Amsterdam's Red Light District has many Thai restaurants, but none quite like Saow Thai. Like other Thai restaurants Saow Thai's food is consistently good, well prepared, perfectly spiced and always accompanied by a beautiful presentation.
So what makes this Thai place different? Well the bar scene dominates more than half the place, with the few cramped dining tables stuffed in almost as an afterthought. And it's quite a bar scene. The beautiful Thai women serving drinks (and dinner) are often not women at all but Thai men in drag. And they carry it off so well, this place will remind those who've been through the sexy bar scene in Bangkok of that steamy, sultry city.
The patrons of Saow Thai seem evenly divided by those seeking good Thai food, and those wanting to hang out at the bar. It's really too bad this place isn't a little bigger, as it takes a while to feel comfortable in their dining area.
Their beautiful and tasty culinary delights don't come cheap either. As low key and unprententious as the place is, you don't expect to pay these prices. Plan on 30 Euros per person plus drinks.
This reminds me of the time I was staying is some obscure Thai town way out in the countryside. It was around 9pm and I was just looking for dinner, and I passed by the most brightly lit shop in town. Surprisingly it was a very modern barber shop, and seeing how badly I needed a haircut, I went in. It occured to me how odd it was to have a barbershop open so late at night, but I reasoned this was some unique cultural obsession I'd yet to figure out.
I tried to explain how I wanted my haircut, but for some weird reason, the barber didn't invite me to sit in the chair, and made no move to prepare me for a haircut. Instead he and another man kept pointing up a staircase, nodding their heads in that direction, apparently urging me to ascend. Since no one spoke English, it took me awhile to grasp what they were saying. For a moment I thought, oh, they must have another floor of barbers waiting to cut hair. But then I thought, wait a second, this is a small town in the middle of nowhere, why do they need a modern highrise barber shop?
The men called up the stairs, and soon a parade of beautiful scantily dressed Thai women came down. The reason they were so reluctant to cut my hair and encouraging me to go upstairs was the fact that the barbershop was just a front for a brothel. Once I figured that out, we all had a good laugh, and I continued my search for a restaurant...
That's the kind of feeling I get at Saow Thai. Like there's more going on here than meets the eye. Intriguing indeed!
I highly recommend you arrive early for dinner. The few tables (four I think) fill up fast. Or just hangout by the bar and wait patiently while the Asian transvestites ply you with mai tais. I can think of few things more exotic than that...