Sunday, September 26, 2010

Xin Tian Di

Our first dinner out back in Bangkok. We were meeting friends and their favourite Peking duck restaurant is in the Gaysorn Plaza. When I heard they wanted Peking duck; my mouth started to water. I loooovvvveeee Peking duck. Though I know it is not very good for my heart & cholesterol...but we live only once.

The restaurant is Xin Tian Di. It has a good reputation in town to have one of the best Peking ducks but at the most reasonable price compared to the other restaurants. We actually think 'cheap' is the more appropriate word.

The restaurant decor is pretty much like any other Chinese restaurants in town. Large round tables with spinning round service tables on the center of the table and white tablewear and chopsticks layed out. The place is immaculately neat & clean.

The first dish was Jellyfish. The jellyfish was chewy, gelatinous and firm. But, we do like this dish; which had a light sesame and chili taste to it. Done very nicely.

The second dish was Spicy & salty fried prawns. The prawns were so fresh. The combination of spicy & salty was amazing. This was a great tasting dish.

The next dish was Broccoli with crab meat. The broccoli was very nice but it was the airy light crab sauce that made this dish stand out. Huge chunks of soft white crab meat was swimming in egg whites (which was not too starchy; which I hate when they do that). A heavenly dish.

The wine to match our dinner was a Kalin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Barbara County. The wine had a light ruby red colour, was medium-bodied and full of fresh fruit flavors of cherry & blackberry. It was an easy going wine that was fairly friendly and went well with all our dishes. The wine started out good but started to fade away during the dinner (which was too bad, but I am assuming due to the old age of the wine).

What we all were waiting for...the Peking Duck. The skin of the duck was dark & matte (which glissened under the lights). The staff perfectly shaved off the excess fat from the skin. The skin was so crispy and tasty. So so good.

The next dish was the Minced duck meat with lettuce. The meat of the duck was tender and so flavourful. Putting the cooked duck meat which was hot into a cold fresh leaf of lettuce was a match made in heaven.

Overall; the food was stunning. Every dish stood out for its unique character & taste. Every dish left a good impression with us. All this greatness at prices that are shockingly cheap, especially since the restaurant is in a high-end shopping mall where the rents are not cheap. What do I mean by cheap? The total bill came to 2,000 baht for all the food we had. We were all looking at each other when the bill arrived because we could not believe how affordable the place is.

How on earth does Xin Tian Di survive is any ones guess. Most of the time we go to Xin Tian Di; the place is empty. For our sake; I hope they survive many many more years so we can keep enjoying more Peking duck.

Oh by the way; the service is absolutely professional; there is a woman who has been there for a long time and even knows what we eat; so we don't even look at the menu anymore (that is a good thing).

Address: 999 Ploenchit Road, Ratchaprasong Junction
Tel: +66 (0) 2656 1149
Opening Hours: 10:00-20:00
BTS: Chidlom

Friday, September 24, 2010

Le Hide (Paris, France)

For our last lunch in Paris before going to the airport in the evening (heading back to Bangkok); we decided to have lunch at one of the best bistros in our neighborhood...Le Hide.

Le Hide is full of contradictions. Chef Hide Kobayashi is Japanese but cooks some of the most old-school traditional French food that you'll find in the capital. Chef Koba has been trained with Dominique Bouchet and Joël Robuchon, and you can tell from his food that chef Koba knows what he is doing. On top of this; chef Koba has priced his lunch & menus at very reasonable prices in an area that is not known to be cheap.

The first starter was Saucisson de Lyon & lentil salad. A simple salad with tons of colours, textures and flavours. A hearty salad.

The second starter was Cèpes. The seasonal mushroom were so tender and were sitting in a light broth. Just heavenly.

The first main dish was Rognons de veau. The kidneys were firm & hearty and were sitting in a rich sauce to add flavour.

The second main dish was Côte de porc. The pork was huge; I think 300 grams. The pork was cooked perfectly and it was tender (I could cut into it like butter) & juicy.

