May 01 2012

Chinatown’s Red Shirts (R & L Seafood)

Published by at 10:46 am under Food

On one side of Soi Texas (formally known as Soi Phadung Dao), a scraggly soi in the middle of Chinatown, sits the Red Shirts, and on the other, the Green Shirts. The Red Shirts are probably not the ones you are thinking of; the long-standing fracas between the Red and Green Shirts has little to do with Thai politics but rather it all comes down to crabs. And char-grilled freshwater prawns. And raw oysters on the half shell.

A fugue state in Chinatown.

The Red Shirts make up R & L Seafood, and the Green Shirts, T & K Seafood. Reading their menus might induce a mild case of deja vu, but Red and Green shirt enthusiasts and purveyors of food feuds would argue differently. In the case of defusing a bomb, I’ve been told to avoid the red wire, but on Soi Texas, I would go for the red without looking back. Why? Maybe for no better reason then it was the first of the two I frequented, and as they say, you never forget your first time.

The dress code is street-chic with an added sheen of sweat, and the venue is pavement blocks and tables akimbo. You can get a steamed lobster served to you on porcelain at a buffet brunch in Bangkok, but on Yaowarat Road, the shellfish comes on plastic plates and there is no pretence of luxury. In the words of our own Brock Kuhlman, great late night street eats are a must. And push any fears of a lack of food safety aside: because the contents of R & L’s pop-up kitchen are splayed out on the street, and they have to restock their inventory daily, the seafood is likely fresher than anything you could buy inside the walls of an air-con restaurant.

Go Red!

A local and farang favourite, R & L (and its chartreuse neighbour, T & K) is always packed, and an infelicitous choice for large groups or those who want privacy. But the red-clad staff are used to dealing with flocks of customers and adept at making room for you in what feels like an elaborate game of musical chairs. The lengthy and overwhelming menu is in both English and Thai, with accompanying photographs to aid you in deciding.

Every seafood dish I have ordered has been delectable – I still daydream about the curry-powder crab – so you can’t really go wrong. The accompanying vegetable dishes, in comparison, are lacking, but sautéed morning glory or kale drenched in brown sauce help break-up an otherwise protein heavy meal. My method? Bring a few friends, order shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, prawns, a whole fish in varying sauces – taste a little of everything, and everyone goes home happy. The dishes range from 100 to 400 baht each (the whole fishes get steep), but are worth every baht.

Streetside chic.

R & L (Rut & Lek) Seafood
Phadung Dao Rd, Yaowarat Rd
Open Mon-Tue, 19:00-3:00;Wed-Thurs 21:00-12:00; Fri-Sun 18:00-01:00
If you take a cab, ask for Soi Texas on Yaowaraj Road or look for lit-up ‘Texas’ signs.

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