When "fun" just isn't enough
How do you review a place like Ka Jok See? This long-running restaurant in Phuket Town, set in a softly-lit, restored Sino-Portuguese shophouse, is not just a place to wine and dine. It’s a nightly social experiment. It’s a place where even the most reluctant wallflower finds herself twirling on top of a table, shed of all inhibitions and even an item of clothing or two mere hours after thinking she was sitting down for a decorous evening meal.
The waitstaff, young men and women, all beautiful, have clearly been given one primary mission for ensuring patron satisfaction: Flirt. Madly. The talk is smooth, intimate, empathetic, and they cling to your every word like a fly on sugar. It’s not a place to go strictly for the food, though Ka Jok See’s Thai dishes are good. It’s delicious here regardless of what you eat. It’s where you go after you’ve had a cruddy week doing those kinds of things that grind you down and you’re in serious need of release and escape. Or where you go if feeling perfectly fine is not quite fine enough. You want to feel fabulous.
Ordering your meal is simple. Each person pays a flat fee of 2,000 baht, which buys an unlimited choice of dishes on the menu. Dishes are brought out Thai-style, one by one as they’re ready from the kitchen, and everyone usually shares. Cocktails are expensive. Wine is expensive. No matter, if you were on a tight budget you wouldn’t be here. Rounds of tasty mojitos get slurped down like lemonade.
The amount of food ordered is generally about double what the stomach can handle, but regardless at a certain point in the evening all the dishes are cleared away, the tables are shoved to the side and another mad night of dancing begins. Anyone who doesn’t get up and dance on their own volition is eventually coaxed onto the dance floor by one of the seductive waitstaff.
Some time during the night the island’s most glam transvestites make their appearances. Whitney. Gaga. “I Will Survive”. The usual suspects. Glitter flies in the air. Later in the night there’s limbo dancing, then limbo dancing over a candle. An impromptu conga line is formed, and the restaurant’s entire population is suddenly connected in a hip-gyrating procession that snakes through the small open space. The group of geeks who dined quietly in the corner table earlier in the evening are now shirtless and swivelling wildly on a table top. They hand out bongo drums, maracas, tambourines and hats, things that you can try on or try out to take on a fresh persona and move with the moment. The night goes on and on well into the wee hours …
There’s no sign in front of Ka Jok See, and you’ll never see it advertised. But its intoxicating, feel-great formula keeps the house packed night after night so reservations are essential, sometimes weeks in advance. It’s about 50 metres down Takua Pa Road off Rassada Road on the right hand side. Look for its small terrace with dark wood beams laden with hanging ivy.
Ka Jok See is the quintessential spot for a Big Night Out. There’s no place like it in Phuket, or anywhere else in the world probably.
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left.
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