The bistro is very small; with about 8 tables crammed next to one another. The people are packed like sardines. However; the atmosphere is easy going and the decor is simple and in good style.

Overall; the food is the main attraction; it so so good. The food is hearty simple bistro food done well. But at the same time; the value/ quality ratio is incredible. The staff can be off and on at Le Hide. There was a time when we had the friendliest service or there was a time when the service was just sufficient nothing else.

This time there was something wrong in the kitchen. First; it took too long for them to bring out our food (other customers complained that it took too long for their food as well and the waiter told them pretty much 'too bad'). It took about 30 minutes for our starters and then another 30 minutes to get our main course. This never happened before at Le Hide; so either they were understaffed in the kitchen or there was bad communication of our order from the waitress to the kitchen. Lucky for them; we were not in a hurry that day.

Address: 10, rue du General Lanrezac
75017 Paris
Tel.: 01 45 74 15 81

Monday, September 20, 2010

El Fogon (Paris, France)

Before going to have our last dinner in Paris (heading back to Bangkok); we decided to go have an apéritif at a very popular hang out. La Palette a café/ bar in the 6th arrondissement which has been there for many many years. The location is great; very close to the St. Germain church.

La Palette is always buzzing with a young and hip crowd. It it easy going and basically a nice place to have a drink. The staff there defiantly maintains old-fashioned Parisian traditions that haven't changed much since the days of Picasso and Braque. A bustle of comings and goings makes La Palette an insider's version of a battered, artistically evocative Latin Quarter café.

We had a glass of white wine.

The key reason why we chose La Palette for an apéritif was because it was walking distance to our restaurant.

Address: 43 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
Tel: 33-1-43-26-68-15

The restaurant for our last dinner in Paris was the 'one & only' El Fogon. El Fogon is the Paris 1-star Michelin restaurant that puts Spain on a plate. Chef Alberto Herraiz chose to put a certain geographical distance between himself and his native Spain. This distance paradoxically results in a 'purer' more authentic cuisine liberated from the need to be exotic. He has created a whole new approach to tapas. Spain old culinary tradition. (

We chose the 44euro rice menu vs. the 35euro tapas menu. We wanted to have a more hearty dish rather than just tapas for dinner.

We love Spanish wines for their purity & drinkability. The Paisajes was a modern, declassified Rioja at its best. Purple in colour, it delivered a classic nose of cassis and blackberry. On the palate, the wine was full-bodied, ripe, nicely balanced and firmly structured. The wine had a long finish. Oh; and I do have to mention that the new labels coming out of Spain are very artistic, eye-catching and involving. The labels are so nice that they have become talking points. Typical of Spain to be in the forefront of wine labeling. They already did it with their fashion, architecture and of course, food. However; we thought the wines on the wine list were damn expensive; especially when we know the true cost of Spanish wines...but we did not let the price ruin the dinner.

The amuse bouche was cold water melon with seasonal herbs. You would think this is way too simple; but the amazing thing about this amuse bouche was that it was refreshing and the flavours woke up our palettes for the dinner to come.

The first dish was a mix of tapas. Each tapas stood out on its own in terms of colour, texture and flavour. Nicely done.

The next dish was a cup of cream artichoke. A lovely & simple way to cleanse our palette before the main dish. The soup was creamy, velvey & rich in flavour.

The main dish was Paella with Seafood. We actually had a very bad experience in Madrid where supposedly we were suppose to have had the best paella in Madrid; which turned out to be the worst thing we ever ate. It turned us off from paella for a very long time. However; we were told that the paella at Le Fogon was out of this world so we had to try it.

The rice was cooked to perfection; it was soft on the outside but yet had a slight crunch to it in the middle. The seafood was so fresh and tasted to good and the sauce for the paella was perfectly incorporated with the rice & seafood. Not only did it look like a masterpiece when it arrived on the table; it tasted wonderful. We ate the whole thing which could have fed a family.

The Jamón ibérico hanging in a glass case like a piece of art. Genius!

