All posts filed under “Panorama

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Oblix at The Shard: Another Restaurant To Skyscrape London

Dining high..

The Shard – love it or hate it – has changed the way we see London. On its 32nd floor stands Oblix, a hoped-to-be-swanky dining venue by Zuma-famed Rainer Becker. It is noteworthy that this is a venue of two parts: the restaurant occupying the west side and the bar & dining lounge the east. Both promise an incredible view of London, from a similarly impressive height to Duck & Waffle and Sushi Samba at the Heron Tower, without the woozy effects of see-through lifts. The menu at Oblix Restaurant is New York-inspired and inventively approachable, with a focus on the grill and Josper oven. (Do note, when making a booking, that the lounge runs an entirely different menu). The price (£6.50-19.50 for starters; £16-54 for mains; £4-7 for sides; £6-9 for desserts) is not a rip-off but what you would expect from a restaurant in a now-iconic building.

My meal was pleasant but not impactful. Eggplant Caviar (£6.50) arrived a whole eggplant – grilled, chilled, stuffed with modified baba-ganoush mush, spiked with fried garlic shavings and finished with a drizzle of parsley-infused olive oil. The texture contrast of the dense intact eggplant foiled nicely with the creamy “caviar” paste. The smokiness was implicit and not overpowering. Burrata with Olives and Datterini Tomatoes (£15) promised what it was meant to be. The tomatoes exuded sun-kissed fruity sweetness; the chopped olives were of good quality and well-bound. The burrata, however, was cold and was not as deliciously gooey as it could be. The toasted rice did not intervene, but apart from visual quirk, did not contribute much. The mains from the grill were likeable. Tiger Prawn (£21) was grilled and served in its shell with herbal olive oil and roasted fennel. Very meaty! The blend of citric acidity and an aromatic note of rosemary and thyme helped bring out the sweetness of the prawn. (Same grilling technique as Zuma‘s jumbo prawns but with a more humble dressing). Lamb Chops with Harissa and Yogurt (£26), containing three not-so-large pieces, were not spectacular. Despite the lamb’s delightful charcoal-ed tenderness, the complementary flavour of harissa went missing. I personally found the side of Mac&Cheese (£4.5) – here a mixture of Red Leicester, Cheddar, Gruyere, Pecorino and Parmesan – to have more character. For desserts, we opted for 2 ice creams (£2.50 per scoop) and a Cookie Jar (£6). The Crunchy Pecan Bourbon ice cream was immensely decadently nutty. Refreshing acidity from the buttermilk ice cream. The coconut cookies were addictive but the other bits in the jar – butter and sesame cookies, chocolate cookies, financier and macaroon – were good but not memorable.

 

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RATING 3.5/5

OBLIX AT THE SHARD

Level 32, The Shard
31 St Thomas Street
London
SE1 9RY

Tel. 020 7268 6700

www.oblixrestaurant.com

Oblix on Urbanspoon

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Duck & Waffle + Sushisamba: New Height for London’s Top View Restaurants

The Heron Tower, et al.

There are a handful of interesting facts about The Heron Tower but only three that I care about. The first is that it houses Europe’s largest privately owned fish tank, which requires divers to clean. You can see this – the tank and, if lucky, the divers – on street level, from the main entrance. The second is THE lift, the fastest of its kind, which you are only allowed if you dine at The Heron Tower’s sky high restaurants. This lift will rocket you up to floors 38 (Sushisamba) or 40 (Duck & Waffle) in nano-seconds. People with altophobia (me included) will not have enough time to get scared. The third is, of course, the view. The Heron Tower is, currently, the tallest building in the City of London and engulfed by its most iconic architectural landscape. The view from this altitude really makes you frisky, horny and/or romantic. It can make you feel like being god, bankers, or anything that flies.

 

 

DUCK & WAFFLE

Duck & Waffle on Urbanspoon

RATING 4/5

On the 40th floor of The Heron Tower is Duck & Waffle – a compact “all-day, all-night” casual eatery with a bar and a party-friendly private dining room (below). The kitchen is led by young(ish) talent Dan Doherty. The menu, designed for nibbling and sharing, is American(ish), eclectic and funky. The price is relatively affordable. (Only three items on the menu cost around £30. The rest is billed at no more than £12). And you don’t need to pay surplus for this magnificent view.

