I have a lot of alone time here in New Zealand, which gives me the time for a lot of self-reflection. Lol jk. I spend a lot of time thinking about things like Kenny Rogers and whether the relationship he described in the song “Lady” lasted, and if it didn’t, can he still sing the song in front of his newest partner or does she not let him? I mean if your husband is singing about the love of his life and it was before he met you, that might be uncomfortable, this public performance inspired by some other lady, wouldn’t it? Or maybe all you would think is “$$$$$$$$$” and then happily go home to your pool and your cleaning lady, the real love of your life.
When I am not thinking about Kenny Rogers and other artists that New Zealand Uber drivers play while I’m in their cars, I read the Internet. That is how I learned that Ali Wong is coming out with a book, helpfully excerpted by New York Magazine. The excerpt is a very useful guide to Asian restaurants (that have yet to go back to their own countries): Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino. Of course, I noticed that somehow she left out Thai in her handy list. This must be because she is waiting for me to write that part. So here I am, with this handy info, to complete this guide to Asian restaurants that have yet to reverse brain-drain themselves. You’re welcome, Ali Wong!
Thai Cuisine Abroad
- The name contains a romanized form of a Thai word (“aroy”, “dee det” “rot det”, etc). A passable restaurant includes a reference to an elephant, orchid, silk, or tropical fruit.
- The cook is an old Thai woman in a white cap, or an old Thai man with one or two hairy moles.
- The menu is laminated (ABROAD ONLY) and has an Isaan section.
- The other patrons are mostly Asian.
- The location is in a strip mall or on a street with other Asian restaurants.
- Bare-bones decor.
- You can hear the sound of a mortar and pestle in the kitchen.
- There is shouting in the kitchen.
- There might be a fire in the kitchen.
- The restaurant is also selling bottled sauces, relishes, snacks and/or fresh tropical fruit for exorbitant amounts of money in front of the cash register.
- Thai beers are on the menu (bonus if the beer is Chawala).
- The servers speak Thai.
- The name is a pun on the word Thai (“Thai One On”, “Dinner Thai”, “All Thai’d Up”, etc)
- Thai classical music is playing.
- The table is set with forks and knives (RUN); red flag if the table setting includes chopsticks and it is not a soup noodle restaurant or specializing in chicken rice (SEE: Montien Hotel coffeeshop).
- There is a wine list.
- The menu includes anything with Wagyu or Kurobuta, or if there are references to caviar (RUN if there is a sushi section).
- There is neon lighting inside, extra red flag if that lighting is paired with artsy graffiti on painted brick walls.
- The soundtrack is EDM or anything involving the Chainsmokers.
- The patrons are all eating their own dishes by themselves, and have mostly ordered the same thing.
- The kitchen is silent and you cannot hear the food cooking.
- The servers don’t ask you about your preferred level of spice.
- You are not sure if the servers can even find Thailand on a map.
- You aren’t afraid of spilling your leftovers on your lap and smelling like week-old garbage or toe cheese.