To get to King seafood restaurant – situated in Pattaya’s Walking Street, notorious for its “nightlife” – you have to run the gauntlet of pimps, touts, rip-off merchants, “service girls”, “freelancers”, and lady-boys until you see the huge neon sign proclaiming that the fish are so fresh “they are still swimming”.
Walking Street, as usual, was throbbing with people wanting to part the unwary tourist from their cash. Suit, sir? Sex show? Neon lights flashing everywhere. Invitations aplenty. It’s quite overwhelming – even if you’re accustomed to it. “Hellooo, welcome inside me…”
There are no photos for this review. We had a couple of cameras with us but we kept them in our bags. It’s more bother than it’s worth to look like a tourist in this area.
I don’t like Walking Street – it’s a real tourist dive, and much more expensive than the norm because of that. It’s sex, Sex, SEX, everywhere. And a lot of ancient, fat Westerners with attractive young Thai women. I’ve no objection to sex, but I don’t want someone trying to sell it to me at every step, thanks. A sex show with ping pong balls? Massage, madam? A lady-boy or two, sir?
“…walked like a woman and talked like a man… Lola” (The Kinks)
We get past the Tourist Police mobile station which is set up there every night. Now why would they feel the need to do that? Yeah.
So why bother?
Because King Seafood Restaurant would make it into my top ten of restaurants in the world. It’s worth it! Believe me, we’ve tried to find as good or better elsewhere but…
“…nothing compares, nothing compares…” (Sinead O’Connor)
I seem to be in a musical mood today. Makes a change from cooking, I suppose.
Go a little way down Walking Street, past the Lobster Pot – which looks pretty similar to King from the outside, but the food just isn’t quite the same standard – and there on the right you’ll find King.
As you enter King restaurant, on the left you’ll find lots of seafood displayed on ice: scallops, lobsters, fish, etc. Further down there’s a wide range of veggies. This is great because you can take a plastic tray and choose your own, if you want. Then hand it over to the waitress and tell her how you want it to be cooked. Although the kitchen is enclosed (good idea to keep out flies etc) there’s a glass partition so you can see inside, and the chefs appear to be clean and doing a good job. That’s a nice touch, when a restaurant doesn’t feel the need to hide its kitchen. Very reassuring!
I always choose our own veggies but leave it up to the staff to pick our fish, scallops, or crabs or whatever. We’re regulars and I know they’ll select the best ones for us. You probably don’t even have to be a regular to get the best – just smile! This, after all, is the land of smiles.
On the right there are tanks with live beasties in them: crabs, shrimp, fish, and even a small shark or two. You must be careful with seafood. It can be fresh, as in still alive when you bought it, but if it’s not been kept properly then it’s dangerous. For example, crabs excrete ammonia so if they’ve not been kept properly then basically they’ve been living in sh.. and, despite being “fresh”, they should be avoided if there is any hint of ammonia about them.
Over the years we’ve been to King countless times and never had any problems with the food at all. Well, that’s not strictly true. I think this is very much a night-time place. We once went at lunch time, and I think the cleaner or someone must’ve cooked the meal. It was fairly mediocre. Don’t go earlier than 6pm.
Once you’ve got past all the lovely food on display you’re in the restaurant area itself. Much of this is built out over the sea. This is all illegal building and the “powers that be” have been talking about demolishing it – and all the similar places – for years, but nothing is ever done. For once I applaud slow and ineffective local government.
So at last we get to the meal itself. As well as being able to do a DIY on the way in, personally picking out what you want, you can choose from an extensive menu. It’s a seafood restaurant so, guess what, there’s lots of seafood on it. It’s also predominantly a Thai restaurant. That’s not such a stupid comment as you might think. Pattaya is a tourist destination catering to tourists of all nationalities. Many, many restaurants are German, British, Swiss, Russian, etc, with only a token menu of Thai dishes. We like Thai food.
A big problem is that very often the Thais think that all farangs (foreigners) don’t like spicy food and it can sometimes be very difficult to explain to them that we like it Thai-style – “phet-phet” (spicy). However, they know us at this restaurant and they now say to us, “You like spicy, yes?” and we reply, “Yes, just like Thai people.” This is not the same as going into an Indian restaurant in Britain and ordering the “hottest thing on the menu”. It simply means – please don’t make it bland just because we’re farangs.
Price-wise this is not a cheap restaurant but it’s not in the fine-dining price range either. You can eat much more cheaply in Pattaya, or much more expensively, but at less than £20 for a small feast and a few beers for two I certainly wouldn’t complain!
We had scallops in butter and garlic, two blue crabs (beware – they’ll try to give you king crabs if you don’t specify what kind of crabs you want, and even then they sometimes make a “mistake”. You need to be quite firm on this. King crabs are great but they cost a small fortune, so watch out) in a delicious “chilli paste” (more of a gravy than a paste, but wonderful all the same), a pork Thai green curry, seafood soup with coconut milk, veggies stir-fried in oyster sauce, and a small portion of steamed rice.
Rice is an important part of the meal to Thais. Where we might say “have a meal”, they say “kin khao”, which translates as “eat rice”. So we are a bit farangish in our lack of rice.
The staff at King are cheerful and friendly. Some of them have been there for years and could probably do the job blindfolded. There does seem to be quite a high turnover of young, fairly useless, ones too, though. I think they might be students. We invariably leave a pretty large tip – that tells you what we think of the service. They take very good care of us, without being annoying or over-attentive.
The ambience? Well, you couldn’t ask for a nicer place. You can sit out over the sea. You have a view of the whole bay and of the various boats and ships going about their business. What else could I possibly say about King? If you’re in the area, you should definitely try it! (After 6pm.)
Our rating: 4½ out of 5