In recent decades, the title of one of the most popular “Backpacker Ghettos” should be definitely given to Khaosan road. Khaosan road offers cheap accommodations, ranging from budget guesthouses to mid-range hotels. Myriads of extremely diverse travelers from all over the world are here with internet cafes, swanky bars and clubs, restaurants, market stalls, massage parlors, bookstores, tattoo shops and much, much more.
Perhaps for inexperienced travelers, there is a dilemma: Where is a good place to eat? We are going to compare two of famous restaurants around Khaosan road. Both of them are operating in neighboring shophouses in the same building. Furthermore, both of them sell cultural food but from opposite hemispheres. One is Shoshana which serves Jewish cuisine from Israel, and the other is Kansai Fu(ll) which serves Japanese cuisine from Japan. So travelers who visit Khaosan road might want to consider some differences for a special meal.
Shoshana offers excellent Israeli cuisines. From word of mouth, Shoshana’s dishes are probably the best Israeli food in Bangkok and a lot of the Israeli tourists said that the food is just like back at home. Shoshana opened as a guesthouse in 1982 when Khaosan Road had become more popular as a tourist destination. Then it started making Israeli food for their guests. After a while, a group of Israeli customers helped name the restaurant “Shoshana”, which means “a rose”.
The chef cooks outside by the front door so you can visually see the fresh food being prepared. The restaurant is decorated in a homely style. Shoshana’s atmosphere is just like typical restaurants with air conditioning. When we visited, the small dining room was a bit crowded. However, we felt comfortable with this kind of decoration style and the efficiency of the staff.
Hummus and Pita
Hummus[90B] is an ancient Egyptian food made with cooked-mashed chickpeas or other beans blended with olive oil. Pita[15B] is slightly leavened Arabic flat-bread. To eat hummus and pita, we tear a small piece of pita and dip it in the hummus. The taste is a bit oily and creamy. It melted in my mouth when its silky texture touched my tongue. This food is great to eat either with or without any side dishes.
The first time I saw falafel[180B], I thought it was a meatball. But in fact, falafel is not made with meat at all. It is made with chickpeas or fava beans or a combination of the two combined with other spicy herbal ingredients. All of these are good for people who care about their health. Falafel is crunchy on the outside and smells of herbs including cumin and coriander. If you like to eat vegetables and are looking for something new, falafel is a good choice for you.
Shashuka[140B] is poached tomato with eggs on top. Perhaps this sounds like a banal food but its taste really isn’t. Although tomatoes are common food from around the globe, shashuka has such a unique taste. Thanks to the mysterious middle-eastern culture for shaping this way of cooking. My shashuka had a sweet-scented fragrance from poached tomatoes and was served in just perfect temperature. I felt pleasure every time I swallowed.
After the meal, we interviewed the restaurant owner, Mrs. Sumol Chaisoy. She said that she was the main chef and she had to prepare the food and its recipes for a genuine taste. For example, for the hummus, she has to boil the chickpeas for several days. She allowed us to taste fresh eggplant salad which made us feel breezy and cheerful.
Kansai Fu(ll) offers distinctive Japanese cuisines at reasonable prices. This small restaurant was established 6 years ago by a gourmet chef addicted to Japanese food. The restaurant was named after Kansai region which is the cultural and historical heart of Japan while the word ‘Fu(ll)’ literally means stylishness. The main concept of the restaurant is to represent innovative Japanese cuisine based on Japanese cookery culture.
Kansai Fu(ll)’s Atmosphere
Sometimes small restaurants turn out to be surprisingly pleasant places in which to dine. Kansai Fu(ll) is one of them. The restaurant is decorated in modern Japanese style and it provides multiple styles of tables: Japanese-like, outdoor and café. Japanese-like tables look like traditional Japanese tables in which people sit on the floor, but these roomy seats are lifted up and covered with tatami mats so customers can enjoy sitting in any posture they want. Pictures on the wall and yellow lights create a relaxing and cozy atmosphere. The hospitable owner was carefully receiving orders while the chef was showing his professional cooking skills in the kitchen which was inside the dining room.
