seafood market and restaurant bangkok

The Seafood Market & Restaurant: If It Swims, We Have It.

I’m not a real big fan of seafood. At least of the fishy stuff. Lobster, crab, shrimp and prawns, all cool. Even squid, if cooked right – or at least cooked – I like. If I have to go with fish without legs I pretty much stick to swordfish. And that’s not always on the menu. So when someone suggest dinner at a seafood restaurant, I start figuring out where the closest McDonalds is so I can load up after a meal I’ll only pick at. But I was in Bangkok with my friend Ann, and Ann loves fish. She’s also a lesbian. So she’s a fan of fish in all ways possible. And Ann wanted fish for dinner. She also wanted fish after dinner, but that’s a different story.

It was our third trip to Thailand together. The previous two trips had been shared; the first time with her girlfriend, the second with a group of friends. I’d snuck in a few trips in between with a few different travelling buddies. This time Ann and I had Bangkok to ourselves; the town would never be the same again. But that’s another story, too.

Though I’m not a fan of seafood restaurants, I’d already been to several in Bangkok. Others I travel with have a hankering for fish for dinner, so whatchya gonna do? It’s not like they wanted to go to a vegetarian place. So when Ann announced she wanted seafood, I knew just the place to take her. Not based on its menu or quality of cooking. Solely on the basis of its gimmick. And that I knew I’d be able to have dinner at a seafood restaurant and not have to eat fish.

The Seafood Market & Restaurant in Bangkok is no big secret, it has been around since 1969. It’s so well known, smaller, rip-off places have set up shop just down the street and pay taxi drivers and tuk tuk scam artists drivers to deliver unsuspecting diners to their place instead. Not that that’s unheard of in Thailand. The first time I had dinner at The Seafood Market, it was my buddy Rick’s fault. He wanted to go, we grabbed a taxi, and promptly got taken for a ride.

The fake Seafood Market had the requisite large fish tanks with the night’s menu swimming about, enough scattered around the restaurant to make you think you’d entered an aquarium. But Rick smelled something fishy about the place. It just wasn’t quite what he’d been told about. So we got off the hook, walked out onto the soi, took a stroll, and five minutes later landed at the real Seafood Market. It was difficult to miss.

The thing about the Seafood Market is that it is huge; it seats more than 1,500 diners at a time. Lots of neon wraps around the exterior entrance up a short drive casting a warm glow on an open-air kitchen filled with chefs slaving over hot fires. The parking lot alone is big enough to berth an aircraft carrier. But its size is only part of its claim to fame. The gimmick is that it is so huge it contains a grocery store. Specializing in fish. You don’t order off a menu, you grab a cart and go shopping. After check-out, at your table, you tell your waiter how you would like your groceries prepared. Cute, huh?

Seafood Chefs

Chefs at work: An open-aired kitchen greets you upon arrival.

Besides liking seafood and being a lesbian, Ann is, uh, particular about the things she is passionate about. You might say she can be a real bitch. But she has the wickedest sick sense of humor you’ll ever run across, so there’s that. (Though come to think of it, that might not be a plus in some people’s book.) A southern belle from Texas, I’ve seen Ann make Marines cry. And, yup, you guessed it: that too is a different story. None of which has anything to do with fish, but ya really needed to know a bit about Ann to enjoy our night at The Seafood Market as much as I did.

On our visit, not unexpectedly, our taxi driver tried to stop a one of the scam joints. But I caught his eye in the rearview mirror when he slowed down, and he thought better of it. Smart driver. And he didn’t even know about Ann and the Marines. Deposited at the right place a minute later, we were warmly greeted and ushered to the back of the joint – a long hike – where the faux grocery store entices diners with a never ending display of fish, seafood, veggies, and just about any food you could imagine that would make a suitable side dish.

Even killer lesbians act like a woman at times. So Ann allowed me to be the man when we started our shopping in the wine section. Enough of an oenologist to know dry white wine goes best with fish, I immediately picked out a zesty zinfandel followed by a smooth cab. Ann smiled, a gracious grin that would send small children running off screaming for their mommies – put the zin back and grabbed a chardonnay, altering our drink selection for dinner while emasculating me all in one fell swoop. Bitch.