The cooking, for the most part, was successful. A snack of BBQ-Spiced Crispy Pig Ears (£4) arrived a bagful of tangy, finger-licking umami bomb. The shredded ears achieved a fine balance of fat and soft bone texture, skilfully fried for perfect crisp and tossed generously in powdered BBQ seasoning. I liked it so much that I nearly teared up when my super gorgeous dining companion offered me the last bite. Chip Shop Cod Tongues (£4.5) was not as spectacular but still much enjoyed. These were meaty pieces of cod tongue breaded and fried as if fish fingers. The frying was neat but the tongues themselves which did not have a bold taste could easily be washed over by an accidental juggling of tartar sauce and malt vinegar. Dorset Scallop (£7 but this time complimentary) struck another high note. The commendably fresh scallop was finely sliced, served on batons of Granny Smith apple and finished quickly (not in the manner of a ceviche dish) with lime juice, black truffle and a sliver of chilli. I loved not only the perfect marriage of texture – springy scallop, biteful apple, slithery lime juice – but also the zingy whirlpool of taste. The citric sharpness and zesty fragrance hit first, was mellowed away by the truffle and then with a little spasm from chilli. Ridiculously tasty.

Octopus (£9) from the brick oven was also another dish done well. The octopus chunks were nicely tenderised to the point that they still retained elasticity characteristic of this species, grilled and served with lemon juice, capers and sauteed chorizo cubes. Lovely but did not come together as much as I expected. I found the strong taste from chorizo distracting me from the octopus-sy goodness. Meatballs ‘n Tomato Sauce (£9) contained 3 big, flavoursome balls toppled with fluffed ricotta that were more of a rustic comfort and as good as meat balls can be. The oven baked bread was pillowy, oozing the perfume of rosemary and the smear of broken garlic. It was a pity that the dish which struck me as work-in-progress was the restaurant’s eponymous Duck & Waffle (£12). This was a playful dish of crispy confit duck leg, fried egg, waffle and mustard-seeded maple syrup (bringing to mind my favourite breakkie of bacon + waffle!!). Firstly, though the confit leg was nicely cooked, I would have loved it to be more crispy. The girth-y duck leg flaked well but the meat itself was still quite moist. Together with the soft waffle (delicious!) and the syrup, there was not much texture contrast to be loved. Secondly, I would have preferred the confit leg to be more salty, which would have made the flavour leap through the cloying, sucrosic richness from the syrup better. It was a very pleasant dish, still, and we did fight for the last bite. (Through the course of this meal, my dining companion had learned not to be too generous with me). We shared a dessert, Warm Chocolate Brownie (£7), served with crunchy caramel and peanut butter ice cream, which I believe can put a big smile on anybody’s face :-D

The meal came to about £30 per person (we didn’t drink).. and in a few more words.. I couldn’t recommend Duck & Waffle more ^_^

 

SUSHISAMBA

SUSHISAMBA London  on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2.5/5

 

My dinner at Sushisamba – a kinda global “chain” restaurant of Japano-Peruvo-Brazilian cuisine with outposts in New York, Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas – was nearly entirely unsuccessful. We started the meal with many positives – the superb view of the Olympic Park, the two-level-high ceiling, the bamboo cane structure and the cascading light bulbs. The music was upbeat, and so was the eager Front of House. The cocktail menu was full of indigenous South American fruit and produce. The pricing for food was relatively NOT low. The small dishes to share cost around £10+. The “Large Plates” cost between £15 and £45.

Shishito Peppers (£7) were grilled to mush. The Other Bib left me to them (and he wasn’t being generous). Kanpachi Tiradito (£14) was flawed. The fish, though fresh, was too thinly sliced to carry enough taste to counter the intrusive yuzu and truffle oil dressing. ‘Mixto’ Seviche (£11) on the other hand was weak. The concoction of aji limo, aji colorado and tiger milk lacked piquant complexity and acidity. The mixed seafood and white fish could have been fresher. (They all still smelled fishy). Coxinhas (£7.5), a traditional Brazilian snack made from chicken and spices, was lovely – crispy on the outside and moist inside. The huancaina sauce – cheesy sauce infused with aji amarillo – added punch and creamy richness. Grilled Scallops (£18 for two pieces) were not expertly grilled. The scallops themselves had a grainy texture as if the flame from the robata grill was not properly adjusted. As the scallops were not nicely cooked, the bonito grating only left an unpleasant fishy note to the dish. The accompanying salad of leaves had wilted due to overdressing before it arrived at our table. Grilled Octopus (£12) was finished with spicy aji panca sauce. (Imagine sriracha sauce with a fresher, less vinegar-y taste). The octopus was tender and I liked the encasing scent of charcoal. The most successful dish so far and we felt best to order another round of this. Pork Tsukune (£9.5) was these grilled pork balls. Not so much charcoal effect here and the seasoning of the balls was meek. TOB believed they were undercooked so I ended up eating nearly all. The sweet sauce (soy sauce, sake and mirin) with slow-cooked egg yolk was loose. The lightly congealed yolk (from slow-cooking) resulted in the yolk not mixing into the sauce.

