Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bangkok food trip: Royal Dragon Restaurant

Second evening in Bangkok.

The day was exciting. It's my first time to go behind the scenes of a major event in the field of rice sciences: I helped prepare the IRRI exhibit; I went shopping for goldfish with Otep; and I toured the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC). Oh, and I grabbed one of the very few opportunities I had to see what I can of the city when Otep and I got lost in Udom Suk and when I went shopping for supplies for the exhibit. 

The next time I turned around to look through the glass wall of BITEC, all I saw was darkness. Evening had fallen and it was time for dinner! I joined the Comms Team at the Royal Dragon Restaurant, a few minutes' walk from BITEC. Nothing prepared me for the size of the restaurant. Let's just say that it is only the BIGGEST restaurant in the world! Even the signage by the road is huge! I thought we were eating atop a tall building because of the sign.

This is the biggest restaurant in the world and it has a Guinness World Record to prove it.
It reminded me of Isdaan, the most grandiose restaurant I've eaten in so far in the Philippines. Both restaurants occupy sprawling spaces that it'd take a long while to get to a table, and that's when you know where you're going... it's highly possible to get lost in both restaurants just because of their sheer sizes. But I knew that the Royal Dragon Restaurant was the bigger of the two just by judging the parking space. Imagine, the spaces allocated were for buses, not for cars. Oh my goodness, we were eating with busloads of people... there must be a crowd at the entrance as everyone waited for their group to be called.

The parking space of Royal Dragon Restaurant is so long!

Nope. Despite the busloads of people, the crowd at the entrance seemed smaller than I had expected. Maybe that's because everyone who ate there had to have a reservation or there's plenty of space for everyone who wanted to eat there.

Facade of the Royal Dragon Restaurant. Even with the number of diners, it didn't feel crowded.

So this was what Kuya Boyet was talking about: the Guinness Book of Records plaque was awarded to the Royal Dragon Restaurant for being the biggest in the world. According to the marker, this place could seat 5,000 people. Oh my, that's about half the audience of a sold-out concert at the Araneta Coliseum!

This is the champ of giant restaurants.
I've always wondered how in the world could such a giant restaurant deal with so many diners. For the Royal Dragon, the waiters skated from kitchen to dining area. And that's no small feat, balancing a tray and all. Plus, there must be several kitchens scattered in the vicinity because I couldn't imagine one kitchen dealing with 5,000 guests at any one time, particularly with the wide selection of food on offer... the menu has at least 1,000 dishes from different cuisines.

One of the many kitchens.
As Kuya Boyet, Paul, and I walked into the dining space, I slowly understood how 5,000 people could fit in such a restaurant. Aside from the buildings for various functions, Royal Dragon also had a sprawling al fresco dining space. It was a great dining area, as long as it didn't rain.

Al fresco dining areas.

Finally, we were finally able to join our group in a private banquet space. There was a lot of food served that night. It was nothing short of a feast! The food was delicious. It was distinctly Chinese cuisine, reminding me of family gatherings at Ding Hao and at the Mandarin Palace. I enjoyed the Royal Dragon dinner despite not being able to try half of what we ordered (thank you, seafood allergies... I just had to see the food). Just don't ask what they were; I didn't get the names of the food.

The Comms Team pre-conference working dinner feast.
Dinner quickly became a meeting (despite the distracting off-tune karaoke singer outside) as everyone talked about final preparations on the night before the International Rice Congress. The Comm Team's energy was infectious! It looked like everything (and everyone) was ready. 

And so I parted ways with the team at the end of the dinner. It was such an experience eating at the Royal Dragon. I ought to return here when I visit Bangkok again. But still, I couldn't believe that I've been in the city for two days but I haven't gotten off the beaten path, food-wise. 

I really should've gotten myself a Lonely Planet guidebook...