Monday, June 30, 2008

Bharani (TCDC)

I finished work late, I was alone so, I decided to see movie at Emporium. I was hungry so I decided to have dinner at Bharani at TCDC. Bharani is one of the oldest Thai restaurants that serve Thai and 'farang' (foreign) food. Bharani was the first restaurant to make chicken pie from scratch. Their first restaurant has been open since 1954 near Sukhumvit soi 23. They opened their second restaurant in the TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Center). The new Bharani is a very nice designed restaurant. Wood floor with gold & yellow tones.

The first dish was one of their specialties; taco pizza. Thin and crispy home made corn chips toped with minced chicken (you can also choose beef or pork), shredded cheese and diced cabbage. The taco pizza also comes with a home made spicy salsa sauce. The chips are light, the combination of minced chicken, cheese, lettuce and the great spicy sauce is very nice.

The main dish was rice fried with green curry, chili, baby aubergine and topped with deep fried fish skin. This is one of my favourite dishes. I love fried rice but this one with the green curry ads another dimension. It is very delicious. The deep fried fish skin ads a wonderful salty taste and extra texture.

Overall, Bharani is a great restaurant. I am sure I will be returning and having more of their famous dishes. I will be writing more about the food from Bharani. They are also famous for their traditional boat noodle soup, green curry with roti and mentioned chicken pie. I can't wait to eat those dishes again.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ristorante Gianni

We consider this Italian restaurant to be one of the finest in Bangkok. There is no scarcity of Italian restaurants in town, but this is one that is consistently delicious. Ristorante Gianni is owned by of course, Gianni. A man who has been living & cooking in Thailand for about 20 years (I think). He is also a very nice & friendly person. He has a huge following, and we are part of that group.

The first dish was red tuna tartar. Very fresh tuna hand minced and mixed with fresh herbs, shallots and extra virgin Italian olive oil. A simple dish but always flavourful.

The next dish was home made ravioli filled with goat cheese & pistachio paste with mortadella cream. An amazing dish. The ravioli skin was thin, the sauce was rich & intense but not too creamy which I do not like. The filling of fresh goat cheese and pistachio paste was a new one for me and I really liked the combination.

The first wine we had to accompany our starters was an Alain Chabanon Trelan 2oo4. It was drinking amazingly well. This has got to be one of the most unique white wines of the Languedoc. It is a blend of 54% Vermentino (an Italian grade by origin) and 46% Chenin blanc. It is complex yet astonishingly fresh. It has flavours of ripe white fruit, almonds and walnuts. It is a very polarizing wine. People either love it or hate it. We are on the side of loving it.

The next dish was lamb shank braised in red wine, topped with fresh vegetables and matched with grilled polenta. A rich and filling dish. Very delicious. The lamb shank was cooked perfectly. It fell off the bone and you could cut into it like butter. The grilled polenta was the perfect company to soak up the rich red wine sauce which gave the polenta that extra wonderful flavour.

The next dish was grilled beef tenderloin carved on a bed of mushroom sauce. Spinach and creamed potatoes on the side. The beef was cooked as ordered and it was a tender piece. The sauce was light which was correct because the sauce should not over whelm the meat taste. The only thing that was not needed and was not good was the single onion ring. It was over fried and crumbled to pieces when I bit into it. However, it is a very very minor critic which did not ruin the dish at all.

The next dish was hand twisted fresh pasta with lamb ragout fragranced with rosemary. This is one of my favourite dishes at Gianni's. It is what I consider a comfort food. Easy, tasty and filling. The fresh pasta is light, the lamb ragout is rich with a hint of lemon and rosemary.

The second wine we had to accompany the main courses was an Alain Chabanon Le Merle Aux Alouettes, 2004. The wine had a red ruby colour. The wine had the nose of ripe red fruit, spice & wood. It was well balanced, good acidity, nice oak, smooth tannins , and had a long finish. Le Merle is unfiltered and is a blend of 70 % Merlot, 15% Carignan, & 15% Syrah. Aged 30 months. A fantastic wine with our meal.

Overall, Gianni's is a great place to eat. The dining room is decorated for fine dining but you always feel comfortable and welcomed. The staff is amazingly efficient, professional and friendly. Highly recommended.

34/1 soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road; 02 252 1619

Friday, June 27, 2008

Taiko 51

We were recommended to try this Japanese restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 51. Our friend has been going here for a while and told us to try it out. I am always happy to try a new Japanese restaurant. I am always looking for something unusual and new.

Taiko is in a house in the soi and thank goodness there was parking. The decor was nothing special but it did have a nice lay out.

The first dish was the amuse bouche. A small bowl of clear cold noodles sauted with vegetables.