The sushi menu came with an option of making the sushi “special”. The “special” referred to some tailor-made Peruvian/Brazilian inspired toppings. Therefore, my Zuwai crab nigiri (£11 for two pieces) was served with creamy guacamole and coriander. The crab was fresh; the guacamole passable; but the rice was problematic. Too al dente, hard and cold. The sea urchin nigiri (£13 for two pieces) with caviar was much less successful. The sea urchin did not have enough firmness to be molded into a nigiri (as opposed to a gunkan maki). There was no attempt to ward off its strong metallic aftertaste. The botan ebi nigiri (£9) was blanched (I think), dressed with soy sauce and arrived with god-know-what-else on top. (I could taste fried sweet potato and basil but unsure about the rest). It did not make any impact. There was not much to be loved from Wagyu Te Amo (£13) either. This was a roll of seared wagyu beef slices, quail egg, spring onions, fried sweet potato and finished with sweet pear and soy dressing. The wagyu was not of brilliant quality and quite chewy. While I enjoyed the sweetness from the pear dressing, the rice lacked so much character that the dish became very dull. We decided not to have desserts.

Sushisamba was the place I think you could go for scene but not food. The only advantage I could think of for a meal there as opposed to Duck & Waffle is that you can dine al fresco and have a stroll in the terrace area of the restaurant. But, judging from my meal, I could easily do without all that..


 

DUCK & WAFFLE + SUSHISAMBA

Heron Tower
40th + 38th Floors, respectively
110 Bishopsgate
London
EC2N 4AY

Tel. 020 3640 7330

www.duckandwaffle.com and www.sushisamba.com

 

 

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Wolfgang Puck’s CUT: Hyde Park, Butterflies and The American Synergy.

An Austrian-born multimillionaire chef, Wolfgang Puck – had you not heard of him – has found fame and success in his LA flagship restaurant Spago where he topples his pizza with caviar. His now clientele ranges from Obama, Oprah Winfrey to, well, Gordon Ramsay. Therefore, you can surely expect pomp in his first CUT outpost in the European scene.

A result of fruitful teaming up with the equally pompous Dorchester Collection, Puck’s CUT looked very much like an extended lobby in a sleek hotel. Art deco. A bit of wood, yellow-ish chairs and some bloody comfy sofas. Damian Hirst’s early artworks of kaleidoscopic butterfly wings on the wall – first time this whole collection ever exhibited in the same venue – metallic “cloud” chandeliers, fully air-conditioned. Once I sank my buttocks onto the well padded banquette, I felt the synergy between this utterly grand space and the lucid green park that overlooked us… “us”

… “us” …

The “us” I am talking about at CUT isn’t my usual “us”. “us” there would inarguably refer to affluent US tourists, businessmen with expense accounts, and soon, many socialites and A-listers.

Menu?

Despite the glam, CUT served up comfort dishes with sustained twists. American, European, and a bit of Japanese influences. A handful of shiso-infused things and a tuna steak that was described as “Sashimi quality”. As for its proper steak, there wasn’t a parade of CUTs available at lunch hours as the restaurant name entailed. 14oz USDA Prime rib eye and 6oz Australian Wagyu cost £42 and £70 respectively. The cheapest were 6oz Casterbridge at £29. More choices in the evening, of course. As I wandered into the wine list, I spotted a Krug at £4500, which prompted me to the wine by glass section… pheww!

