Vol. XIII No. 23
Friday June 10 - june 16, 2005

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Updated every Friday
by Saichon Paewsoongnern




Somsak(di)'s street-jumping restaurant

The Dining Out Team first went to review Somsak's Restaurant six years ago. It was then already an icon in Pattaya dining, having been established in 1978, whilst Somsak Kavowthong himself had been here for many years before, being the kitchen force behind the late Dolf Riks' famous restaurants.

Somsak, in his colorful shirt and towel over one shoulder, really is one of the success stories of Pattaya, but the road to the top was not an easy one. In an interview with Dr. Iain in the Pattaya Mail many years ago, he outlined his life. He was once a delivery boy for Pepsi-Cola, for a monthly salary of 450 baht. At that time he also decided that, "One day I have to be boss, not just a worker." A turning point was to come in his life after just a few months of pushing Pepsi wheel barrows. He met restaurateur Dolf Riks, who advised Somsak that if he were to achieve his aim, he should go to the kitchens.

He really did go to the kitchens, and traveled the world in sea-going galleys, bringing back not postcards, but recipes from different parts of the world. He worked with famous cooks such as Moogens Bay Esbensen, at the famous Two Vikings Restaurant in Bangkok. Finally he came to Pattaya and worked with Dolf Riks, his advisor from so many years before.

After some time, he opened his own restaurant, simply called "Somsak's" in Soi 4, where he stayed for six years, before moving to the right hand side of Soi 1 almost 19 years ago.

However, 2005 was once again a time of change for Somsak, and he has moved across the soi to the left hand side, this time keeping the restaurant at ground level, though retaining much of the old venue's decor. This has been so successful, that after 30 minutes it was easy to imagine you were in the old premises! The same familiar menu with its enormous 374 choices, also reinforces the fact that this is still "Somsak's". The quaint English is also still there, with the "mast" potatoes still raising a smile (please do not change it, Somsak). The prices, too, are familiar, with many items still under B. 100, going up to what seemed to be a maximum of a very reasonable B. 300.

However, there has been one change. In this latest incarnation, he has used his full name (derived from the Sanskrit) of "Somsakdi", so now we have "Somsakdi's" on Soi 1.

We began with some scallops, served on the shell, with a couple of hefty pieces of garlic bread to use to mop up the delicious sauce. Next up was the southern Thailand classic creamy masuman (in this case a chicken, though beef is also on the menu), and this was just perfect. A slight bite, but tempered by the coconut cream, with the peanuts imparting the final flavour. This was as good a masuman as I have ever tasted. We also tried, at Somsak's suggestion, a cabbage stuffed with pork, which was another very different, but very tasty item. To be honest, the only thing that stopped me eating my way through the menu is the fact that there are 374 items! And superb items!

Somsak(di) is now 66 years old, an age at which many people would have given up work. "I love to work, that is the problem. I love to see people laughing and talking. Sanuk is important. A happy life is worth more than money. Every day I must see people. I love it. I don't like to take holidays. This is my life. I don't plan anything. If I can't work then I'm finished."

Judging by the number of diners on the evening we went along, Somsak(di) will be working for a few years yet. This restaurant is really one of the treasures of Thailand, not just Pattaya. Put a bunch together and (re)visit and old friend on Soi 1. You will not regret it. Try the masuman! Sensational!

Somsakdi's Restaurant, Soi 1, North Pattaya, telephone 038 410 485, 09 833 0728, secure parking adjoining. Open 11 a.m. till midnight, seven days.

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