All posts filed under “Bangkok

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Naamyaa Cafe: Urban Thai Treats in North London

Enter the new chain..

Collaboration usually brings about awesomeness and when I heard of highly acclaimed restaurateur Alan Yau’s recent partnering with internationally lauded Thai chef David Thompson I couldn’t have been more excited. The lovechild is Naamya Cafe – a large-scale, well-funky and tactically conceived *urban Thai restaurant* in Islington. Its menu, featuring a friendly, photographically documented selection of one-plate dishes that middle-class Thai urbanites would eat in Bangkok – think, Cheeseburger and Salad Nicoise – as opposed to what Londoners stereotypically imagine as Thai food – think, Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry, is quite a departure from the imaginative exotic stuff Yau is known for at Busaba Eathai. The price is set at around £9 per dish. The portion is generous. The result is.. well, I think.. not more spectacular than a chain restaurant but will promise, in UK’s immigration term, a somewhat indefinite leave to remain surely.

Thai and western modern

The offerings at Naamya Cafe don’t quite fall into the categories of starters, mains, sides and desserts but are grouped into various kinds of “set” menus, including “small plate”, “burger&sandwich”, “noodle&pasta” and of course “Naamya” (a variation of Thai rice vermicelli eaten with watery curry and assorted vegetables. My Pan-Fried Turnip Cake (£.6.50) was huge and while being billed “small plate” could itself have been a meal. The turnip cake, though floury, contained some distinguishable bites of turnip and was nicely sauteed with egg, beansprouts and Chinese chives. The seasoning cried for richer and more feisty soy-based sweetness. Naamya Gai (£9) – rice vermicelli with a base of finger-root ginger curry and shredded chicken – was probably the most authentic I’ve had in the UK. (That said, Naamya Cafe is also the only place that sells it). The curry blend, from David Thompson’s factory, was aromatic and revitalisingly hot, and the consistency of the curry was right – loose and watery as opposed to thick and creamy. This was traditionally served with a boiled egg and both fresh and pickled vegetables. The uninspiring element, however, was the bland, scent-less, slightly-too-wet rice vermicelli. Also likable was Naamya’s take on the signature Thai street food favourite of Stir Fried Minced Beef with Chilli (£8.90), which arrived complete with steamed rice, a fried egg and a mooli soup. The stir fry was dry, correctly musty (because of fish sauce), and had Thompson’s salt-prone style of seasoning stamped all over it. Personally it could have been spicier; the rice tasted a bit tired and could have been a touch softer; and the fried egg could do with a better crispy skin.

Naamya Cafe isn’t the place to go an adrenaline-fueled Thai fix. But, given my three okay dishes that could feed three people and came just under £30, it was satisfactory..

RATING 3/5

NAAMYA CAFE

407 St John Street
London
EC1V 4AB

Tel. 020 3122 0988

www.naamyaa.com

 

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One “Hip” Bar and Many Others

Right! This is the round-up of places I’d been in Bangkok before I move on to reviewing the places in London.

First up was the Minibar Royale, a very hip, “American diner’s” hangout kinda place for Bangkokian celebrities and socialites, serving up easy Western kinda food in a “hip” kinda way. Nothing too fancy or worth a detour for real foodies, really, as most dishes were okay – some totally missed, and very few hit. I came across the super tender Seared Rack of Lamb, Potato Puree, Herb Roasted Mushrooms and Jus Vinaigrette. While the combination was nothing too stunning, the lamb was perfectly cooked and one of the most tender I’d ever eaten. Other savoury dishes, such as Baked Spinach and Cheese and Wagyu Mini Burgers, were something I could cope with. The spinach was a touch too salty for me, while the mini deconstructed Wagyu burgers, though of high quality, were too inconvenient to eat as the leaves, the pickled – whatever should have been inside a burger – were left elsewhere on the plate, leaving me to re-aseemble the burgers myself.

