at home. Saint Augustine, overall does things well, but they have started to lack soul in their food. The stir-fries and seafood platters come out big and have spice but are a tad sweet and lacks bold Thai flavors.

Bann Thai
Jongno-gu Jaedong 94-1 2nd Floor 110-250
02-747-6655

Saint Augustine
Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, 61-1 Mugyo-dong At Seoul Finance Center by City hall. Other locations in Apgujeong, Garusugil and Seorae Maul Previous review: http://www.seouleats.com/review-saint-augustin-stylish-asian-cusine/ http://m.google.com/u/m/x6WIwj (at 서울파이낸스센터 (Seoul Finance Center))

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