The next dish was Sashimi Mori. The sashimi was very fresh and it had the usual selection of fish. The only thing I hated was the fake crab. I think they should avoid this at all times. What is unusual about Taiko is how they cut the sashimi. The sashimi pieces are huge. You sure get your money's worth. You actually have to take two bites out of each piece.

The next dish was Tekka Maki. A simple sushi but one of my favourites. The tuna was fresh, had a nice colour and the rice was perfect.

The next dish was Atarime (roasted squid). This is normally eaten as a snack when drinking. But, we just felt like having this dish for dinner. It has a very strong smell & taste of squid. The roasting of the squid makes it very chewy, almost like jerky.

The next dish was Ebi Shioyaki (grilled & salted prawns). This was a great dish. The ebi was rubbed with rock salt before being grilled. After you peel off the skin of the ebi, your fingers left salty from the rock salt and it rubs off onto the flesh of the ebi. The sweetness of the fresh ebi, the rock salt and a squeeze of lime were a great combination. The colour of the ebi was intensely pink.

The next dish was Hiyayakko (cold tofu). This is a favourite of ours. So, simple, but when you add the green onion and fish flakes into the soy sauce, this dish is wonderful. When the tofu is fresh and has a velvet like texture, its even better.

The next dish was bacon salad. I know it does not sound very Japanese, but they have turned it into Japanese with the salad sauce. But I have to say, this was a very nice dish. The bacon was not the industrial kind, but thick and juicy fresh bacon. The rocket salad had a strong flavour. The combination of bacon, rocket and Japanese salad sauce was a hit with us.

The next dish was Hamaguri Sakamushi (clams in sake). When I saw this on the menu. I decided we needed to have it. There is another Japanese restaurant in town that also has this dish and I really like it. However, I was disappointed that the clams in sake at Taiko is not as good. The soup was not as flavourful, but the clams were fresh. I think they did not use a very good sake for this dish.

The dishes were all washed down with a giant bottle of Kizakura Karakuchi sake (served cold). We normally cannot finish the entire bottle. What is great with all the Japanese restaurants in town is that you can leave your name on the bottle and keep it on storage in the restaurant until the next visit. This sake was smooth and easy to drink.

This was a very good recommendation from our friend. This is a good address and we will return because the food is very good. But because we also have a huge bottle of sake waiting for us. The only issue I have is that the staff were not very good. I had to ask for the menu several times, I had to call for a wait staff more than once when we wanted to order something else, and I had to call more than twice for the bill. I am not sure if this is normal for this restaurant. We will try this place again and see.

61 Sukhumvit soi 51, 02 662 5062

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Xuan Mai

There is a someone in town cooking authentic and delicious Vietnamese food. Her name is Meyung. An ex FBI agent, yes, you read that right. She was an FBI for 25 years (her story will take a book to explain, so instead, I will write about her cooking). She is retired now. She got bored and decided to open a Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok. It is called Xuan Mai (her daughters name). A few years, I met Meyung and complained that there was no good Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok. She asked what I wanted and I explained, I wanted home cooking like my grandmother in France cooked. And ever since, I have been happy having fantastic Vietnamese food in Bangkok.

The restaurant is a basic hole in the wall. If you don't pay attention, you actually will miss the restaurant. It is a very small shop house in a cluster of shop houses. The restaurant is so small, there are only six tables. The kitchen is as big as a closet. But you can't believe what comes out of it.

Before you start your dinner, the waitress brings a big bowl of Vietnamese herbs and vegetables and Meyung's home made pickles. She cuts pineapples, carrots, cucumbers & radishes. Then she dries them in the sun and then pickles them. They are very tasty and refreshing before your dinner arrives.

The first dish was banana shoot salad with grilled lemon grass pork. The banana shoots were very fresh, the pork had a nice taste. All the textures and tastes in this dish make it the perfect starter.

The next dish was cha gio (deep fried spring roll). Meyung's version is from the north of Vietnam. The cha gio have a very unique skin that we do not have in any other restaurant in town. The cha gio skin is more fine, delicate and light. It almost looks like a spider web. The minced pork filling is also very tasty and light (you might notice that half the dish was eaten before I could take the photo. My friends & I were so hungry we started eating and I realised that I have not taken the photo yet).

The next dish was pork stewed soup with large rice noodle. This is a typical soup you would get at home. Meyung makes a very good one. The taste is rich and intense.

The next dish was spareribs with pea pods. Another very nice dish. The spareribs fall off the bone. The pea pods are so fresh and are cooked perfectly that they still have a slight crunch.

The next dish was deep fried frog legs. I consider this dish one of the best in town. Deep fried perfectly and has such a deep gold colour. Each frog leg is also semi coated with something sweet. The sauce is the most basic of sauces but one of the best in the world. Lemon and pepper sauce. You dip the frog let into this sauce and you get the blend of sweet, sour, tangy and spicy all at once. Its quite amazing.

