Sep 13 2012
Deeply concentrating, a unicyclist fits into his helmet as a crowd of kids gather round. A bell rings. A flame is lit atop a massive catapult. A whole fried chicken flies through the air as diners gasp in suspense. It’s just another dinner shift at Ka-tron Restaurant in Bangkok‘s southern reaches, which proves that if you’ve got a great gimmick, no one will complain about mediocre food.
Earning a place on at least one writer’s list of the 10 weirdest restaurants in the world, Ka-tron features a sprawling open-air dining area totally sheltered from busy Bang Na Trat Road. Rows of private karaoke rooms occupy a two-storey building, a roofed performance stage draped in neon lights (used for only the best of the karaoke singers and for keeping the chicken flying going when it rains) perches off to one side, and a wall of fish tanks where you can choose your victim, I mean dinner, occupies one whole section near the kitchen.
Though there’s plenty to see in the restaurant’s fittingly tacky atmosphere, all eyes immediately focus on the centrepiece: a long platform raised a couple of feet above the ground with ramps leading down to the dining area and makeshift steel catapults resembling heavy artillery propped up at either end. A handful of rubber chickens and glittering chicken statues reside over the middle of the platform like honorific judges brought in to oversee the nightly games.
Tension mounts as the restaurant’s home-grown unicyclist-waiter extraordinaire emerges peddling his single wheel with a concentrated, steely expression across his face. The restaurant’s background music was Thai, but it might as well have been “Eye of a Tiger“. A fried chicken is carried out high on a tray, met by the same resounding cheers that athletes get when first setting foot on the field of play. A non-unicyclist waiter lights a fire atop one of the catapults before loudly ringing a bell twice to officially begin a new “round”. For the uniyclist-waiter, it all come down to that single moment when the catapult is released and the chicken soars through the air.
With a dramatic “plop” sound, the chicken lands with precision onto a sharply pointed rod mounted to the unicyclists’ helmet. Before you can say “cluck” he cruises swiftly down the ramp and personally delivers the chicken to the tables of cheering diners. The chicken is served propped up like a trophy with a little flag and congratulatory flower perched at its top, making it a tad disheartening to carve the bird and serve it up.
Once we finally could bring ourselves to indulge we found the chicken to have probably been boiled and then fried, which would make it resilient enough to go through flight and landing without breaking into bits upon hitting the helmet. Served with a “special sauce” that seemed to mainly consist of ketchup, the chicken wasn’t exactly tender, but it could have been worse, especially considering it cost only 130 baht with no extra charge for the show. The chicken you want is the first dish listed on the menu, aptly named “fly chicken“.
The restaurant’s gargantuan menu also boasts just about any Thai food you can imagine, from Isaan salads to two pages of soups to a range of seafood and even half-pages each dedicated to frog, wild boar and ostrich. Along with the daredevil chicken, we tried squid with lemon sauce soup (170 baht) and spicy cockle salad (140 baht), both of which weren’t bad but were nothing to write home about. Prices are quite similar to those charged by similar restaurants that don’t offer the whole flying chicken thing. There’s no extra price for the daring spectacle itself, so it seems prudent to be extra generous when tipping.
To get here, take the BTS sky train to Bang Na and take exit 1 out of the station. You could flag a taxi (in this case you would want exit 2 out of the station), or walk north along Sukhumvit Road for a half-kilometre, passing the massive BITEC stadium complex on the right, and then cross multi-lane Bang Na Trat Road using a raised walkway. Once on the north side of the road, turn right and walk another half kilometre past a bunch of minibus stops. Shortly after the minibuses, look for a giant and colourful statue of a chicken and a sign depicting the flying chicken unicycle act (pictured above) on the left.
*If looking to see one of Bangkok’s other wackiest restaurants, head across Bang Na Trat Road to Royal Dragon, which is one of the world’s largest restaurants and features waiters in traditional Chinese costumes on roller skates and zip lines.
Ka-tron (Flying Chicken) Karaoke Restaurant
99/1 m. 12, Bang Na Trat Rd, Bang Na, Bangkok
T: (023) 995 202; (023) 993 557
BTS: Bang Na exit 1
Open daily 17:00-midnight or later
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