new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Yok Yor Seafood, Bangkok: Beer and Innocent Sea-Life

Monday, March 07, 2011

Yok Yor Seafood, Bangkok: Beer and Innocent Sea-Life

Yok Yor Seafood Restaurant
885 Soi Somdet Chao Praya 17, Bangkok, Thailand

There's an entire genre of Thai water-front seaside restaurants - an entire genre of Asian water-front restaurants, really. They crop up from Hong Kong to Vietnam to Singapore to Taiwan, and they all specialize in fresh seafood, chilled beer, and some sort of musical "entertainment" (depending on your proclivities). Yok Yor is a classic example of the genre: on the banks of Bangkok's river, it features tanks of live seafood, a very extensive menu, a sappy Thai singer and a karaoeke stand. Oh, and girls in tight-fitting and skimpy beer dresses.

As is the case with most of these restaurants, the food is fabulous.

Yok Yor is right next door to the Millenium Hilton hotel and we could probably have walked, but the guy at the dock said they'd send a boat for us. And it's sort of hard to resist being personally delivered to a restaurant via a boat. The boat, however, appeared to miss us sitting all hungry-like on the dock, so the Hilton guy's agreed to make a special dropoff for us.

We sat by the river and watched Thailand's startlingly glittery party-boats go by. I perused the money. If it swims and is tasty, they have it here, along with the full complement of Thai dishes and some Chinese and Western stuff besides. My mother was on the hunt for prawns - those massive, beefy Thai monsters that lurk in the semi-saline waters of the region. I live for crab, and so I wanted to get a crab (because, well, why wouldn't I). And then, there was the consideration of sea-bass steamed in a preserved lemon sauce.

We threw up our hands and just ordered all three. And a papaya salad for palate-cleansing. Som tum is good for that.

These prawns are Godzilla-like and would probably intimidate anyone with a bit of an insect phobia. They were scandalously good. The meat was tender, pink, and streaked with buttery red roe, and there was a lot of it.

You could suck out the heads like a good crawfish, and these were buttery and delicious also. There was a sweet chili sauce on the side for dipping, but there wasn't really a point, not with prawns that tasted like this.

The crab was a big, meaty local crab cooked in the usual yellow curry and green onion sauce. Big and fresh and with very sweet meat. The sauce was subtle and didn't hide the flavor of the crabmeat. This was a smaller crab and sometimes I wonder what kind of beasts they've got lurking in the back of the restaurant. Do they take off the cook's fingers on a regular basis?

Finally, the seabass. The preserved lemon sauce is something I hadn't tried yet in Thailand, and it was very good: extremely tangy and perfectly suited to the firm fish. Not overdone, as has been known to happen with whole fish, and not underdone, either. Make them blow out the atmospheric flame they stick under the serving plate for you, since it WILL get overcooked if you let it burn.

We somehow managed to devour just about all of it. The boats went by and there were a lot of families around us drinking beer. There were two precocious children singing karaoke inside the restaurant who really should not have been encouraged in this by their families. The beer-girls were here, there, and everywhere. It was, I think, a moment quintessentially Bangkok.

Yok Yor is expensiveish, especially if you get greedy and order everything like we did. It'll still cost less money then a fancified place without beer girls and karaoke and with subdued lighting and hip music, and who the hell wants that when you're getting down and dirty with some seafood, anyway? I mean, really. They'll even send a boat down for you and bring you back if you're staying along the river. Dinner and a Ride.

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