Saturday, March 27, 2010

L'Astrance at La Scala, Sukhothai Hotel

Once upon a time, it was a Sunday in Paris and no good restaurants are open on Sundays in Paris. However; we did find one and it turned out to be one of the most amazing & memorable dinners we ever had. The restaurant is called L'Astrance. The time was the year 2000, when we ate at L'Astrance in Paris's 16th arrondissement, but the restaurant already had won a one Michelin star. At that time, we were very lucky to get a table in short notice. Skip to today...L'Astrance has three Michelin stars and takes about two months to reserve in advance to get a table here, as it seats just 26, but it's definitely worth the effort.

So to our delight; when we heard that Pascal Barbot (the youngest chef ever to own a 3 Michelin Star restaurant) and Christophe Rohat, the chef and maitre d' were coming to the Sukhothai Hotel to cook for several days. We reserved a table right away. Luckily we did because the dinner was fully reserved in a couple of days. That is how famous chef Pascal & L'Astrance is. It was not the cheapest dinner to reserve. We had to pay in advance to get the confirmation for the table. It cost 10,000 baht per person...OUCH!

The dinner was held at La Scala (normally, the fine dining Italian restaurant). The decor of La Scala is modern Asian with browns, blacks, beiges with a hint of red. The main materials are wood, steel and stone. The outcome is a dramatic ambiance with low lit lighting.

Chef Pascal closed his restaurant in Paris and brought practically his entire team to cook. Luckily at La Scala the open kitchen is at the center of the restaurant. So, we saw all the action and energy from the team from Paris with the help of the Thai team.

The first dish was pistacchio cracker with praliné and apple white truffle cream with brioche. Very nicely presented. If you have ever had communion then you would understand the texture of the pistacchio cracker. It was light and paper thin with a slight hint of pistacchio taste. The apple truffle cream with brioche was light, creamy with a slight hint of apple.

The next dish was one of L'Astrance's famous dishes; the mushroom tart & foie gras marinated in green grape juice, roasted lemon paste. The presentation of this dish was amazing. It was layer and layer of goodies. The dish looked like a pie; but in close inspection, the tart dough turns out to be very thinly sliced mushrooms, then the next layer was fois gras, then mushroom, then apple, then mushroom, etc. The combination of flavours and textures was stunning!

The next dish was jumbo langoustine consommé, fresh herbs flowers from Chiang Mai. The bowl with the jumbo langoustine first arrived, then the waiters with the consommé arrived and slowly poured it into the bowl. This dish had a mix revue; the texture of the langoustine was mushy, either it was not fresh or the restaurant got bad quality langoustine. However; the consommé was rich in flavour.

The next dish was green asparagus, bergamote and almond dressing. My friends were not impressed with this dish; especially when they prefer white asparagus. However; I did not mind this dish since I know some of the most difficult dishes to make are the most simple ones. A plate of green asparagus could have been inspiring; but indeed there was a certain element missing with this dish. The asparagus was bland, but the bergamote and almond dressing did add some interesting flavours to the dish.

The next dish was sautéed Dover sole, coconut condiment, pomelo and red capsicum. The fish was very fresh, it was cooked perfectly and the coconut, pomelo and red capsicum added fantastic flavours to the fish dish.

The next dish was black truffle velouté, celeriac and melted parmesan. The mix of black truffle, celeriac and parmesan was a great combination. The velvety texture, rich and creamy also made this a great dish.

The only wine of its kind in the world; the Trelans, a blend of Vermentino & Chenin, was magnificent, flamboyant with ripe white fruit…incredibly complex, the nose was equally splendid, full, rounded, welcoming to the mouth. It is quite simply an amazing wine.

The next dish was Challans duck, black curry and glazed miso eggplant. The duck had a lovely texture, was moist & juicy. Cooked perfectly and tasted very nice. The duck was accompanied with a miso eggplant and it was was amazing. The eggplant was soft & velvety and the miso added a flavourful element to it.

The red wine was a 2002 Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue. A 2002, but was drinking well, red fruits (red currant and raspberry) with delicate floral. Full on the palate with a touch of minerality. There was hints of citrus as well running through the wine.

The next dish was chili sorbet. We do seldom like sorbets to break up the dinner. We know it is suppose to clean the palete and get you ready for dessert. However; we are still drinking wines and due to the coldness of the sorbet, it closes the taste buds and we cannot taste our wine anymore. Anyways, I did take a taste of the sorbet and the chili was a very nice touch and flavour to be used in sorbet. A nice kick to the taste buds.

The next dish was coffee-almond tiramisu. This was a very nice dessert; creamy, thick, rich and velvety. The coffe and almond flavours were very apparent and a good combination.

