I have to give Sornthong Restaurant points for service. A lone gluten-intolerant foreigner comes in and asks what she can eat in a Chinese-run seafood restaurant. Disaster, right? What should I expect? A feast? Everything has soy sauce. And if it doesn’t, it has oyster sauce and blackbean sauce, and soybean sauce and hoisin. Even fish sauce can have wheat in it, as I found out after a week of cooking for myself in Bangkok and still being sick and then checking my little bottle of fish sauce from the local market by On Nut BTS.
Sornthong also gets points for being an established tourist destination and still making pretty good food with pretty fresh fish and seafood. And because of the positive press and subsequent droves of foreigners
, they have staff that can communicate in English. They have the fish tanks outside with crabs and shrimp and whatever’s in that day. And they serve giant platters of small, sweet shrimp with simple green chili dipping sauces that even I can eat. Hurray! Unfortunately for westerners, in Thailand you eat the whole shrimp, shell and head and tail and all…so you’re going to make quite a mess if you try to tear them all apart…which I did. And don’t even think about how unclean your hands are and how washing them in tap water only makes it worse. If only Thailand believed in sterilized wet naps like Vietnam does…
I skipped the crazy expensive larger grilled river prawns in favour of some extra work with the small steamed prawns with salt. But then I went and worked even harder with half a deep-fried crab in black pepper sauce with tons of sweet red, yellow and pale green (mostly sweet and mild) pepper pieces and wonderful, tongue-tingling (but not spicy) fresh green peppercorns.
Since they had to change the sauce for me, it was basically just freshly ground black pepper, oil, and salt (real salt! Not MSG!). It was delicious thanks to those green peppercorns I love so much (kind of an acquired taste, though), but without scissors for the crab legs I thought I was going to break my teeth. I looked around at the other tables, though, and everyone seemd to be doing what I was doing. No scissors to go around.
Did I mention the menu is huge? As in pages and pages of snakehead soup with tamarind, tom yum hot pot, deep-fried mackerel (deep-fried every kind of fish, actually), pineapple and coconut shakes, tons of kinds of fried glass noodles, and the same ridiculous amount of fried rice dishes. A lot of the pages are even pictures with the names of dishes, so you can see what you’re ordering. Helpful. But there are a lot of interesting things on the rest of the menu worth trying unseen.
Like the tom yum seafood soup. The ubiquitous sweet and sour Thai soup is naturally gluten-free (so long as that fish sauce is gluten-free) and came loaded with larger shrimp (with just tails this time, not heads), and bamboo shoots, shallots, green onions, and incredible quartered tomatoes.
It was the highlight of my meal. Apparently they don’t even use MSG! And it was still delicious. And filling, and I could have ordered just that and been happy and saved tons of baht. The crab and shrimp aren’t cheap, but if you order carefully you can do okay here.
Sorthong Seafood Restaurant
2829 Rama 4 Road, about a 15 minute walk south from Phrom Phong BTS station
+66 2 258 0118
Hours: 4pm-1:30am daily