The most disappointing dish of the day was Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Corn Salsa. The combinations were disparate and the flavours crashed with one another. I must say, the bacon was really crispy but as there was hardly any scallop meat inside the wrap but an overwhelming amount of enoki mushrooms in its place, you couldn’t really cake it Bacon Wrapped Scallops, could you? Indeed, the mushrooms were the damning ingredient of the dish – elastic chewy texture and washed out flavours. The corn salsa tasted like plain sweet corn. Period. Luckily, the dessert of Banana Cake I ordered was orgasmic and redeemed the whole average meal. Fragrant, soft and gooey layers of banana and sponge cake that contained the right amount of sweetness, not overpowering the mellowy fruity flavours. I couldn’t enjoy it more.

Another trendy outing at the T Lounge, Siam Kempinski Hotel where Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin is, was equally average. Despite the grand venue, the afternoon tea was adequate. Light, fluffy scones with the clotted cream that was a bit of a let-down. Finger sandwiches were deep-filled but did not ooze out flavours as much as they looked, while the “cake” tier was too Christmas-oriented – mince pie, gingerbread, and the likes – which left one crave for more. The afternoon tea outing cost around 750 baht, including tea, but I feel with this price, it’s better to just go for a lunch set at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin opposite the T Lounge.

My slightly cheaper lunches fared better when it came to flavours. Taling Pling on Ground Floor at Siam Paragon has been one of my most favourite food haunts when I pass by Bangkok. Almost all dishes there were ace – traditional Thai food with a touch more of refinement and modest twists. Take this Rolled Fishcakes for example. One traditional Thai dish represented in a novel manner. Thin layer of Thai fishcake mixture was rolled along with a thin sheet of omelette, dipped in light batter and deep fried for a perfect crispness. This gave a touch of sweet neutrality and gorgeous crunch to this usual fiery, spongy nibble dish.

The orange prawn curry with omelette was ridiculously appetising. Foreigners beware, this was not the coconut milk based curry that you all are accustomed to but a lighter type of curry, almost broth-like and usually with fish or shellfish, with mostly herbal ingredients ground together to form a paste. The colour was orange but not that there was any actual orange in the curry. Taste-wise, it was sour, spicy, salty and sweet – in, more or less, that order! The prawns were nicely poached and the spongy omelette was sweet and bitter – the bitterness came from the Cha-Om leaves – adding the much needed meaty finish to the dish. Guess what, I drank up the whole bowl!

 

Then the high-end Som Tam place next door to Taling Pling, Cafe Chilli. The place refines Thai street food Som Tam and other North Eastern spicy salad dishes. The flavours were authentic enough, but not to the extent that they were right from the stalls in some dingy alleys. The compromise for that would be the super high quality ingredients Cafe Chilli offered and probably the re-assurance that all the dishes here would be hygiene guaranteed. Dishes of note were Grilled Chicken Rubbed with Tumeric, which came with sweet chilli dipping sauce and Cafe Chilli’s signature salty and spicy Larb sauce, and Tub Warn, a salad of spicy, pan-poached pork liver.

And, to finish this meal and extinguish the heat, I opted for Thai Coconut Ice Cream that came with a traditional selection of Thai toppings, such as peanuts, palm seed in syrup, sticky rice and sweet potatoes poached in sugar syrup. I shouldn’t forget mentioning that Cafe Chilli went extra miles and gave you a separate helping of the topppings for you to DIY your ice cream. Super duper!

 

Last but never least, it was my return to Bo.lan Restaurant, which I had blogged about, to catch up with old friends. You can find the extended review here, but roughly, the place served up amazing, marginal, yet traditional Thai dishes that were herb-oriented and dated back to the court of King Rama V. The recipes were well-researched and refined for today diners. If you happened to have sweet teeth, Bo.lan’s tasting style desserts would take you to cloud nine. Theirs were gastronomic rarities in such a modernised and glabalised Thai era, and if you fancied another helping, do let the missus Front of House know. She’s superbly accommodating and high acknowledgeable; and I’m sure she would probably be able to fetch you another helping ;-)


That’s all, or almost.

And on the way back to London I had a few minutes to grab a Dubai speciality….

The McArabia… not very glam, was it?