The next dish was cha ca. A specialty from Hanoi. This is a stunning dish. I first had this dish when I visited Hanoi and loved it. I am so happy that we can get it here now. A big clay pot arrives on your table with a fire under neath it. In the pot has fresh water serpeant fish frying in a yellowish oil, fresh dill and peanuts. The main ingredient of dill makes this dish very unique and so tasty. This dish comes with a sauce that I could not even begin to describe to you. It only exist in Vietnam.

The next dish was dessert. It was durian ice cream. You thought you were actually eating the real fruit. The ice cream was very creamy and intense.

And finally, we ended with a mini cup of frozen cinnamon tea. This is to cleanse & refresh your mouth.

We are never disappointed when we eat at Xuan Mai. Believe me when I say this is the best Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok. Meyung flies to Vietname every two weeks to get her fresh ingredients from Hanoi. You will be guaranteed that her vegetables, herbs and even her noodles are fresh and from Vietnam. You are eating authenticity. On top of all this. Meyung loves making desserts. The are not Vietnamese, they are American desserts, but if you have the space in your stomach, then you definately should try her desserts.

Xuan Mai, 32 Sukhumvit soi 13, 02 251 8389

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Monday Free Lunch I

Thailand has a few problems right now. Consumer confidence is down even the Thai stock exchange is down. At the same time, the price of petrol, rice and practically everything else is up. We needed something to cheer us up.

On Mondays, street vendors are not allowed to sell food on the street (to allow street cleaners to clean the streets), which is where we get most of our food. With the gloom in the economy and we cannot buy food easily on Mondays. My company decided to do something nice for the staff. They decided that every Monday for two months, they are going offer us free lunch.

The first dish was tom kha gai (chickent coconut soup). The soup had all the right raw materials which made the soup have a rich and flavourful taste.

Then next dish was khao pat pu (crab fried rice). The fried was too oily and not warm enough. When fried rice is not hot, it just seems that it is even more oilier.

The next dish was shrimp & broccoli stir fry. I liked this dish. The shrimps were not the best but atleast they were not overcooked and the broccoli was fresh. The sauce was light and had a nice flavour. This was my favourite of all the dishes.

The next dish was deep fried shrimp patties. Again, another dish that was too oily and cold. The shrimp patties were lacking flavour and you needed to add the sweet & spicy sauce if you wanted to enjoy them more.

Overall, our first free Monday lunch was a huge success. Though everyone complained that the food could have been better. It was a very nice gesture from our company. The management knows that the first Monday free lunch was appreciated by all the staff. As well, promised that the next Monday free lunch we would have a choice of better food.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Street Food (Coconut Juice)

Bangkok is world known for its amazing selection of 'street food' and how amazingly delicious it is. However, I always have to laugh when some foreigners visiting Thailand are so scared about street food in Bangkok. At one hand, I understand. The perception of uncleanliness, unhygenic and pretty much deadly are due to either they have never been to Thailand, either they do not have any friends in Thailand or either they are not adventurous; whatever the reason, I think it is too bad.

Thailand has got to be one of the cleanest countries in Asia in terms of food hygene. It is a part of who they are. Of course, there will always be an exception to the rule, but if you are well informed, eating on the streets of Bangkok can so rewarding and so delicious.

I always try to drink fresh Coconut juice. It is so refreshing, it taste very nice and it is good for you (believe me). There is a guy in front of my office who sells fresh pressed orange juice and fresh coconut juice.

The boy opens the top of the coconut, empties the juice into a plastic cup and then scraps the fresh meat out of the coconut and adds it to the juice. Then he lets the plastic cups chill in a styrofoam box full of crushed ice. When you come and order a coconut juice, it comes out
perfectly chilled. Just wonderful for a snack or a cool drink in the afternoon. All this for only 20 baht. As they say; 'Amazing Thailand!'

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bacco Osteria da Sergio

A friend of mine wanted to review the new Italian restaurant on Sukhumvit. The first response we always have when we hear or see another Italian restaurant opening in Bangkok is; "Another One?" There are more fantastic Italian restaurants per capita in Bangkok than any other Asian city (ok, I have no idea if other Asian cities have more Italian restaurants than Bangkok, but believe me, Bangkok has a lot of of them. I am always amazed that they all survive). On top of this, we heard that this new Italian restaurant was not good.

But Bacco, was a surprise hit for me and my friend. It is Bangkok’s first “osteria,” (I think), equivalent to an English “gastropub” or Japanese “izakaya” (“drinking restaurant”). I stole those words from my friend's article. The place is enourmous; it looks small from the outside but you will be amazed when you enter. There where a good mix of of Thais and ex-pats enjoying wine, conversation and tasty food in a lively Old World tavern atmosphere. The only problem is the accoustics. There was a big birthday group, having a great time, but you needed to raise your voice to be heard during your own conversation.

