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This Thai restaurant in Tomas Morato isn’t really Thai yet people line up to eat there. Why?

This Thai restaurant in Tomas Morato isn’t really Thai yet people line up to eat there. Why?

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  • Jorge Mendez’s Some Thai does not claim to be authentically Thai and yet it’s in that frankness that people find it worth waiting in line for. That or the fact that it serves really good versions of Thai staples and then some
some thai tomas morato restaurant

Can Some Thai restaurant make lining up to eat worth it for Filipino dinners hungry for convenience?

Filipinos are so willing to queue in other countries to eat and to see an attraction, a friend once observed. But not here in the country. On the contrary, everything here entails lining up. To “pila” is to be Filipino, which is probably why we want convenience when it comes to everything else, as much as possible to be served as soon as we arrive, at restaurants especially. Meanwhile, to remain in a line where at the end awaits a promising meal is a virtue, even a sport (and a service!), we and fellow tourists reserve for foreign trips.

In Thailand, for example, long lines and even longer waiting times have become the norm at places like Jai Fay’s Michelin-starred restaurant that’s famous for its crabmeat omelette and drunken noodles.

A TikTok user reported having to wait for Some Thai’s crab curry (P850 with 50 g of crab, P1,300 with 100 g of crab) for almost an hour.

Chef Jorge Mendez of modern Japanese private dining Modan knows a thing or two about queuing at restaurants, being a regular Bangkok traveler himself. “For me as long as the food will be good, I’ll be willing to line up and wait,” he tells Nolisoli.ph.

“⁠I don’t think it’s a bad thing, especially if the food and the overall experience is great. I do it but I also have my limitations.” He draws the line at a one-and-a-half-hour wait, otherwise, he says, “Maybe I’ll visit a different time and day.”

Something to cool you off as you wait: Thai red iced tea (P180), pandan and lemongrass iced tea (P190), and Thai milk tea (P190)
Son and raw egg (P300) is served with a tangy tamarind sauce

At his Thai restaurant in Tomas Morato called Some Thai, the wait time can go for a bit longer than that during peak hours. According to a group of patient diners who braved the line to record the experience for TikTok, they had to wait two hours to get a table for dinner. Mendez says that during Thursdays and Sundays up to 30 to 40 people line up to eat at his 22-seater restaurant for lunch and dinner. The crowd dies down at around 4 to 5 p.m., he adds.

[READ: The year TikTok democratized eating well?]

Some Thai soft-opened sometime in March and still is on soft opening status when we went there mid-May. Some TikTok content creators who rushed to try the restaurant within its first month reported a 30-minute up to an hour wait time on some dishes.

[READ: The problem with soft openings]

So while Mendez admits having people line up outside their fiery red location is a welcome surprise (and something he wishes we Filipinos should consider), he asks for some leeway. Speaking as a restaurant owner, he proposes, “We need to be more considerate and patient with establishments because they/we too have limitations that we are trying to work around.”

The tom yum (comes in three sizes: classic for 2 persons (P480), medium for 4 (P990), and premium for 6 (P2,700)) has a slightly thicker and creamier base courtesy of a rich shrimp bisque. 

Some Thai is proudly “not authentic”

The first thing you have to know about Some Thai is that it is named so because it is not wholly Thai or entirely faithful to the culinary traditions of Thailand. Not “authentic” to put it bluntly. And Mendez will be the first one to tell you that.

“Some people kasi they want authentic pero to begin with we are not in Bangkok, ‘di ba?” Mendez says. “Iba ‘yong water here, humidity, the quality of seafood. And the price. Doon pa lang ‘di na kami authentic kasi if you go to Bangkok, sobrang cheap talaga.” 

Mango sticky rice (P250)

What you will find at Some Thai instead are his renditions of quintessential Thai dishes lumped together with some inventive recipes that Mendez came to be known for. Other than the staple pad thai, tom yum, and mango sticky rice, he’s also taken great liberties to interpret well-known dishes from his favorite Bangkok restaurants like the Michelin-starred Somboon Seafood, Here Hai, and Supanniga Eating Room. These include the crab curry and the oyster and crab omelettes, which at best are nascent attempts at bringing those famed dishes from Bangkok to Quezon City.

For most guests though—this writer included—where Some Thai truly shines is in its ingenious takes that merge Thai flavors with other cuisines as in the hamachi in nam jim sauce, which melds Mendez’s grasp of the Japanese’s preference for freshness with the Thais’ love for audacious flavors.

But this is not to disparage his take on the classics. The tom yum, though it deviates from the usual thin sour soup served in its country of origin, one can argue is more suited to the Filipino palate with a slightly thicker and creamier base courtesy of a rich shrimp bisque. 

Pad thai (P350 for solo and P650 for sharing between two persons)

The pad thai is commendable for its customization possibilities (the chili flakes, sprouts, and nuts are served on the side and there are solo and sharing options), but nothing really stands out from this version—and part of that may be by design. If you don’t think a middling pad thai is a good enough reason to line up, you’re always welcome to dine somewhere else. That may prove to be a challenge however as Mendez noticed there are not a lot of Thai restaurants in the area as most closed down during the pandemic. But if you really must be on your way to some other Thai restaurant with shorter or preferably no lines at all, a good pad thai worth waiting for, he says, is one with “a combination of sweet, sour, and salty. And the prawn taste has to be there.”

Some Thai’s transparency about it being “inauthentic” is saying something about the shift in public opinion about food and experiences outside of the fickle worship of “authenticity.” It’s also taking Thai food out of Thailand’s incessant efforts to standardize its cuisine in a bid to become a formidable culinary capital of the world through “gastrodiplomacy” into something more malleable, without an agenda beyond an intent to serve an enjoyable dining experience. But that too demands something out of a dinner: that you must also do the work and that unfortunately entails lining up.

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