Enough said, here are the addresses:

MINIBAR ROYALE

37/7 Citadine Bangkok
Sukhumvit 23
Bangkok 10110

Tel. +662 261 5533

www.minibarroyale.com

T LOUNGE

Siam Kempinski Hotel
991/9 Rama I Road
Prathumwan
Bangkok 10330

Tel. +662 162 9000

www.kempinskibangkok.com

TALING PLING + CAFE CHILLI

Ground Floor Siam Paragon
Prathumwan
Bangkok 10330

BO.LAN

Soi. Pichai-Ronnarong
Sukhumvit 26
Bangkok
10110

Tel. +662 260 2962-3

www.bolan.co.th

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The Water Library

Right! The concept of the place – a restaurant with different types of water around the world amalgamating into an H2O list as opposed to a wine list – did spell out a big gimmick to me and I had, on one previous occasion, come across a restaurant with this sort of “water” list. My memory was still vivid as the diners seated next to me were arguing with the server that they just wanted water. Tab water or still water, they couldn’t care less. Seriously, I heart my water and can probably tell the differences (beyond their packaging) between Evian, Volvic and Vittel, but I never cared – and will never be – as such to attempt to pair water with my food. I’d rather pay for wine. Period.

The wine list at the Water Library, however, did not get me moo-ing. I love it, a great selection mostly from the vineyard from California. I am not used to American wine as I have an easier access to the French and I must say the American wine can be as nice.

Food? Amazing. Many of my friends love the Water Library and wanted me to try. The ex-Ember chef imported from Singapore did so many things right and did quite impress me, though I must say, not to the extent of Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. I’ll come back to this in a few minutes. Now, let’s get cracking about the dishes.

The amuse bouche of croissant …

No joking.

Well, taste-wise, this imported dough baked fresh to serve was delicious. I couldn’t think of anywhere better but that could be because I am hardly served croissant at lunch time? Helene Darroze came close to this but hers wasn’t as packed with stringy-ness inside as a result of extra butter.

My starter of Marinated Tofu with Foie Gras, Shitake Emulsion and Benito Flakes was shaking my taste bud quite a bit. The tofu was made in house and very delicate. The emulsion of many things, however, was very sharp. Its sweetness cut through very distinctly, the boldness which would totally rock the world of most Thai diners. For me, I found it a little too aggressive – good but aggressive. The tofu should have been the centrepiece of the dish but it seemed, to me at least, the emulsion took over. That said, if we were to follow the food at the Water Library along this gastronomic line leaning towards a more East-meet–West stance, I think it’s very exciting, though I still wanted my dish to be just a little more subtle.

The main course of Crispy Chilean Seabass, Mushroom Bacon Ragout, Ponzu White Truffle Oil Butter was Stunning with a capitalised “S”. I couldn’t love it more and I never came across such a crispy piece of fish. I’d been wanting to know if this was cooked sous-vide and then pan-fried one side in heated butter? Could anybody answer me please? The fish was delicate and with the uber contrast in texture from the crispy side. The sauce was a lot subtler than my starter and it got all my love. Not one ingredient seemed to jar with another. The aroma of white truffle oozed out nicely and the mild and light creamy butter with the perfectly cooked mushrooms and bacon (with a bit of crunch and crisp) did compliment the fish well. That was, in my opinion, a Michelin-starred dish.

Desserts, we ordered loads to share, starting with the Apple Tart Tartin, Black Sesame Creme Brulee, Chocolate Cake with Banana Ice Cream, and Yuzu Pannacotta. Let’s begin with the tart tartin. I couldn’t criticise; it was flawless. Crispy, flaky pastry; exact level of sweetness and no hint of burnt bitterness from the caramel; apples soft and cooked to perfection. It was actually as good as Ramsay‘s signature Tart Tartin and obviously this one was way cheaper! The chocolate cake was also brilliant, very dark, sumptuous and very well paired with the banana ice cream.

The other two dishes – Sesame Creme Brulee and Yuzu Pannacotta – were not that good. The flavour of the creme brulee was too intense, too sweet, too one dimensional, which left me to wonder if it would have been a better dish if the chef went for the white sesame creme brulee instead? That said, the texture of the creme brulee was very lovely, smooth on the tongue. The pannacotta, however, was just wrong. The texture was like a clog of cream. Too thick and when coupled with the gelatin became somewhat muddy. There was no bounce that a pannacotta should have. Also, the bits that came with it – mint sorbet, orange compote – totally jar the dish. The pannacotta itself was acidic, rather than lightly sweet and neutral, and the compote just added more acidity to the dish. Not pleasant and it was the only dish we did not finish.