With the size of the restaurant; there are an amazing number of waiters/ waitresses, cooks, and even valets shuttling cars between Bacco and no less than three parking lots in the soi. Though casual, both the wine list and the menu (over 300 dishes) are so extensive as to be intimidating for some first-time visitors (like us). The staff is amazingly efficient and have a point of view of what they personally like. The wine service is similarly very good. Bacco has a special area where the pizza oven (not wood) is situated, as well as a counter where all the anti-pasti and all the hams & cheeses are located. A sight to behold.

At first we did not know what to order because everything sounded so yummy. The waitress suggested that we have a tasting dish of several appetizers, so the first dish was a mixed plate of appetizers, made with fresh minced tuna mixed with pomelo pulp, parma ham, sausage on mash potato and fois gras with fruit sauce of mango & rasberry, rocket in parmesan basket and stuffed muscle.

The next dish we were debating if we should order the 'piada' or 'cassoni', the waitress said they could do a sample dish of both for us to try (very kind of them). The piada sandwiches (traditional bread from Romagna) were stuffed with Parma ham, stracchino cheese and rocket.
The stuffed and grilled cassoni, with spinach, mozzoreal & parmesan cheeses. Both were excellent! The piada is served room temperature and the cassoni is served hot.

The next dish was a very strange one, with an equally strange name. It was called, fazzoletti ripienna. The only way to describe this dish is imagine a pasta stuffed in another pasta which is then stuffed into another type of paste. This is IT. It begins with a cheese & ham tortellini stuffed in tagliolini (a flat egg noodle pasta), which then is stuffed in a sheet of pasta stuffed with mascaarone cheese and ham. All this covered in a white rich sauce. I thought the texture was a bit strange, I thought it was a bit too much pasta, but the taste was nice. A bit too creamy for my taste but it did not ruin the dish.

The last dish was dessert. A orange cake with orange & chocolate sauce. The cake was full of flavour and it was moist. It actually did not need the sauces, but they were a nice touch.

The wine we had for our dinner was a 2004 Campredon by Alain Chabanon from the Languedoc. A very nice wine that was very food friendly. Campredon is a blend of syrah, mourvedre, grenache and carignan. A easy red wine to drink, nice nose of red fruit, well-balanced and nice acidity.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Doong Deng Dai Traditional Boat Noodle

A friend of mine recently had lunch at Thonglor Tops Boutique shopping mall. He said it was really good. So, we decided to go there for lunch. The restaurant is called Doong Deng Dai and it specializes in traditional boat noodle. Boat noodle comes from the ancient times in Thailand when Bangkok was known as the Venice of Asia. Before roads, Bangkok had canals. That is how people traveled and sold food. In those times, noodle soup was sold on boats traveling up and down the canal. Stopping by the pier, someones home or another boat passing by.

DDD is a well decorated and is quite large for a place that only serves boat noodle. Large windows allow lots of light to shine through.

DDD has an open kitchen (with glass windows), and you can see the cooks making your orders.

On each table has the usual condiments of sugar, fish sauce, vinegar & chili. But, here they also have a bowl with packs of crispy pork skin and deep fried seaweed. I am used to eating both, but I really like the deep fried seaweed. You can eat them as snacks (they charge 20 baht for every pack you open), or you wait for your soup and dip them into the soup for extra flavour and texture to the soup.

For boat noodle, you choose the type of noodle you want and you choose what you want to go into your soup. You can choose between pork or beef, then what type of pork or beef (pork balls or fresh pork or both), then the vegetables you want in the soup and then if you want it dry or with liquid (you even get to choose the type of liquid; dark or clear). I ordered sen-mee (thin rice noodle), with beef balls and fresh beef, morning glory and dark soup. I have to say it was very good. I even ordered a second bowl. I swear, I swear, the bowls are small. Its not that I have a black hole for a stomach or anything like that.

DDD does not only serve boat noodle, they also have plenty of dishes that are considered side dishes. Of course, they consist of either pork or beef as well. They come any way you want. For example for the pork, you can order pork balls grilled on sticks, boiled or fried. Each one comes with its own special sauce. We ordered the grilled pork balls with sweet & spicy sauce. The pork tasted very good and had a good texture, the sauce was not too sweet (which was nice) and the pork balls were grilled just fine.

DDD is a great place to have great soup and some snacks. A very nice and homey atmosphere. A lot of families come here on weekends for lunch. So be warned on weekends, you actually might have to wait for a table. However, the nice thing is that they have a counter at the bar or in front of the kitchen with stools. Which is nice to eat there, you can catch all the action.