The man who ate Lincoln Rd had lunch on Tuesday at the verbosely named Ruang Thong Thai 4. It was a strange, tense experience.
It's a small restaurant, with tables set in two rows facing each other. It's very clean, very quiet. Almost...too quiet.
The only other diners when I arrived were three men. They were all sitting by themselves. We were all about the same age and the same height and weight. Two sat on one side, facing the other two on the opposite side.
The music was very soft. I wished it were louder.
The waitress took my order. I whispered, "Chili chicken, please."
There was a black and white photo of the Thai royal family on the wall. There was a little wooden carving of someone eating a meal - another solitary diner.
Ruang Thong Thai 4 does $10 takeaway specials every night. Pad thai on Sundays, if it's Wednesday it must be cashew nuts, etc.
The food hygiene rating was B. The pest control rating was A.
Where else to look? At the other diners? Impossible. The four of us were doomed to silence, to lonely contemplation of the repressive social codes which prevents strangers from talking to each other in public places in New Zealand.
The meal arrived. Thank God for that! Finally, something to do! Also, it was delicious. True, they overdid the amount of broccoli - I scoffed quite a lot, and still left 11 pieces on the plate - but all the vegetables were firm and fresh, the sauce was rich and tasty, and there was a lot of chicken.
I forgot the weird little tableau of four very nearly identical men sitting down to lunch in their own quiet universes of pain and suffering, and filled my face with food. There are a lot of Thai restaurants in Auckland and they can be much of a fish sauce muchness but Ruang Thong Thai 4 is very likely one of the best. It was certainly the best cooked food I've eaten on my Lincoln Rd journey.
I ate slowly. I bent my head low over the plate. I was in no hurry to look up.
The bill: $10.90. The rating: 9/10.
STEVE'S EARLIER ADVENTURES ON LINCOLN ROAD:
• Episode 1: Entering heart attack alley
• Episode 2: Moto sushi
• Episode 3: Sierra
• Episode 4: Sal's Pizza
• Episode 5: Langtons On Lincoln
• Episode 6: Nando's Chicken
• Episode 7: The man who ate Lincoln Rd's doughnut dilemma
• Episode 8: The man who ate Lincoln Rd rates Eves Pantry
• Episode 9: The man who ate Lincoln Rd rates Burger King
• Episode 10: Bad times at Burger Fuel
• Episode 11: Mr Burger
• Episode 12: Saaj
• Episode 13: The little guys on Lincoln
• Episode 14: The Coffee Club
• Episode 15: Subway
• Episode 16: Carl's Jr.
• Episode 17: Mitre 10's café
• Episode 18: La Porchetta
• Episode 19: BBQ Hut Nood Les
• Episode 20: Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts and more
•All views expressed are the author's.