The next dish was dark chocolate biscuit ‘gaufrette’. Just looking at this dessert made me gain several kilos and my cholesterol. But, it looked amazingly good & tasty. After the first bite, I was not wrong in thinking how good this dessert would be. Absolute heaven.

The next dish was petit vacherin, honey ice cream and cocoa. The honey ice cream was really yummy. We all got different designed desserts. One of the example is above with very colourful flowers.

The final dish was madeleine of chestnut honey jasmin eggnog ‘Lait de Poule’. The eggnog was refreshing and light but tasty and it went nicely with the madeleines.

Overall; the experience was nice...but, we were a bit disappointed with some of the dishes. Maybe we hyped up the dinner too much that we were expecting nothing but perfection. In the end, that is not what we got. I talked to two other friends who went to the L'Astrance dinner at different dates and they gave me the same reply. I have to admit that the 2 Star Micheline promotion at La Scala with chef Edouard Loubet several weeks before was much more outstanding in terms of experience and taste. In the end, if we want to experience the pure genius of chef Pascal Barbot, then we better go to L'Astrance in Paris.

13/3 South Sathorn Rd.
Silom / Sathorn Bangkok 10120 Thailand

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hua Pla Chong Nonsi

A friend of mine who lives near my office, asked to meet for dinner. He recommended a place that was between his place and my office. He chose a very popular but very simple Thai restaurant called Hua Pla Chong Nonsi. I was very excited to try because I had never been there and I did hear fantastic things about the place.

The place is really really really simple. There are two sections; one section is sitting outside with fans and the other section is air-conditioned. We chose inside because it was so hot.

The decor is the most basic aluminum tables and fake leather chairs. There is absolutely no ambiance; therefore, you can rightly assume that the food will be the star of the place.

The first dish was seafood in herbs & spices. The seafood was very fresh, the sauce was flavourful and the spicyness of the dish hit us right away (which is a good thing).

The next dish was deep fried crab rolls. Deep fried to a golden brown and the crab stuffing was moist & juicy. If you love fried foods like me; you will certainly like this dish.

The next dish was one of the restaurant's house specialties; tom yum goong. This was an amazing way to serve the tom yum goong. Letting us cook the fresh prawns ourselves. A great idea. The tom yum was out of this world. The bold & rich flavours; the sweet, sour, tangy & spicy blended so well. After we dipped the prawns into the soup (we like our prawns slightly raw in the middle) and took them out; the prawns soaked a bit of the flavourful taste of the soup. This is one of those kinds of dishes that you will dream of and be addicted to.

The next dish was raw crab with herbs & spices. This is not a dish for everyone. But, we really like it. Nothing better than raw crab accompanied with Thai herbs & spices. Eating crab takes steps; first trying to get all the meat out of the shell and then secondly sucking on the limbs to get as much of the juices & sauces. A messy way to eat but so worth it.

The next dish was dried squid salad. Lots of textures and flavours in this simple dish. The dried squid was sweet & chewy. The wing bean was slightly bitter & crunchy. All together a very nice dish.

The next dish was grilled pork neck. The pork was unbelievably tender, juicy & so so good. A slightly fattier part of the pig, but that's what makes this meat so tender when grilled; all the juicy fat being melted.

The outside section of the restaurant where you can see the open kitchen and watch the staff make the wonderful food.

Overall; a very simple place but the service is good (but not the friendliest), the prices are amazingly cheap and the food is incredibly yummy!

Sorry, I forgot the address but the restaurant is on Rama III. I promise to give the address & phone number very soon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ram Nam Tao Hu Yong Her

I went to meet a friend for lunch which was between his office and my office. We decided to go to one of the most popular places to go for xiao long pao. There is no parking so you have to take the BTS to Chong Nong Si or take a taxi.

Once you enter, you actually think you are somewhere in China. The staff barely speak Thai (or English). However; thank goodness for my friend who is an expert at finger pointing at the menu and he is familiar with the food of the restaurant, so that the ordering was hassle free.

The first dish was steamed tofu. The tofu had a more solid texture than normal. The colour was also not the usual. The flavour was a bit bland, but once you dip it into the sauce, it turned out pretty good.

The next dish was pickled cucumber with garlic. I thought this was a strange combination. I have to confess that I was not a fan of this dish. However; my friend ate the whole thing, so I am assuming that he enjoyed the dish very much.

The next dish looked more of a Mexican dish. I have never seen a dish like this before. It was duck wrapped and fried. However; once you bit into the thing, you knew right away it was not Mexican but Chinese. It was an amazing dish. The flavours of the duck, herbs & veggies was striking. The wrapping was slightly crispy.

The next dish was the house specialty; xiao long pao. I do love these little Chinese dumplings. When done right, they are magical. These xiao long paos were firm and the skin was not too think (which is a good thing). Once you put the xiao long pao onto your Chinese soup spoon, you let the tasty juices spill out and then you slip the whole thing into your mouth. The flavours just burst!