So, why didn’t I like this meal as much as Kiin Kiin? I have to say, the thing that annoyed me at the end of the meal, I can’t quite tell what the style of cooking of the chef is, what are his identities. On the one hand, there are dishes like the tofu and the sesame creme brulee which verge on being refined fusion; on the other, there are these stunning dishes of Chilean seabass and the tart tartin, which are more of the nouvelle western food. The latter style fares somewhat better as they seem less ambitious in the recipes and relies on skills and precision. That’s why I kinda prefer Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin as the dishes are clearer as to what they are and the dishes on the menu that are more in line with one another. Still, the Water Library is a ridiculously great restaurant in Bangkok and food-wise it can easily rival quite a few one starred restaurants in the UK.

And have I not mentioned Tattlers voted the Water Lib the best restaurant in Bangkok?

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.

THE WATER LIBRARY

1st Floor Chamchuri Square Unit 217
Payathai Road, Pratumwan
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND

Tel. +662-160-5188

www.mywaterlibrary.com

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Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin: Thai Food, No!?

It has almost been a year since I visited Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen, renowned for its molecular deconstruction of Thai classics, but at the time, the other place we went to during the trip – known to the world as Noma – totally outdid it. I particularly did not enjoy my meal at Kiin Kiin then. Reasons? The price was, to me, unreasonable; the ambiance un-charming; the meal un-balanced; and the cuisine bizarrely not Thai. So, why should I bother going to Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin recently opened its door at the new Siam Kempinski Hotel in downtown Bangkok? Well, I was just wanting to check out the humoured-to-be O! so posh hotel and also died to see how this “bizarrely not Thai” food would fit in Bangkok’s fine dining scene.

First impression … of the hotel. Grand, too grand. I felt I was in some 7-star hotels in the Bahamas. The drainage in the toilet wasn’t very good though as the foul smell hit my nose while I was tidying myself for the restaurant.

First impression … of Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. Grand. Very, very grand! I never walked into a restaurant with such a high ceiling as this. Probably I did at Ducasse au Plaza Athenee but then I was too fixated by the water drop crystal chandeliers. Decor-wise, it was traditional Thai but with out-of-this-world extravagance. Say, mini paddy fields, Thai teak house, a lot of dark reflexive mirrors on the walls to multiply our perception of space, tables well spread out as if to secure enough privacy for loaded Bangkokian urbanites.

The menu. I went for lunch. There were very few dishes to choose from. They did a 3-course set lunch priced very fairly at 1500 Baht, including some nibble at the beginning and petit four at the end. Trying to make the most of my second Kiin Kiin experience, I asked the manager if I could order an extra dish making it a four-course lunch. Not only that she happily accommodated my request, she also re-checked with the kitchen the serving order of the dishes and came back to inform me. Thoughtful, helpful – ticking all my boxes. While waiting I was asking for the dinner menu so I had something to graze on, well, visually. For dinner? There was only one tasting menu of 8-or-so courses, looking almost identical to what I had in Copenhagen. They charged 4500 Baht in Bangkok, which was cheaper than its brother restaurant but still quite a bill to pay in Thailand. Dishes were, more or less, similar to the lunch menu, but yes, instead of choosing 3 dishes out of 8, you’d probably get all written in the menu. No comment here as I should get writing about the food!

The table was laid …

First up. The nibble of Prawn Tapioca with Chilli Dip, Kaffir Lime Scented Lotus Root Crisps, and Soy Meringue Roasted Cashew. They were, what I’d say, the most “foreign” in flavours during my meal. That said, all was good. Crispy prawn tapioca which went perfect with the dip. The dip itself was interesting – mousse-like and very bouncy! With all the flavours combined, I felt as if I was eating a prawn cocktail reconstructed in a Thai way. The lotus root crisps were crispy, aromatic and with a touch of sweetness; the meringue was chewy and with the rather well-balanced saltiness from the soy.

