The area around Wat Pho has long been a favourite of ours. Before we moved to Bangkok, way back when we were wide-eyed tourists in 2014, this warren of old, rickety shophouses, cafes and street stalls sprawling away from the hub of Tha Tien pier was a treat for the senses in every respect.
Fast forward rather too many years and even in the depths of the pandemic, this is still an area very much alive and evolving. It’s also become a bit of a foodie who’s who list in recent years; the ever-popular Supanniga Eating Room has a waterfront restaurant, while until relatively recently the excellent Err graced one of the sois with Bo.lan’s mouth-watering treats and nuclear cocktails. This is always a good area for food that’s a little bit outside the Bangkok norm, which is a pleasantry given the proximity to some of the world’s busiest tourist sites. What could by rights be a pure tourist trap instead retains some real gems.
Tana – a dinky, narrow little shophouse on what Google informs me is called Tha Ruea Daeng alley (Red Port alley?) is absolutely one of these gems.
A rather unassuming shopfront and an equally unassuming menu belie some truly delicious and unusual flavours. There can’t be more than 7 or 8 dishes plus a few sweet things on the menu, with naming ranging from the simple to the intriguingly baffling. Pork dumpling with spicy sauce – simple. Fried seabass with polygonatum – intriguingly baffling. There’s a chicken rice dish that seems to be a family recipe, plus a few familiar faces like chicken cashew nut.
A very welcoming and slightly surprised to see us host bounces over and explains in her decent English and our terrible Thai some of the popular dishes. The phrase ‘Chinese herbs’ comes ups repeatedly in relation to both food and drinks, which is typically a promising sign. Salted egg also features plenty – less my thing to be honest. We plump for dumplings, the fish with its accompanying polygonatum, plus a chicken rice bowl with Chinese sausage and gravy.
We spend a few minutes enjoying the quiet surroundings, a mix of sleek light woods and old exposed beams. The interior is very cosy with space for perhaps 15 or 20 in tables of 2 or 4. Normally we are suckers for old shophouses in Bangkok, but this one has been modernised and is still lovely.
The pork dumplings arrive, six whopping specimens in gossamer skins with a fiery chilli sauce, topped with crispy onions and herbs. One thing they use a lot of at Tana is dill, and it goes beautifully with these dishes. They get gobbled up in about 18 seconds.
Next up is the chicken rice, which turns out to be a khao na gai or chicken with gravy and rice.
This is simple enough stuff, but it just tastes lovely and is executed really well with a homely touch rather than any extravagances. Presentation also seems to be a strong suit at Tana!
Best of all is the seabass – fried but not heavy or greasy and in a sauce which presumably contains the mysterious polygonatums, plus mushrooms and chilli. The sauce is deep and herbal with that earthy tang you sometimes get from those Chinese herbal drinks which are meant to cure too much, or too little, heat in the body. The depth is offset by the fresh dill and coriander, and overall it’s another lovely thing to eat.
We would gladly have had more dishes from Tana but with a rather large dinner planned we called it a day there. With a couple of herbal drinks the bill ran to around 500 THB which was well worth it for the surprising and delicious food we had at Tana Bangkok.
A few people during our meal came up, checked out the menu and then shied away to the pasta joint across the road. Their loss! Tana was a great find for us and somewhere we would happily come back to for more. The food is exceptional, the atmosphere is homely and relaxed, it’s good value – Tana ticks all the boxes.
Tana Bangkok details
117 thatien, Maha Rat Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Dishes around 100-250 THB ad good for sharing