The next dish was stewed beef soup with noodles. The beef was so tender, the noodles were firm and the soup broth was so tasty. This is how everyone should always end a xiao long pao lunch. A terrific tasting soup with full of texture and flavours.

An amazing place to have lunch. So affordable and the food is so delicious. The ambiance and decor is nothing to write home about; but the food is the star and that is something you for sure will tell your friends about.

68 Narathiwat Road, Bangkok
Next to BTS Chongnonsi

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


There is a place that we also go for sashimi. It is very popular with the Japanese community in Bangkok. The restaurant is called Uomasa. The food is very good but what they are famous for is their sashimi and their tongue dishes. can have beef tongue in every which way you want; deep fried, sashimi style, grilled or even in soup. And it comes in all kinds of cuts & sizes.

The restaurant has two sides and two floors. One side is with tables and chairs, the other side is sitting on the floor. We prefer to side on the floor, which is the photo above. It is more fun and authentic for us.

Here is the very very very famous sashimi platter. It is so fresh that you think they just plucked it out of the ocean. It is so fresh (and I am not joking with you) that the lobster sashimi is still moving. not take friends that are vigilant about cruelty to animals. If they see the sashimi still moving, they might not like you anymore for taking them to such a place.

Uomasa's tekka maki roll. We also have this dish when we are at Uomasa. The tuna is so fresh, the rice is cooked to perfection and the seaweed is moist and slightly crunchy. Very yummy!

The next dish was beef tongue stew. I cannot say enough about this dish. The tongue was very tender and moist. The sauce was rich, thick and flavourful. A great combination of taste and texture. A unique dish and hard to find in Bangkok.

The next dish was deep fried beef tongue. With a splash of lime; this is an amazing dish.

The next dish was tofu & vegetable soup. I always like ending my Japanese meal with soba or a soup. This soup had tons of texture from the tofu, seaweed, cabbage and noodles. The broth was light but with a long finish in flavour.

We drink a lot and we always order a very large bottle of sake to accompany the food.

The key symbol of Uomasa. It hangs on the wall and reminds you all the time of fresh seafood that you can have at Uomasa. We highly recommend this place; the service is very good & friendly, the location is very central, the food is amazing.

Thong Lor soi 13, Bangkok, 10110
+66 (0)2 185 2700

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

We took a trip up to Hua Hin and one of the places that we had to see was Hua Hin Hills Vineyard. We heard tons of good things about the place.

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard is owned the Siam Winery group who also makes Red Bull and Spy wine coolers. Some of the wines Siam Winery is famous for is Monsoon Valley, Mont Claire & Peter Veller.

The drive up to the vineyard is a lovely drive due to the scenery but the road was horrible (they just opened and they will be fixing the road). However; once we arrived at to our destination, we were impressed with the beauty of the nature and the architecture of the building.

The concept of the building was of a modern Thai structure using local materials and as well trying to blend into the nature as much as possible. The outcome is an outstanding piece of architecture.

Once you get to the terrace of the building, you breath is taken away. It reminded us of Napa or the Languedoc.

However; we were reminded again that we were in Thailand when we saw the elephant walking through the vineyard. It was very unique and cute.

The beautiful long terrace where you can sit and enjoy the stunning views with some food and drinks.

The other side of the terrace where you can see the man made lake.

The huge wine shop where you can taste and purchase all the wine varieties of Siam Winery as well as t-shirts and other nice gifts.

The man made lake that is next to the vineyards.

We all tried the home made grape juice. It was great. It was not too sweet, full of grape flavour and it was refreshing on such a hot day.

The friend who was not driving had a glass of wine.

The first dish was had was deep fried shrimp in a crispy wrap. They were ok, not the best, and a bit oily. But the wrap had a good crunch to it and the shrimps tasted good.

The next dish was fried calamari. These were ok as well but not the best. You can tell that they were not the freshest of calamaris but nothing to complain about.

The next dish was spicy spaghetti with seafood. This was not bad at all; full of flavour from all the herbs and the sauce and loads of spiciness from the chillis, yet it was not overwhelming that you lost the taste of the food. The shrimp and squid were good as well.

The next dish was crab fried rice topped with a fried egg. The fried rice was good, full of crab and not too oily. It was what I needed since I was starving.

Overall, a beautiful place to visit if you are in Hua Hin. I have to clap my hands for the designer and architect of the place. It is well thought out and well executed. I would highly recommend this place to anyone. It is for lovers, families, tourists, etc. There is something for everyone.

204 Moo9, Baan khork Chang Patana,
Nong Plup, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan 77110
+ 66 (0) 81 701 8874 - 75
+ 66 (0) 87 820 3937
+ 66 (0) 81 701 0222
+ 66 (0) 81 701 0444