Dining with ocean views, great service, observance of health and hygiene standards and the freshest seafood to be found doesn’t have to be at a high-end restaurant or resort. Our visit to one of Cha-Am’s renowned streetside dining stalls revealed all these attributes and more. One big advantage with dining ‘streetside’ is the price; the very low price.
Along with others in the local hospitality scene, many restaurant operators are suffering from the absence of tourists; not only the high-end establishments, but those which are less glamorous. They appeal to diners on a budget looking for a ‘chef’ who is as local and authentic as the dishes on offer. Supporting these local people can be via a very enjoyable dining experience at a very low cost, albeit a tip will always be appreciated.
Pi Dang was recommended for us to experience what this dining experience can offer. Pi Dang was our host for the evening with her establishment name simply meaning ‘Pi Dang’s Restaurant’. Her `20-seat restaurant is at the northern end of Cha-Am’s main beach road with an unhindered view across the road to a wide sandy beach.
Pi Dang has a background which includes cooking at a nearby four-star hotel, but she much prefers doing her own thing and being free to develop her own menu and style. Thai people, either locals or visitors who have been cruising along the beach road are the main patrons, however she’s made the effort to have a menu on hand in English as foreigner customers are very welcome.
Our choice of a whole fish with all the trimmings, presented to be visually appealing as well as being adorned with herbs and sauces to ensure a very moist and succulent dish. This was big enough to easily satisfy a couple with a price tag of 380 THB. But many single-person options were in the range of 50 to 150 THB, including prawns or other seafood dishes. The chances are that a couple will leave being very satisfied after paying a bill of a few hundred rather than a few thousand baht.
The drinks menu is limited to local beers (80 THB for a large bottle), Spy or soft drinks, but those in the know may choose to bring their own bottle of wine; that’s OK with Pi Dang without any suggestion of corkage.
Pi Dang understands the importance of hygiene, there is hand cleaning gel at the entry and she always wears a hair-net and facemask; there’s no need to believe this could be a source of any health issues.
A good measure of how to choose a streetside restaurant is patronage by the locals. During our visit they regularly called by, sometimes ordering a take-away, and always greeted with Pi Dang’s huge smile and quick service.
Pi Dang usually works alone during quiet times, but if there’s a need for assistance help soon arrives from her network of family and friends after a quick phone call. Sometimes there’s a need for deliveries to customers sitting across the road on the beach. Flexibility to keep the customers happy is a feature of Pi Dang’s service.
Maybe drop by earlier in the day to give some notice if there’s a large group or special occasion, but most have just seen a spare table and walked in without any booking being necessary.
‘Raan-Ahaan Pi Dang’ typifies what the Cha-Am streetside dining scene is all about. It’s very welcoming, clean but casual and the food is amazing; it isn’t fancy but it’s cheap!