Photo by Patricia Esteve
Petit Bangkok home
Petit Bangkok certainly lives up to its name: this Thai restaurant has space for just seven small tables, a toilet and a Hobbit-hole kitchen. It’s so tiny, that on our visit they had two spare chairs stacked outside on the pavement. It’s so tiny that all the cleaning equipment is stashed in the loos. It’s so tiny that there’s no room for a phone—call owner Dani’s mobile instead (and whatever you do, don’t forget this part: Petit Bangkok’s popularity means reservations are essential, even on a rainy Wednesday night when the football’s on).
The fashion furore surrounding Thai food right now seems to have passed this place by, so there are no model waitresses, no DJs, no trendoid diners in ironic double denim and no overreaching menu prologues that bang on about cod Oriental philosophy in the name of flogging a few more bowls of tom yum soup. In the absence of any space for bombastic statement decor, Petit Bangkok has forgone the Buddhas, gongs and aggressive foliage that seem to be de rigeur in Thai places, and limited itself to a few photos.
Once we had performed the complicated manoeuvre of wedging ourselves into our seats without dipping our scarves in too many people’s pad thai, the drinks came speedily as did the first course. Easily done, keeps the customers lubricated, fed and far more inclined to overlook any later dips in punctuality. Why don’t more restaurants realise this?
Dani works the tables with huge charm and efficiency, while his Thai wife produces miracles in her tiny kitchen. Their pride in their business and their enthusiasm give them a huge advantage over certain larger Thai enterprises in the city: they care. And that makes all the difference.
The wine list was short, Spanish and affordable with nothing over €16. We tried a 2004 Capilla del Fraile from Toldeo, with a spicy, blackcurranty nose that gave an intense and meaty wallop to the tongue (especially after being left to breathe for a while) and provided a good foil to the fresh flavours of Thai cooking.
We kicked off with delicately flavoured Pho pia ped (spicy duck rolls with fresh vegetables and mint) and Kung hom pha (tender prawns with the odd wisp of vegetable in perfectly deep-fried pastry wraps), both with sweet chilli dipping sauce.
The main courses are divided up into wok, rice, curry, pad, etc. and can be cooked with the main ingredient of your choice, such as tofu, cuttlefish, duck, beef, chicken or lamb. I tried Pad med ma muang, a heap of big fat prawns (although this dish is more commonly made with chicken) with various crunchy vegetables flavoured with cashews and almond paste. My companion had a massaman curry which Dani described as “between red and yellow.” Rather than the typical Thai flavours of lemon grass, galangal and coriander, this is a more Indian-influenced curry with cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, and all of these came through nicely. I should also note that the steamed jasmine rice was €1.50 for a generous two-portion bowl, a welcome change from the mean little thimbles you sometimes get in Asian restaurants.
In a nice communist touch the desserts were all priced at €2.50. My companion had Thai red tea ice cream, which had an intriguing flavour of fresh cream and rust (but in a good way). I initially balked at the flan de coco, as I find the slime factor unbearable, but it was a firm little brick of creamy, coconutty loveliness, and converted me for life.
The bill was as diminutive as everything else in the restaurant and we both stuffed and drank ourselves silly for under €25 a head: proof that the best things do come in small packages. However, with this kind of popularity, expansion is all but inevitable, so don’t expect Bangkok to stay Petit for much longer.
Petit Bangkok, Carrer Saragossa 87 (FGC: Gràcia/Plaça Molina, Metro: Lesseps/Fontana). Tel. 616 185 196. Open Tues-Sat, 1pm-3.30pm, 8pm-11.30pm. Price: €24 for three courses and wine.