Aroi? Yes it was, thank you!

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There is one of those aphorisms that goes “When life deals you lemons, learn to make lemonade.” Well, today I met a man who learned to make lemonade.

Alain, the owner of the Aroi restaurant in Jomtien, saw his clientele slipping as many people were forced to leave Thailand with the devaluation of European currency, frozen pensions and businesses relocating to elsewhere in ASEAN.

So what did he do? Three months ago he changed the focus of his restaurant to provide some very budget priced all-you-can-eat buffets as well as the a la carte menu. Has this worked? Last Wednesday the buffet attracted 100 diners through the door. A similar number on Friday and on the Sunday we went to review, the restaurant was filling so fast, almost all the tables were occupied. Alain’s lemonade was certainly bringing in the customers.

So where is this salvation for the impecunious? It is on Soi 89 Sukhumvit, about 700 meters up the soi. However, here comes one of those strange situations, which only Thailand can serve up – there are two Soi 89s following one another! The Soi 89 you want is the one with a 7-Eleven on the corner. Once you are on the correct Soi 89 (careful crossing the railway roads) you will see Aroi on your right, opposite a parking area on the left.

The restaurant itself is a no-frills venue, but with one wall glass facing the street, it has a light and airy feel to it. It also has a sulphur crested cockatoo called Oscar. Beware, cockatoos can give you a nasty nip when they want to, though Alain can play with the bird. “I’m his Daddy,” says Alain.

The buffet tables are set up in front of the bar, with a separate section for the hot buffet from the cold items. Taking the hot items first, these include ribs and roast chicken and on a Sunday this buffet is B. 259. Show me another buffet with ribs under B. 300. And all you can eat! Alain described it to me as “A quality buffet to a price.”

The buffet items are replenished regularly, so you are not faced with old tired items. And some of the items are amazing, such a mussels tartare, potato dauphenois, croquettes and then all the usual salad items including very fresh capsicum.

There is still an a la carte menu all of the six days (Monday closed). Starters are in the range B. 90-130, a beef stew in Belgian beer is B. 260, pork chops B. 255 and even a souflaki B. 290. Burgers are B. 165-195 and pizzas B. 195-300. Thai food ranges generally B. 90-140, so you can see that even a la carte is not expensive. However, the ultimate bargain is still the buffets.

We all chose different combinations, Junior taster number 1 fell in love with the cauliflower and more roasted chicken, with Junior taster number 2 going back up for another serve of mashed potatoes to go with more ribs. For me, it was a repeat of the croquettes and roast chicken. I was tempted by one of Alain’s Belgian beers, but since I was driving, I made do with local 5 percent beers!

I do believe that Alain has found the recipe for lemonade. The buffets are very inexpensive, with good quality ingredients and constantly being refreshed. He also stocks Belgian beer, some of the strongest beers in the world, with one at 11 percent alcohol!

With Aroi’s all-you-can-eat buffets ranging between B. 259 and B. 295 this makes for very inexpensive dining out. The comparison between other buffets and Aroi’s is almost unbelievable. On Sundays the buffet goes from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., then recommences at 5.30 p.m. until 10 p.m. On our Sunday it was excellent. Treat the family to a night out! Children under 1 meter dine free, and those between 1 meter and 1.4 meters are charged only 50 percent. This makes Aroi one of the best family venues in Pattaya/Jomtien.

Highly recommended.

Aroi Resto and Bar, Soi 89 Sukhumvit, on-street parking, hours 12 noon till 10 p.m. six days (closed Mondays), telephone Alain 0800 913 023, restaurant 087 043 3227.