Australian Wagyu Sashimi, Spicy Radishes and Greek Cress (£18) was delicious. The subtly marbled slices of beef was unctuous and luxurious. The soy-infused dressing, the chopped spring onions, the mildly acidic tomatoes and the peppery-ness from rocket leaves and radishes added dimensions to the dish. I also enjoyed Tuna Tartar, Wasabi Aioli, Ginger, Togarashi Crisps (£17) very much. Melt-in-yer-mouth tuna came with exuberant wasabi velvet and coolingly creamy discs of avocado. Also partnered with a soy-infused dressing. Chilli, chicken-flavoured crisps arrived dormant under a linen napkin.

Scallops, Yuzu Kosho Butter, Ginger & Cress (£22) was nicely done and had a wonderful aroma. A decent Euro-Asian compromise which featured sweet scallops as soft as butter. Good acidity from the citrus-y yuzu and yuzu cress. Warm Lobster “Club” Sandwich (£24) was also very pleasant. Chunks of tasty lobster ambushed by crispy bacon, tomato and herb aioli. The sandwich leaked a little when The Other Bib picked it up. The vinegar-tossed side salad was not the most spectacular but did not offend. We did not try the steak…perhaps next time.

I settled with Bourbon Pecan Pie (£9). Came as four miniature rectangular slices. Crusty. Wonderful toffee flavour. Maple whipped cream mediated the richness between the pie and the chocolate sauce very well. The Other Bib’s “Boca Negra” (£9) was a form of whisky-infused dark chocolate cake served with creme fraiche. Rich and alcoholic. He loved it. At this point I was interrupted by a tower of Tempura Onion Rings served to the majestic Richard Vine of Bloomberg next to us. He was so kind as to let me try some.. them rings were sliced by millimetres and very refined. (Thank you, sir!).

 

YEP!! The tower of onion rings..

To sum my meal up..

.. it was very, very, very good indeed. The cooking lay firmly in the comfort zone. Inventive, pretty, but ultimately comforting. A few dishes you can of course have them cheaply done elsewhere. At CUT, there was nothing to dislike, nothing to offend, and if not for the price tag, everything to love. The venue was magnificent and the attentive Front of House made me feel at ease. Serene. So serene I felt I ran away from London’s reality.

Indeed so .. when the £180 bill (water, juice, two glasses of wine, tea&coffee) was presented I was aggressively shaken back to reality, one with credit cards that at times do not work. (It worked that day.. pheww!) But, blimey, I think I will go back.

Well.. I did. Three times so far in the last two weeks.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.

WOLFGANG PUCK’S CUT LONDON

45 Park Lane
The Dorchester Collection
Mayfair
London
W1K 1PN

Tel. 020 7493 4554

www.wolfgangpuck.com

CUT at 45 Park Lane on Urbanspoon

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Grazing the “Fashion” Scene

What is “fashion” and what is “fashionable”? Everybody, it seems, interprets those terms differently. I do admit I have a hard time editing content for my London “Fashion” Eat fortnight. If “fashion” suggests “trend” and “fashionable” means “trendy”, we will only be strictly talking about great food with great ambiance populated by fat and skinny bastards like us, won’t we? But, if we take into account the “fashion” and “fashionable” folk and what they actually eat, we will be talking about skipping meals, skimming carb, body conscious or mere cheap eat (so money can be spent elsewhere on clothing and accessories). And, what about London Fashion Week A/W 11-12? It’s, as usual, held at Somerset House and other scattering sites around Covent Garden. Should I also be thinking about where to flash eat but in style to fit my LFW busy schedule, too? So, my more or less London Fashion Eat first post will give you the sites where “fashion” and “food” converge. Have a look and decide for yourself which of “scene” you are into!

(1) THE CARAMEL ROOM, BERKELEY HOTEL

Caramel Room (The Berkeley Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Fashion couldn’t be materialised into food as literally as this. The Berkely’s much talked about Pret A Portea features afternoon tea menu inspired by recent fashion trends and major designer’s labels. Say, you’ll get Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen and Christian Laboutin on your fine china manufactured by Sir Paul Smith. This is not the kind of traditional afternoon tea as one would imagine. While there are still scones and jam and finger sandwiches, the actual highlight is the innovative patisserie. This comes with a tag explicating which cakes are inspired by what. Novelty? Yes, exactly. Personally, I don’t think it’s a mere gimmick but I’d rather have a solid, traditional afternoon tea fix at, say, Brown’s Hotel, the Connaught or Claridge’s, where I can get a slice of Dundee cake or Victoria Sponge. The very proper ones, I mean.