Then the first starter of Frozen Red Curry with Lobster and Coriander. The fragrance of the kaffir lime leaves fused with coriander made my tummy rumble. There was a pause, however, as the dish came with a bit of theatricality, a jug of liquid nitrogen to be poured underneath the plate to maintain the sub-zero temperature and stop the frozen curry from melting. I was not sure if this theatricality could easily be substituted with a very chilled plate?

Taste-wise, the frozen curry could be described in such a more ordinary term as “ice cream” and it possessed all the flavours a Thai red curry should: spicy, salty and sweet. I found this rather extraordinary! Pieces of the lobster – yes, just thin pieces – were nicely cooked and presented with finely sliced Thai shallots/red onions adding a crunchy texture contrast and also some refreshing heat, while the longan sweetened up the dish and took away the burn. I was very surprised to say that I did enjoy the dish very much.

My second course Wagyu Beef Salad with Orchids and Spicy Marinate was, however, startlingly less innovative. I found the heat to be a little too strong for my liking – a ploy to sell more drinks? – but not to the point that it overpowered the dish. The Wagyu cut into mini cubes was perfectly seared and well marinated. Very tender and oozing the chilli. The orchids and the shoots didn’t do much for me. I thought the neutrality of them was not enough to even out the heat. And the level of innovation of this dish seemed to jar with the rest of my meal. If I had this dish not knowing it were from Kiin Kiin, I would have straightaway identified it as from Nahm.

So far, I had one REALLY HIT course and one nearly hit. My anticipation for the main Red Snapper in Green Coconut Curry and Beetroot became very high. And it arrived …

RED!

Don’t judge just yet! I tucked in, with a bowl of nicely steamed rice. The GREEN curry was hidden underneath the red beetroot foam and so was the fish – perfectly cooked to flake. Flavour-wise, the sweetness from the beetroot provided the “sweet” element of the dish as the term “Gang Kiew Wan” meant in Thai, though not the essential colour. What’s interesting was that these were beetroots in textures: foam, raw batons, dehydrated crisps, which I felt, did amuse my palate. Also, this dish tasted shockingly Thai. Say, if I had it blindfolded, I wouldn’t have known it did look this foreign! So, another love dish.

Desserts? I was tempted to ask for two but with the jeans that could barely accommodate a 3-course meal I settled for the Pandan Pudding or Sang-Ka-Yar Bai-Teoy, the dish I had eaten before in Copenhagen and the one that stuck in my taste memory. Inspired by Thai pandan custard with toast, this dish was a re-interpretation. The pandan custard – hereby referred to as Sang Ka Yar – came in three different forms and textures, the mousse, the tapioca, the ice cream, served with amazingly spongy pistachio bread. Just heavenly, the very Thai flavours of Sang Ka Yar – sweet, creamy and aromatic – were all there but the new contrasting textures added dimension to the dish. Another love, really.

The petit four of Banana Financier, Coconut Marshmallow, White Chocolate with Khao Mao, and Dark Chocolate Truffle was equally stunning. My last love of the day went to the white chocolate piece that had all the crunch of a ganache. I could not fault this petit four, seriously. While I was licking my lips (and fingers), head chef Morten Bojstrup, Nahm-trained and whom I faintly recalled to have met during my visit in Copenhagen, came over to my table for a chat. One very passionate and enthusiastic guy. He was temporarily relocated to Bangkok to oversee the opening.

Daring food, highest quality produce – way fresher than in Copenhagen – and the price tag that I wouldn’t need to whore myself for a meal. That was one almost faultless food experience I had ever had!

There remained two big questions. First, why did I dislike my first Kiin Kiin experience? I’d say, in the Copenhagen context, Kiin Kiin seemed misplaced. For a Thai person, to enjoy the cuisine by Kiin Kiin is perhaps to be able to associate what one eats with what one has had. Also, in Kiin Kiin’s defence, after I had this meal at Sra Bua, I could vouch it was an innovative Thai food with authentic Thai flavours, NOT what most Thais would describe as “fusion” food. This is that sort of food of memory manoeuvred by a scientific cooking approach to be recognised and appreciated by means of association. I could barely associate any – apart from the pandan dish – while in Copenhagen, hence my comment “bizarrely not Thai”. Here, perhaps because it was my second Kiin Kiin experience, I understood it more and grew to love it. It was such a breath of fresh air in Bangkok’s fine dining scene long dominated by traditional Thai restaurants with an untraditional price tag and “western” eateries that tried so hard to be fancy.

