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