(2) SKETCH THE PARLOUR

Sketch - the Parlour on Urbanspoon

This multi-million project by Pierre Gagnaire has turned an instutition itself after 3-4 years. It is still hip though its iconic egg shell toilets ooze unappetising smell. Years ago, I thought Sketch did the best ever scones in London – light, fluffy and butter-perfect! Now? Well, perhaps due to its proximity to Oxford Street, the funky Gothic-Eclectic decor at the Parlour has attracted the high-street folk than the high fashion fab. The service is laissez-faire, which on this occasion, can be translated into English as unengaging and “let the diners be”.

The afternoon tea is still decent, but considering that it costs £27 per head with no refill, I’d rather go somewhere else and pay a little extra for unlimited sandwiches, cakes and choices of tea. At the Parlour, they do only a pot with no hot water refill. Standard kinda fingers sandwiches, not particularly deep-filled to £27 or enough to balance off the heavy carb. The cakes by Gagnaire are probably ones of the finest in the world – only perhaps outdone by the other Frenchie Pierre (Herme). I quite enjoyed the coconut madeleine but found the canele too rock solid I needed a fist to break. The scones – you’ll get two each – used to be better and are not so stuffy as they are now. And, there was only one choice of fruit scones. The jam of raspberry and orange marmalade was, for the former, sour beyond redemption and, for the latter, bitter beyond .. jam! I was having this last Saturday and wasn’t quite sure if I was actually having scones with jam or with unripe fruit. Enough said, really …

Oh, don’t forget to check out the loo. It’s rather coo..l. That said, as there is no ventilation within the egg shell cubible, you need to pray a bit that the one getting in before you do not leave behind the foul aroma of tea – sorry!- “wee”.

Next!

(3) ROSE BAKERY, DOVER STREET MARKET

After all the bitching, this is my pick of grazing food. Rose Bakery is a much unheard of, least written about cafe. It is a Parisian import tucked in one small corner at the top floor of Dover Street Market. If the weather’s good, you can opt for outdoor seating. Though the view isn’t one of the most stunning, it is one of the most neighnourly. You’ll get to see Mayfair from a point of view of tranquility! There are also a lot of art and fashion magazines to browse, while waiting for your hunger fix.

Wait! Maybe I should say something about Dover Street Market, which itself is an exclusive, rarely spoken about concept fashion store, the outpost of Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons label. Yes, you walk into the place and there are these people who are dressed to inspire – or simply make you feel fashionably inferior – and sell items that will cost you at least £100 per piece. Rose Bakery, funny enough, is a subversion of all this. Cheap, organic, health-conscious, minimalist food. Think Canela but without the freaking microwaves to warm food up, or enormous quiche a whole family can feast on. Still, the crowd at Rose Bakery is the fashion-minded upper crust and many Mayfair locals.

The humble menu at Rose Bakery is either prepared raw or with the help of one massive oven. Expect really colourful salad options, some of which are super-good; others underseasoned; but they are all very fresh. They also do Specials of the Day, such as Cottage Pie, Mushroom Risotto and Soups.

And my fix? Bacon quiche which was so perfectly cooked and flavoursome. The egg and bacon mixture had this heavenly fluffy, well-risen texture; the cherry tomatos bursting their juice; and the base was just crispy. It came with a salad with light vinegar dressing. I also asked for their Gluten Free Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie. Very moist, leaning towards chocolaty sweetness than bitterness, and with with grainy bites of hazelnut to trigger my palate.

That’s it. In case you want to see the fashion folk in action, you might want to loiter at Tom’s Deli at Somerset House. Great selection of sandwiches and cakes and its side windows just overlook the back stage entrance of LFW main catwalk! Link here x

Enough said,

My head rating for Pret A Portea at the Berkeley Hotel says, “7 out of 10″.

for Sketch the Parlour says, “6 out of 10″.

for Rose Bakery Dover Street Market says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating for Pret A Portea at the Berkeley Hotel says, “7 out of 10″.

for Sketch the Parlour says, “5 out of 10″.

for Rose Bakery Dover Street Market says, “9 out of 10″.