I’d have shown some balls and objected, but spotted a flash of pink headed our way and knew Ann was about to meet her match. And since I was going to let a diminutive Thai lady put Ann in her rightful place, being ball-less seemed appropriate. “Sawadee ka,” Little Shopping Helper Lady greeted me, not noticing Ann as she had just become invisible.

They say Thailand in general and Bangkok specifically is a safe place for women travellers. Alone or in a group, women visiting the Kingdom will feel safe and secure and will rarely experience problems due to their gender. And that’s true. What they don’t warn the ladies about is that being an Asian country with Asian culture, women are second class citizens. No matter how high a woman climbs the social ladder, she’ll always be a rung or two below a man. Any man. On our first trip to Thailand, Ann and her partner learned this quickly when trying to signal for the check in a restaurant. Short of flashing her tits, no woman is going to manage to catch the eye of the restaurant staff if she is dining with a man. I let the pair of them wave, clap, snap their fingers and try a variety of tones and different volumes of “Excuse me!” to try and get someone’s attention before I’d make a small gesture that brought the waitress running. Initially they were pissed, but got over it. But then that wasn’t quite the one-on-one experience Ann was now having.

seafood market neon

The Seafood Market specializes in fish and neon.

Little Shopping Helper Lady grabbed our my shopping cart and led us me down the aisle suggesting a variety of different fish for a main course. I wasn’t enthralled with any of her suggestions; everything she’d pointed out had fins. Ann, on the other hand, had a hundred questions. She wanted to try something local. She wanted to know about some of the fish that were unfamiliar to her tastebuds. But forgot she was invisible.

Little Shopping Helper Lady ignored Ann. Totally. An incredible feat since Ann towered over her by a good two feet and has no problem getting in someone’s face when required. Didn’t do Ann a bit of good though, and when, for effect, I repeated a question Ann had just asked, Little Shopping Helper Lady was more than happy to answer in great detail. Ann was pissed. Boiling. Some of the nearby fish began to cook in the heat steaming off of her. And I began to consider that seafood, at least in Bangkok, wasn’t all that bad of a dinner choice.

As tempting as it was to get in on the Ann Is Invisible act, ignore anything with fins and load up on just shellfish, the crying marines came to mind so I agreed to a few fish selections Ann wanted to make. And Little Shopping Helper Lady complemented me on each decision I made. She praised me for the excellent choices I made. We grabbed some bread and veggies, too, then checked out, were led to our table and our waiter took over.

Unfortunately, the waiter was a bit more willing to listen to Ann, though he did initially address me (and checked for my approval on anything Ann requested). By the time you get seated, you’ve already paid for your food. But unless you want a very basic version of sushi, you now need to determine how you’d like everything prepared. And pay for that, too. The Seafood Market is not a cheap dining experience. You overpay for the food, and then pay cooking charges (and a corkage fee for the wine) too. But the waiter is helpful and suggests various dishes for each of your food selections; we even managed to get our my lobster done in three different ways. Of course, it’s too easy to get carried away with the shopping experience so you end up with twice as much food as you could possibly eat. I’m sure Little Shopping Helper Lady gets a commission off of all the heavily laden carts of food she helps men select. But her payola is well earned as Western women get put in their place nightly.


More than one kind of fish gets cooked at the Seafood Market.

Our dinner was great. My dining experience much better than Ann’s. I had to duck when I suggested we tip the Little Shopping Helper Lady. And though Ann is not a cheap bastard, when the bill came it elicited a, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” from her. And because by dining there you have already established you are more than willing to overpay, all the taxis lined up along the curb out front quote a fixed rate to wherever you are headed next. 200 baht from Sukhumvit soi 24 to Patpong is outrageous; but on an even par with what you just paid for your meal.

The Seafood Market is not a place locals flock to. The food may be decent, but they are not that stupid. There are better seafood restaurants all over Bangkok that offer a better meal at a cheaper cost. But for the experience, it’s worth the price. Especially when your dining companion is a farang woman who will be left floundering in the grocery aisles thanks to a Little Shopping Helper Lady.

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