EAT­ING OUT AND DRINK

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - NAM TUK TRAM STOP If you know a restau­rant Ron should re­view, email ron­mackenna@fast­mail.fm

MAYBE it’s be­cause Nam Tuk des­per­ately needs to be no­ticed that its own­ers have gone for full fat gar­ish when it comes to the decor. My­self, Gor­don and Greg are cer­tainly mo­men­tar­ily si­lenced when we walk in and are whacked by an eye­ful of bam­boo poles, manga-themed colours and gi­ant car­toon char­ac­ters.

“It’s not aimed at us,” I say to my chum Greg as he un­com­fort­ably ad­justs his wing col­lar and searches in vain for a but­ton-down leather couch to set­tle into among the spindly ta­bles and chairs. This is for the Yu-Gi-Oh gen­er­a­tion. “The who?” asks Gor­don later, look­ing up quizzi­cally from an ad­mit­tedly fat, juicy and freshly pan-fried gy­oza dumpling. He has a point. Rather than be­ing young, hip and hap­pen­ing devo­tees of the cult Ja­panese play­ing card game, tonight’s other cus­tomers look alarm­ingly like us. And are there­fore none of the above.

We have by now any­way con­sumed some crisp and clean spring rolls, prawn spring rolls too – sim­ply whole prawn in pas­try – and are sus­pi­ciously cir­cling a plate of gi­ant pump­kin ko­rokke, or Ja­panese cro­quettes. They’ll turn out to be sweetly bland and about the only thing we’ll eat tonight that is not com­pletely and res­o­lutely out of generic pan-Asian restau­rant cen­tral cast­ing. Oh dear, I’ve given the end­ing away al­ready.

Let’s con­tinue though. There’s a salt and pep­per squid that is only dis­tin­guished by the fact it seems to con­tain nei­ther salt nor pep­per – a first for me. That’s fol­lowed by a se­lec­tion of gloopy, samey main cour­ses that not only look iden­ti­cal but taste largely and dis­ap­point­ingly of soy sauce.

Maybe that’s our fault. There is a large menu, yet we avoided the sushi. I would never eat sushi in a ran­dom restau­rant, so shunned the Korean bul­gogi, and even sidestepped the pad Thais and the yaki sobas. All these dishes are avail­able in spe­cial­ist restau­rants not too far from here, restau­rants that we could eas­ily have gone to in­stead of leap­ing off the bot­tom of Byres Road into the culi­nary no-man’s land that Nam Tuk oc­cu­pies.

This spot seems to me to have been the Ber­muda Tri­an­gle of the Glas­gow food scene, sur­rounded by busy roads, bereft of park­ing and too far from civil­i­sa­tion for ex­hausted stu­dents to walk.

Hasn’t ev­ery restau­rant that has opened up here in re­cent years sunk with­out trace? Maybe that’s why Nam Tuk has gone for the look-at-me in­te­rior.

Wind­ing back a bit, by a process of ran­domly or­der­ing just about ev­ery­thing that doesn’t jump out as be­ing com­pletely main­stream, we end up with duck prig, duck mao and some­thing called chicken krapow, which is a puz­zle that oc­cu­pies whole mil­lisec­onds of our time not only when it ar­rives at the ta­ble but even af­ter we have tasted it.

This is not helped by the fact it’s hard to make out what the staff are say­ing when they en­thu­si­as­ti­cally whiz up with dishes be­fore bolt­ing off again. Any­way, if this chicken krapow is meant to be a tra­di­tional Thai basil stir fry, it’s not. It’s com­pletely miss­ing any punchy Thai sweet, sour, fish sauce flavours and tastes of noth­ing but soy with a few green beans thrown in and the odd burn­ing red chilli slice.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the duck mao tastes al­most ex­actly the same. Only the duck

prig is any­thing dif­fer­ent, it’s still salty and yet kind of bland, but this time the duck in it is at least crisply fried.

Now, if you ask me, the se­cret of sur­vival in the shark-in­fested world of restau­rant run­ning is not to be good – be­ing good only at­tracts un­wanted at­ten­tion, un­rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions and the seem­ing im­pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing con­sis­tent. It’s sim­ply this: avoid be­ing bad. And Nam Tuk isn’t bad. Decor aside, it’s sim­ply generic and very dull.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: KIRSTY AN­DER­SON

Nam Tuk Tram Stop’s main cour­ses were a se­lec­tion of gloopy, samey dishes that tasted largely of soy sauce

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