CARAMEL ROOM, BERKELEY HOTEL

Gound Floor, Berkeley Hotel
Wilton’s Place
Knightsbridge
London
SW1X 7RL

Tel. 020 7201 1699

www.the-berkeley.co.uk

SKETCH THE PARLOUR

9 Conduit Street
London
W1S 2XG

Tel. 020 7659 4500

www.sketch.uk.com

ROSE BAKERY DOVER STREET MARKET

Top Flr Dover Street Market
17-18 Dover Street
London
W1S 4LT

Tel. 020 7518 0680

www.doverstreetmarket.com

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(Not) The Destination?

My bags were packed for Hua Hin, another of Thailand’s seaside resort towns and a hub for Bangkokian urbanites, but before leaving I did not forget to google for places to eat. And I picked restaurant Kroui Pah Heed next to the Fishermen’s Pier in Cha-Am – called Sa-Pan Plah in Thai – which Thai bloggers and web boards seemed unanimous it was the destination for fresh seafood.

After two and a half hours’ drive, we got lost and needed to phone the restaurant for direction. Then, after a lot more left and right turnings, we got there Kroui Pah Heed. The pungent fishiness from the Pier hit as I was sliding out of my friend’s saloon. The good sign of freshness? Yes, it was. But, it was also revolting, honestly speaking, and thank God, my nose adjusted – or perhaps my sense of smell was totally not functioning any more? – to what Heston Blumenthal wouldn’t recall as the British smell of the sea.

The restaurant – a wooden poor man’s castle half falling into the sea – boast, well, well? I wasn’t sure what it boast really. There was no uniqueness as there were a handful more of identical eateries – identically half falling into the sea – just like Kroui Pah Heed lined up on the same dirt street. At the front, there were tiled fish tanks displaying the sea creatures and their dead distant relatives. Diners chose what they wanted and paid for the dishes by weight. That’s fair.

Now we tucked in, and totally, having been lost on the way did help me order as if out of Ethiopia. The first dish of Deep Fried Rock Lobsters with Garlic was a true divinity. Luscious, white and plump meat cooked to perfection. That bounce-in-my-mouth texture and the natural delicate sweetness of rock lobsters enhanced by the aroma of fried garlic and the sour and spicy sauce, I couldn’t think of anything better. And, it was just the first course. This was like having an orgasm before taking the trousers off. Oh! I wasn’t suggesting premature ejaculation, or was I?

The second dish of Stir-Fried Curry Crab was not as great, or perhaps, it was impossible to reach two orgasms in a matter of minutes? Never mind, the dish was not as it should have been. The curry was way too overpowering and the sauce lacked dimension, which really saddened me as I was thinking I had just chosen to execute a crab and now I didn’t even want to eat it!

Another of our dish, Steamed Prawns with Vermicelli, was also disappointing. The super-fresh prawns were let down by the sickly sweetness of the sticky soy sauce – please note I didn’t mean to alliterate the “s” – and they also put too much ginger in. All in all, a not very well balanced dish.

Our Deep Fried Whole Sea Bass with Fish Sauce Dressing fared better. Crispy skin, puffy meat and the right balance from the dressing. That said, it was not among ones of the most memorable I had. It came with a massive Crab Meat Fried Rice to share. Too bad the rice was a little too wet and once I squeezed the lime in, it became even wetter! How thoughtful…

We did not bothered with desserts. When the savoury dishes were more miss than hit, we might as well risk our taste bud and roam about to God-know-where in case we might came across something a little tastier. But, before I left, I did wander out to see the fishermen finishing their shift. Quite a sight I must say, and that’s actually the plus plus of going to Kroui Pah Heed or any other restaurants on the same street as you’d come across the scene nowhere else – at least nowhere else in Hua Hin – could offer.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “6 out of 10″.

KROUI PAH HEED

1 Sa Pan Plah Road
Cha-Am
Petchaburi
THAILAND

Tel. +6632 470 070

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Grilled River Prawns (and My Soaring Cholesterol!)

River prawns, in case you do not know, are the much sought after dish by Thai locals. Forget the high cholesterol; just imagine the sensually white, bouncy meat, the luscious, lava-like shrimp oil – and the grease it leaves on your lips that get you licking for more – the fresh, tangy and fiery dipping sauce, and the smell of charcoal where the prawns are grilled for our pleasure. And there are places where these shellfish delights are much bigger (and cheaper) than others. In Bangkok? Well, yes, but you’ll have to pay a hefty bill for them.