Second question? For Thai food lovers, why should they be bothered to come eat re-constructed Thai food? Well, they shouldn’t. I did not feel the place would attract regular diners as the menu was still very limited in choice. And yes, there might not be the need to go extra miles – from liquid nitrogen to alchemy – to achieve the authentically Thai taste, but it was fun, to me at least, when they did it, like once in a while you’d feel like skate-boarding through the city instead of taking the overcrowded tube.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.

It’s also just about time to wish you all …

A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

And thank you for reading me in the last 3-4 months :-D

SRA BUA BY KIIN KIIN

Ground Floor
Siam Kempinski Hotel
991/9 Rama I Road
Prathumwan
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND

Tel. +662 162 9000

www.kempinskibangkok.com

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Belly Within the Belly…

Demystifying the title, I’m blogging about the tuna belly. To be more specific, the o-toro at the new Honmono in Sathorn, Bangkok.

In only a couple of years, Bangkokians saw one rather exclusive sushi haunt Honmona open branches, Central Chitlom and now the “grand” branch on Sathorn Road and I was left to wonder if this place was to become a high-end Fuji? My recent visit to the place sort of confirmed it.

Food-wise, the fish was ultra fresh and of great quality. We ordered the fatty tuna belly and were happy with the marbling effect on our pieces. They were very thickly cut, too, which at the first bite, we thought they were being generous but after finishing the first piece, I felt rather sick of the fat. Sometimes it’s better to leave diners crave for more – and slim the price tag down a little? – rather than sicken them with generosity?

Others of their signature nigiris were also good at first bite. I was really salivating over the soy marinated Maguro – fillet of Blue Fin tuna – but the proportion, again, made me worry if I would be able to finish the meal. That? Yes, when we two rather skinny people – as we would like to think ourselves to be – made the order, the waiter did not even warn us we had over-ordered the food or that the portion was rather enormous. Never mind, I’d just eat the fish and leave the rice. Mmm, very glossy veneer on the Maguro and no soy sauce needed! Also, we helped ourselves to another round of O-Toro.

Then, we had Salmon Saikyo – seared Saikyo miso marinated salmon. Big (again) and perfectly torched but I found the sweet miso too overpowering the dish. Definitely, there wasn’t enough acidity from the vinegared rice cutting through. Our more ordinary selection of Tamago – omelette – and Zuwai Crab fared better. The omelette was sweet and had enough bounce, while the crab was lush, fresh and half the size of everything else. The rice let these ingredients down, though, as there was not much complementary flavour coming through.

Also tiny were the Negi Toro, Uni, Uzura Gunkan – chopped fatty tuna and sea urchin with quail’s egg yolk and spring onion – and the Basashi Aburi – seared horse meat with grated radish and ponzu dressing. And, I wasn’t happy with the smaller portion. I felt a bitch, but I suppose, if they’re going to go MASSIVE portion, they might as well do that with all the nigiri? Starting with my loved ones, the horse meat, it was tender, with refreshing citrusy flavour from the ponzu, though a touch less would have made these two pieces perfect. I had mixed reviews for the gunkan. The chopped tuna belly was not as fresh as other fish we’d had earlier on. The Uni – sea urchin – was creamy smooth gorgeous but together it didn’t do much for me. This was probably partly due to the fact that the sheet of nori was rather wet. And the meal concluded with this seared Wagyu Roll I found not quite memorable.

Overall, a good meal and the price was fair considering how fresh and top quality the produce was. There was something about the not-so-precise execution that would definitely put me off from going back to Honmono Sathorn. That said, I heard the Chitlom branch pulled out a lot better than this …

Until my visit to Chitlom,

My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.

HONMONO GRAND

66 Soi. Phiphat
Sathorn Nua Road
Silom
Bangkok 10500
THAILAND

Tel. +662 632 1777

 

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La Table de Tee

Thailand – one country where locals would yike at even a tiny morsel of Roquefort – isn’t it likely for a French restaurant to thrive? Le Normandie and Le Beaulieu have proved otherwise, but there is, god forbids, the price tag that makes the restaurants themselves a real gastro-exclusivity. There is another kind of exclusivity – the portion size – say, the western-style tasting dishes that many Thai gourmands find it too small to fill their stomach. Yet, tucked away in a small off-street on Sala Daeng Road, a stroll away from Bangkok’s red light district, is this relatively new anti-establishment restaurant La Table de Tee, where French cuisine meets half way with Thai produce.

