Eating Thai…Or a version of Asian in Bolivia

If you’re a foodie, frequent traveler and tend to have longer stays in a particular city, at some point, your objective might shift from “let’s try good local food” to “let’s try something different.”

Perhaps you’re sick of your limited choices and just want anything you haven’t already tried. Perhaps you don’t like native dishes. Or perhaps you miss food from back home. Whichever is the case, necessity (or boredom, maybe a death wish!) is the mother of change.

Enter La Paz, Bolivia. If you read my last post about Rendezvous restaurant, you saw a great example of fusion between European recipes and Andean ingredients. In Mephrao On, I’ll share a different sort of restaurant phenomenon: the unlikely bedfellows created when you group together an entire region of cuisines and “adapt” them to a different palate.

Mephrao On appears to be a Thai restaurant; in reality, it serves somewhat unrecognizable renditions of Thai, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese stars. You may read “unrecognizable” as a negative, but to the contrary, I would assert that I simply mean that the dishes bear little resemblance to their namesakes, and I’m certain anyone from those countries would argue they are inauthentic, but the bottom line is that they tasted good.

By La Paz standards, I would give rate the restaurant a relative four out of five stars; but for general Thai/Asian fusion quality and authenticity, I would rate it as average.

Whatever dish is ordered will bear only a passing resemblance to its namesake Thai, Indian, Indonesian, or Chinese dish; however, flavors are good, if not light on spice. Bear in mind that most food in La Paz tends towards the low side on heat/spice. If you haven’t traveled much, if at all, to South America, you might be surprised to learn that the majority of more native dishes (I stress majority, not generalizing!) are not hot. So for those of us expecting a bit more heat, requests for chili sauce on the side were the way to go. Their homemade chili sauce has a wonderful flavor and subtle heat that builds.

I ordered a tofu pad tai on one visit and a peanut curry with chicken, the latter of which was not curry spiced but had a thick, rich, and mild peanut sauce. I had a hard time trying to control myself from eating the entire dish, because the sauce was so tasty.

I enjoyed my beverages and food. For drinks, I would recommend the fruity caipirinha with real fruit puree, though the cachasa is definitely not top shelf, be forewarned.

I would describe the ambience was amusing and not exactly Thai or even Asian themed. The two-story restaurant’s exterior almost resembles an English Tudor house with white stucco, dark wood beams, and inside, blond wood tables and chairs on the ground floor. The second floor required climbing a treacherous, wooden spiral staircase. Seating areas and the bar upstairs were dark and primarily lit by lamp and candles. On one visit, our large party sat upstairs on a bizarrely configured series of wide benches around a large, low, and dark wood table. I am confident that these benches must make for constant entertainment for the waitstaff, as they watch very awkward mounting and dismounting activities as patrons attempt to climb and sit on these benches.

The second floor of the restaurant also has some…um, different stained-glass windows of the female countenance that would probably be banned in more conservative countries. But then again, I’ve visited Thailand, and I’ve seen things that would be banned elsewhere, too. So perhaps Mephrao On has a theme, after all!

Service was slow – as is advertised on the menu and is common in La Paz. I suppose that just gave our appetites extra time to anticipate the food and puzzle over our surroundings.

Overall, Mephrao On was a nice change of pace from other restaurants in La Paz. Both times I visited, I found a new discovery awaited – whether in terms of decor or dishes. I would recommend it, so long as one enters expecting the unexpected!

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