Today, with my parents, I strayed off the commercial route and headed to a provincial town Chachoengsao renown for its honey sweet mangoes, temple, a big bat cave – serious! – and the river Bang Pa Kong – yes, where the prawns dwell – for an indulgently Thai feast. My destination was a restaurant called Ruay, meaning “rich” in Thai, set on a massive raft. I could feel the breeze grazing through my face and distract myself looking at jumpy fish in the river. Yes, I knew, one of them fish would end up on my plate today!

First to arrive were this Pork Offal and Pickled Cabbage Soup and the Three Way Crispy Salad (Yum Sam Krob). The soup boast a fine balance between delicately poached offal and light pickled and very crunchy cabbage. Stems of spring onions and celery leaves took away the fowl smell of the offal, while the fried garlic oil added distinctively pleasing aroma to the dish. The salad of crispy fish maws, deep fried dried squid and cashew nuts – all crispy and crunchy, hence the title of the dish – was texture perfect but spicy, too spicy for my liking and would have been a lot nicer with a touch more of acidity.

Next up was my palate cooler stir-fry of Young Coconut Tips with Prawns. The sweet and crunchy young coconut tips went well with the prawns, sliced carrots and spring onions in a light soy-based tapioca flour sauce, a nice way to extinguish the heat of the salad.

Then, yes, the one that once swam in the river! My first main course of Steamed Sea Bass in Pickled Plum Sauce (Kra Phong Neung Chae Buay) was gorgeous. The fish, swimmingly fresh and perfectly steamed, soaked up all the goodness, the sour and salty flavours of the pickled plums, while the dried shitake mushrooms, pork loins, and pickled bamboo shoots steamed together with the fish provided not just contrasting texture but the depth of flavours. There was a mild heat from the chilli and the fresh herbal burst from the celery. This was just too good to be true.

As I was feeding myself to ecstasy, the Grilled River Prawns arrived. They were monstrously big, unhealthily packed with the shrimp oil. It was such a dilemma, to eat a lot or not! There was no extra added to this dish, just the raw beauty of the prawns cooked with modesty on a charcoal grill allowing the natural sweetness of the prawns to shine through. I slowly peeled the voluptuous  meat off the shell and dipped it in the sour and spicy sauce made from green bird’s eye chili, garlic and lime juice. The contrast of sweetness and tanginess was heavenly. Then, the shrimp oil, my ultimate guilty pleasure, mixing it with rice, eating it, licking it off the spoon. I seriously couldn’t have enough of this. And, did I not mention, the prawns were so big there was a lot of meat packed in their very slim-looking claws, too?

Looking closer …

That’s it and I unwound my appetite with some fruity desserts: Mango and Sticky Rice and Poached Santol in Jasmine Perfumed Syrup. The mango was so ripe that it oozed honey flavour and very, very mellow texture. The saltiness and the creaminess of the coconut milk came in nicely adding dimensions, whilst the sticky rice was brilliantly al dente, with a hint of neutral sweetness, which took away all the o-so-rich flavour of this dish very beautifully.

And I was thinking, that was the best ever. Well, not for long, and as I tucked into the Poached Santol, I just couldn’t help grinning, grinning, grinning and letting out a rather atrocious humming, the sound of self-inflicted pleasure, of eating too much good food in one meal. The santol was soft and sweet, yet retained a hint of natural bitterness of this fruit. The syrup was pleasant to the nose and very sweet. I mixed it with crushed ice and – wow – that was just one freezing delight.

The bill was not shocking, considering how much my parents and I had eaten and could not finish, and came to just under £40 or 2000 Baht. When we were about to leave, at 1pm, the raft got very busy, with a lot of locals hosting a mini banquet and others trying to impress their guests. We hurdled off and headed for Klong Suan 100 Years Old Market for an after-meal stroll, but before that we stopped to marvel at Thailand’s biggest Genesha statue, which interestingly, came in …

Very bright pink   -___-”

Enough said,

My head rating says, “10 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “10 out of 10″.

RUAY REUN PAE RAFT HOUSE RESTAURANT

293/3 Marupong Road
Muang
Chachoengsao 24000
THAILAND

Tel. +663 851 5431 , +663 851 2000