Bacon oyster[185B] is one of Kansai Fu(ll)’s iconic dishes. A fresh oyster from Hiroshima is wrapped in aromatic fried bacon on each of five pieces and is served with a crescent of lemon, salad, and cold mashed potato. If you eat it, the squashy oyster will splash its intensive taste in your mouth, complete with the sweet smokiness of the bacon. Bacon oyster is the perfect combination of land and sea, fresh and fried, hot and cold.
Sushi mariawase[365B] contains 10 pieces of bite-size sushi. The raw materials are high-quality sushi-grade fishes. This dish is optimized not just by the taste but also the appearance. It delivers art through the integration of colors on a wooden platform. If you look closely, you will see skillful, decorative cutting on the fish, and rice that is loosely squeezed, which allow them to separate quickly and mix in the mouth with just the right balance of tangy and savory flavors when eaten with soy sauce.
Kansai-style okonomiyaki[165B] is widely known as Japanese pizza. Its “pizzaship” comes from various versions of ingredients, just like the pizza that you can have whatever you want on(or in) it. Kansai Fu(ll) provides endless possibilities which start with 7 types of invented okonomiyaki plus a long list of recipes that let you customize yours. I recommend shredded cabbage and bacon topping with katsuobushi (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna). This selection is popular among regular customers.
Shoshana and Kansai Fu(ll) differ in a number of ways. The first of them is decoration style. While Shoshana has nothing special with dining tables covered by plastic tablemats as if it was a table at your home, Kansai Fu(ll) furnished its place with wooden traditional-like tables and tatami mats to create a Japanese feeling. Overall, Kansai Fu(ll) looks more stylish than Shoshana. Shoshana places the kitchen in front of the restaurant so customers can see the chef cooking only when they walk into the dining room. Unlike Shoshana, Kansai Fu(ll) places its kitchen inside the dining room so customers can enjoy watching the chef’s every movement. Besides, the chef’s performance is an important element in Japanese cookery culture, for example, the skillful cutting, the steps of sushi making and so on.
For the food, Shoshana serves Jewish food which is rare in Thailand; hence this could be a good place to find a new experience for one who has never experienced Israeli food, whereas Kansai Fu(ll) offers Japanese food which is already well-known around the world. In general, Israeli food is usually well-cooked and seasoned with a lot of spices and herbs. Most food is served in creamy form and ready to eat with pita bread, for instance, hummus, shashuka, and eggplant salad. In contrast, half of the Japanese dishes at Kansai Fu(ll) are made with raw and fresh fish. They get rid of the fishy smell by using wasabi and apply clever techniques to bring out the excellent natural taste of each raw material. While Shoshana focuses on its guests from the middle-east by serving authentic taste, Kansai Fu(ll) keeps developing new Japanese food in its own way as Japanese food has been evolved for a thousand years. Moreover, Kansai Fu(ll)’s dishes are not only put in suitable size dishes but are also always decorated for a beautiful appearance.
For the prices, Shoshana is cheaper. Okonomiyaki or some special dishes like bacon oyster from Kansai Fu(ll) will cost you around 150-200 baths each. These prices are a little bit more expensive than shashuka or falafel with 3 side dishes from Shoshana which will cost you around 140-180 baths. But if you consider about their portions, Shoshana is much cheaper because Shoshana’s dishes are served in bigger portions. You will be full within 1 dish at Shoshana while you will have to order 2-3 dishes at Kansai Fu(ll) for a meal.
Shoshana and Kansai Fu(ll) are located in a small alley opposite Wat Chana Songkram. It’s not far from Khaosan road. You can go north-west along the Khaosan road to Chakrabongse road, then make a right and straight ahead to the alley.
86 Chakabongse Rd., Phranakhon, Bangkok
88/2 Chakabongse Rd., Phranakhon, Bangkok