Chairoj is probably the most minimalistic shop house restaurant I have ever visited. It’s as naked as it can be, except for the table and chairs. The atmosphere has never been an issue here. They make food and serve it. Nothing more, nothing less. But the food is good.
The pale yellowish and greenish walls are empty, except for a small sign in red on a white background. The restaurant walls look quite pallid, and it definitely could use some cool wallpapers. There are a few fans on the roof and some bright neon lights. Even the vintage wooden tables are empty, just the greenish surface. No containers of chili, vinegar, or fish sauce, no napkins. A few papers on the office desk at the back where the older couple is overviewing the activity. Nothing except for the tables and chairs on the brownish cement floors either. And a fridge they don’t seem to use in the back of the room.
The room is impeccable clean, not even the smallest sign of a well used toothpick or a bit of paper on the floor to be spotted. Chairoj has been up and running for 70 years now, and I don’t think much has changed in those years, as you can tell from the pale walls and vintage wooden furnitures.
The menu is more Chinese then Thai. And some of the dishes, like the ox tongue, even have a European touch to it and could just as well have been served at the french countryside.
This time I started out with the fragrant tom yam kung. Not the typical Thai style. No red chili oil or chili paste. More Chinese. With a garden of lemon grass chopped into pieces. Lemony. Fresh. A delightful sourness. Balanced. Difficult to ask for more.
The soup comes with pieled shrimps and a lot of mushrooms. Quite different from the typical Thai tom yam kung in taste, as the spiciness isn’t there, and has never meant to be there either. Definitively a pleasant start of a meal in a heated Bangkok evening.
As I’m a garlic lover, the next on the menu had to be the fried sea bass with chili and garlic (pla krapong tod rad prik).
The fish is fluffy inside, yet crispy on the outside. It might sound simple, but it isn’t. You have done a few of those before you manage the technique, but with 70 years under the belt you can probably do it blindfolded. I really enjoy this dish. Be aware that the garlic definitively is very present, but the garlic is on top so you can decide for yourself how much you want. Other good fish dishes are the Sea Bass with Chinese Celery that has a mild and savory taste or the more spicy Catfish with holy basil.
Non of the dishes are really spicy and certainly not their stewed ox tongue, Hainanese style, a rather rare find in Bangkok.
The ox tongue is stir-fried and comes with a slightly tangy flavored sauce over pieces of potatoes and peas. A bowl of jasmine rice on the side and you are ready to go. They have desserts as well, but I have never gotten that far.
Definitively the old style, but the food is good. Thai people will call it a “Cook Shop” due to being a Chinese restaurant with some Western influences.
It’s two connecting townhouses with no air-conditioning, but they have fans. It’s facing one of the main streets and if you just passes by the place you could easily take it for a drinkers’ hangout. And as a walk-in customer you are definitively being looked at. A little bit like what the hell are you doing here? It’s been and still is a place for locals. And good service might not be a priority, but you get there in the end. The women is speaking some English, knowing the main words of the ingredients, so you will get what you wish.
Food: Chinese with a Thai touch and western influence
Price: Cheap. Most dishes 80 Bath
Open: 11 am – 8 pm. Sometimes they are closed around 3-5 pm, but difficult to know when. They say they are open 11 am – 8 pm. It’s a family run restaurant.
Address: 467/25 Ayutthaya Road. Almost at the intersection with Phya Thai Road.
How to get there: Take the BTS to Phaya Thai. Take exit #3 and turn left into Ayutthaya Road. Cross the street under the bridge and you see it. About 100 meters from the intersection of Ayutthaya Road and Phaya Thai road. Parking is difficult. There is no signs outside, but it is next to the Phaya Thai Dentist Group.