Does that mean no Foie Gras?

Yes, it does.

With his calibre of Michelin star training in London, head chef Tee is said to be the one to watch in Thailand’s food scene, and at La Table de Tee, diners experience a well-balanced and well priced at 750 Baht (if my memory doesn’t fail me) Franco-Thai feast consisting of five courses plus bread and petit four, which in this city of heavy-weight commercialisation, is a real steal!

My first course of Cauliflower and Sweet Basil Veloute with Chicken Mousse Roll in Breadcrumb was nicely cooked, though not to the point of silk-like smoothness on the tongue. Taste-wise, I’d love an extra touch of basil in the soup as I found the coriander garnish more powerful than the two main ingredients of cauliflower and basil. The deep-fried chicken mousse roll was, however, a revelation: crunchy on the outside and delicately soft within plus the chicken aroma that hit and activated my taste bud.

The meal seemed to have picked up its pace when I was served Deep Fried King Prawns and Coriander Curry Sauce with Olive Cream, Green Salsa and Confit Tomatoes. The look was enticing and so were the flavours. Crispy king prawns that crackled and bounced in my mouth were given richness from the olive tapenade and extra freshness from the paper-thin radish and sweet and sour tomatoes. The coriander curry sause was delicious but mild; and I couldn’t help but wish there would be more on the plate.

For the fish course, I opted for Pickled Ginger Risotto as opposed to Thai Bream and Garlic. Yes, chef Tee was generous enough to give his diners options for the fish and the meat courses. And, this risotto, I’d say, was where the meal gathered its momentum. I could smell the oozing aroma of fresh and pickled ginger once the dish landed in front of me. Inspecting it, there was a generous helping of succulent prawns and perfectly cooked squid rings and a dollop of prawn jus to butch the dish up.

Tasting it – GOSSHHH! – I could just die to have one more of this. Well, I didn’t have to die as such because the manager was kind enough to give me another bowl. The risotto was a reconstruction of what I’d say, a traditional Thai rice soup Khao Tom Goong. Cooking-wise, it was inclined toward being a Spanish paella rather than a typical risotto. No cheese, quite light in texture but orgasmic in term of taste. The rice bordered on being not al dente, which in this case, would go down well with Thai diners. As far as my experience went, most Thais were used to soft, thoroughly cooked rice and pasta and believed anything served al dente to be undercooked. The ginger was strong and refreshing but the jus carried enough richness and depth that made the combination worth gaining weight for. And, yes, I did have two bowls of this!

After such a firework, my meat course of Pepper Marinated Duck, Seaweed Couscous and Duck and Honey Jus became redundant. I admit I particularly picked the dish because I did not think the combination would work. And, it did not. Say, one unloving couple heading for a divorce? The perfectly cooked duck breast – pink in the middle – was let down by the over steamed couscous on the verge of becoming a congee. The seaweed also needed some weeding as there was too much of them and they totally overpowered the beautiful duck. Shame, as the honey jus was actually quite lovely.

For dessert, I had this strawberry cheesecake tartlet. There was some generous scattering of alcohol-soaked raisins and cranberries. This was love at first bite, which owed much to the perfectly crunchy base, but after a few more bites, I found this new love a little too sweet. A kinky touch of, say, sharp acidity to cut through the sugary and creamy flavours would help uplift the dish. Textbook-wise, the strawberry should have done the duty but maybe Thai strawberries were just too mild?

So, one hit, three Okays and one miss, this was indeed an exciting meal, a good start of my food adventure in Thailand. Must I mention you can follow La Table de Tee on Facebook and hear of their menu updates by clicking HERE?

Enough said,

My head rating says, “8 out of 10”.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10”.

LA TABLE DE TEE

69/5 Saladaeng Road
Silom
Bangkok 10500
THAILAND

Tel. +662 636 3220

www.latabledetee.com