Hemlock is certainly Bangkok’s most ominous restaurant name. Thankfully, this trendy two-story “art restaurant” in the backpackers area of Banglamphu didn’t poison me, and featured a massive menu of original, flavorful and affordable Thai food. The “art” part of the restaurant’s claim refers to the eleven-year-old Hemlock’s monthly art exhibitions and occasional classical concerts. With neither of those in effect, I was able to focus on Hemlock’s magnificent food.
Each item in the “miang” section cost 60 Baht, about $1.50 American. I ordered “miang kam: fresh piper leaves with pieces of lime, ginger, shallots, dried shrimp, peanuts, etc. – and dried coconut – topping with sweet sauce – use your hand, mix it, wrap it… until touching your mouth.” It was excellent. The etc. turned out to be chopped jalapeños, which added kick. The sauce was brown and syrupy sweet, sprinkled with chopped peanuts. Combined on the green leaves, the dish’s flavor was incredibly complex: spicy, sweet, bitter, and sour in each bite.
“Spicy banana flower salad” (55 Baht) was also incredible. The shredded banana flower, which smelled and tasted like banana, came in a red chili broth and was topped with three burgundy peppers. It was more spicy than sweet, and again, delicious.
I wanted a noodle dish, but the waiter insisted I order “Grand Lotus rice” (80 Baht). I peeled back the dish’s lotus leaf sheath to find a heap of sweet rice studded with numerous caramelized foods: two huge prawns, a chunk of fall-apart tender pork, two mushroom caps, two slices of Thai sausage, and plenty of lotus seeds, which were like larger macadamia nuts. The dish was powerfully good on its own, and became even better after spooning on a pureed green chili sauce.
I was blown away by both the flavor and the cost of the meal. The bill for three dishes, two bottled waters and tip, came to just $6 U.S.