The Local is a restaurant I visited for the first time during a visit to Bangkok during an evening of intense discussion as to where we should dine… back when the Mayans thought the world was to end in December 2012. One of the best decisions ever.
Fashioned from a house exceeding 100 years of age, the entrance to the restaurant resembles a museum complete with an ‘exit through the gift shop.’ As you are led through the reception areas, you approach a set of white rendered stairs partially clad in wood. The stairs opened out into the main seating area which featured cane chairs, wood floors and quirky lampshades made from bird cages. The concept of The Local was to re-ignite the diner’s connection with traditional recipes from both the north and south of Thailand. BK magazine argued that the number of foreigners they encountered during subsequent visits indicated the dishes had been adjusted for a more european palate. I disagree. Au contraire mon chere (/mes cheres!)
The menu was quite extensive- far beyond a green curry and rice or pad thai- and offered an exciting variety of flavours in combinations I had not previously encountered.
After much deliberation, we ordered a Southern Thai style fish in yellow curry sauce with orange leaves, a southern style seafood soup, very fresh and flavoursome tender green vegetables and edible flower buds(delicious!), stir fried slices of pork with ground rice and crushed red chillies, and a traditional som tam (papaya salad).
I can tell you these dishes were superb and certainly not altered for a foreign palate as the soup and yellow curry were almost too hot to handle! We were served rice from a traditional steaming basket and asked whether we wanted white or brown rice. I absolutely love brown rice, but am always partial to a bit of fragrant Thai jasmine rice. Conundrum….
To the great amusement of my waitress, I decided to ask for a bit of both – ’50/50′- and proceeded to serve myself some of the yellow curry which arrived with a delightfully presented basket of assorted herbs, sliced ginger and raw baby aubergines. The yellow curry stepped onto my tongue mellow and warming with a distinct perfumed flavour from the orange leaves. The white fish was cooked to perfection. Upon further mastication, it soon transformed into an amalgam of heat and chilli, simmering beneath its citrus and coconut milk veneer; clinging to every surface in my mouth. Luckily I had some Thai Iced Tea (a.k.a cha-nom-yen) to hand to neutralise the capsaicin in that spicy curry! The flavours of the coconut and orange leaves were so delicious I couldn’t help but serve myself more… this time I had a strategy. Eat more rice with each spoonful of the curry and fish. Oh it was so good! The herbs from the basket were a novel and refreshing experience… each leaf carried a different flavour that complemented the curry- there were tangy leaves whose names I cannot find, leaves that cleansed the palate, flavours of aniseed and celery from the fluffy fronds of dill, and strong hints of garlic from another leaf. Very enjoyable indeed.
I have to say, I was not a fan of the soup at all, it was too sour, and too spicy to the point that any more than four spoonfuls made my teeth feel funny.The green vegetables were an instant favourite of mine, (I can happily eat asian greens and rice all the time when they’re tossed in a little oyster sauce and garlic), as their delicate flavours, and satisfying crunch complemented the spicy fish in taste and texture.
When the pork finally arrived, I helped myself to the evidently succulent stir fried slices, and can safely say it was the most unusual pork dish I have tried to date. The ground rice imparted a nutty flavour along with a crunch to the pork, which in turn carried a balance of sweet and salty flavours in each juicy bite. This was wonderful with the brown rice and vegetables- I felt my stomach smile while experiencing these two dishes in unison!
The Som Tam came served in the petal of a banana flower- top marks for novel presentation!!- with a little bamboo box with sticky rice. On the side were slices of fried pork, a wedge of raw green cabbage and some raw green beans. Som Tam is traditionally eaten with sticky rice, which is taken from the box in a small ball by hand, dipped in the sweet, sour, and spicy dressing of the salad and enjoyed alongside the salad and condiments. I was a big fan of the juxtaposition of the sour strips of papaya with the meaty flavours of the sliced pork. I loved the sticky rice in the dressing too. Not only was I sat in a 100 year old house, I was eating Som Tam in the traditional fashion… this restaurant was one historical re-enactment I was more than happy to participate in.
I think next time I would ask for a little less spice in the yellow curry fish and I personally wouldn’t order the soup again for the sake of my teeth…From service to presentation to an entirely new set of flavor combinations, eating at the Local should be experienced by all and so I would give the restaurant an overall rating of: 4/5- mainly due to the innovative concept and ambience.
The food specific ratings are as follows:
Value for money: 4/5
Being duped by a spicy curry in silky coconut clothing and still eating more despite your tastebuds yelling “FIRE!!” because your brain is yelling “FLAVOUR!” : 5/5 !