Review: Amazing Thailand in Hongdae
Hongdae has always been known for its partying, but I’m too old for all of that. In the unlikely event they ever let me into a club, I’d try to find a quiet corner and sip an IPA. My idea of modern music is Pink Floyd and any attempt to chat up a girl would probably end with the police and swift deportation.
Luckily, Hongdae is increasingly standing out for its food, and especially its non-Korean eating options. Though I’m keen to review more Korean food on this blog, it’s also important to highlight the fact that there are a growing number of good places outside the HBC / Gyeongnidan / Itaewon bubble where you can get a real taco, or pasta, or burger. A lot of these places seem to be in Hongdae these days.
One such is Amazing Thailand. I’d heard good things about it, so when one of my friends announced a craving for green curry, I braved the subway after work and made the long trip out west to see what all the fuss was about.
We’d been concerned about getting a table, but by the time we eventually rocked up, at 8:15 or so, there was plenty of space. The other customers were two large groups of Thai people, which, at the risk of repeating a hoary old cliché, we took as a good sign.
The menu is extensive and as you’ll see, most of it is pretty reasonably priced compared to some other Thai places in town. Here are the various pages of the menu to give you an idea of what we are talking about.
We went for a classic selection: green chicken curry, phad thai with shrimp, and papaya salad, with some fried shrimp croquettes and spring rolls to start. The food arrived quickly and almost all together. Service was excellent and the Thai wait staff certainly spoke better Korean than I do.
They brought us some little pork skin scratchings while we waited. Quite addictive snacks.
The shrimp croquettes were a good start. I’ve had these elsewhere and they are always a firm favourite, especially with a cold Singha beer. The texture was a little rubbery but the flavour was good. With the sweet chilli sauce, we were sold.
Spring rolls were a bit meh. They aren’t really a Thai specialty, despite their ubiquity on menus; you are better off eating them in Vietnam, where the fresh herbs and shredded vegetables combine to make a really special appetiser. It’s probably an unfair comparison, but these couldn’t match the fresh taste of a Hanoi street vendor and we probably could have done without them. Mind you, we ate a fair few, so they can’t have been that bad.
Main courses were great. The papaya salad, such a staple dish in Thailand, didn’t quite have the zest and zing I’d hoped for, but it was really tasty nonetheless – tart, sour, lots of crunch and plenty of heat. 7.5 out of 10.
The phad thai was really good. It wasn’t dry at all, the shrimp well cooked, the noodles and bean sprouts in good proportion. I might have wished for a little more chopped red chilli but I’m nitpicking. I’ve had a lot worse in the country itself – there’s a lot of really crap phad thai served to tourists in Thailand, and I’ve consumed my share – and I could have happily eaten this on its own.
The star was the green curry, which is just as well given that it’s what we had come for. Thai cooking, at its best, is a subtle blend of sweet, sour, hot and salty (which is why, even with my copy of the legendary “Thai Food” by David Thompson at my side in the kitchen, I struggle in vain to make a properly authentic-tasting curry). This dish hit all the spots. It was creamy, a little sour, sweet and just spicy enough. Goddamn, it was good.
As usual, I wanted to pick out all the vegetables and just eat the chicken, but that’s the fussy twelve year-old in me. Everything was just so and I wanted to order another one. If I could have bottled the sauce to use as an aftershave, I would have.
We accompanied our meal with a couple of cold beers (which tasted better than I remembered Thai beer tasting, perhaps because I’ve been conditioned to drink Cass), and a weird iced pink tea concoction which my dining companion insisted on ordering just because it was pink. It tasted like bubble-gum flavoured milk. Not a great success, though I can see how it might be nice over ice on a hot day.
The restaurant itself is a nice space. The staff, who may all have been one family, were attentive and friendly, the portions generous and the prices, a couple of more expensive “signature dishes” aside, were very reasonable.
Is it the best Thai food in Seoul? Well, Wang Thai in Itaewon is a pretty good spot, and I have a fondness for Kkaoli Pochana in Gyeongnidan, albeit it’s one that not many foreigners seem to share. And glorious things are spoken of Tuk Tuk, also in Hongdae, if you can get past the lines of Tasty Roaders waiting to get in. Everyone has their favourite.
But my vote goes, for the time being at least, to Amazing Thailand. Lovely meal at a good price, and handy for hitting the clubs after dinner. If you’re young enough for that sort of thing.
- Category: Thai
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Green curry
- Subway: Hongdae (Hongik University / 홍대역) exit 1.
- Directions: Come out of exit 1 and walk straight. You’ll cross the main road which heads up towards Hongik Uni: keep going. Take the first right after that road and you’ll see a CU Mart about 50m ahead of you. Amazing Thailand is to the left of that – you can’t really miss the facade.
- Hours: They are open for lunch and dinner, but I’m not sure if it’s seven days or not (though they are definitely open weekends). Contact details are on the sign, pictured below. Last orders on a Sunday night were at 9pm, so don’t show up too late.