Overall; the service was really good. The girl who was serving was very patient in explaining the menu and the details of each dish. She was pleasant and knowledgeable about Spanish wines (which is a good thing). The food was amazing. I would have to agree that this is so far the best Spanish food in Paris.

Address: 45 Quai des Grands Augustins
75006 Paris
Tel.: 01 43 54 31 33

Valet parking service, except on Sundays.

Le Fogón is open every day except Monday.
Tuesday to Friday: 7pm to midnight.
Saturday and Sunday: noon to 2.30pm and 7pm to midnight.

Nearby car parking:
Rivoli Pont neuf: 4 rue du Pont Neuf, Paris 1st.
Mazarine: 27 rue Mazarine, Paris 6th.

Saint-Michel: line 4
Mabillon: line 10

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lao Lane Xang 2 (Paris, France)

We had been in France for almost two weeks already. All the food so far we have eaten in France have been exceptional. No complaints what-so-ever. BUT, I needed rice. Sundays is a good time to go to the 13th arrondissement (China Town), where all the really cheap & yummy Laotian, Thai & Vietnamese restaurants are concentrated in one location.

So; we drove out to the 13th to eat at one of the best Laotian/ Vietnamese restaurants. Lao Lane Xang 2. What is strange is that Lao Xang 1 is across the street. Both restaurants serve the same food. If one restaurant is too full; they shift some of the people waiting for a table to the other and visa-versa.

The starter that we shared was Bánh Cuốn (literally, steamed 'rolled cake'). The rice flour skin was thin enough; a good amount of ground pork and minced wood ear mushrooms stuffing. The texture was good but the dish was too bland. They forgot to spice the stuffing. Even the nước chấm was not enough and at the same time, the sauce was too sweet.

My friends main dish was Phad Ka Pow Nua. This dish was stir fried beef with fresh chilies & basil with a fried egg on the side. The beef was tender and the chilies, basil and other herbs & spices added a complex yet balanced kaleidoscope of flavours.

My main dish was Bún Thịt Nướng. While studying in Paris & San Francisco this was basically my meal for lunch & dinner. That was all I could afford but at the same time for the money; I got a hearty, healthy and delicious bowl of goodness in every sense. The dish had thin rice noodles in the bottom of the bowl; which is covered with fresh lettuce & bean sprouts, which is covered with stir fried beef sprinkled with crushed peanuts and then topped off with chả giò. The dish is suppose to be the balance of hot & cold, soft & crispy and fresh & cooked. After you pour over the nước mắm sauce; then there is another element of sweet & spicy. Amazing simple dish.

Overall; Lao Lane Xang 2 has very good food at good prices, the food comes out amazingly quick for a big restaurant that is always full and the service is very efficient. Not a bad place at all for the a good & affordable lunch in China town.

The only complaint I have about our lunch are the damn police. We got a 35 euro parking ticket. What was supposed to be a cheap lunch turned out to be a very expensive lunch. However; the parking ticket was unfair. We parked (like hundreds of other cars) on a street that had signs 'No parking due to construction of the road'. OK; it was Sunday and we all know that no public works will be done on Sundays in France. So; we, like hundreds of other people thought it was ok to park there. OH boy were we wrong. We just got the parking ticket; if we had arrived at the car about 10 minutes earlier, we could have avoided the ticket. Oh well, we paid for the ticket and learned from it.

After lunch; we went to have a coffee in the 6th arrondissement. The café was Le café de l'Odéon. It is situated in front of Le Théâtre de l'Odéon. The service was very slow but the atmosphere was very nice.

The beautiful Théâtre de l'Odéon in the background.

102, avenue d'Ivry, Paris (XIIIe)
Tel.: 01-58-89-00-00
Ouvert de midi à 15 heures et de 19 à 23 heures
Fermé le mercredi

Café de l’Odéon
Place de l’Odéon 75006

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

L'Ami-Jean (Paris, France)

How can we be in Paris without eating at our favourite bistro...L'Ami-Jean. We consider this our canteen when we are in Paris. Why? There are so so so many reasons why.

The atmosphere at L'Ami-Jean is always cordial with very happy people talking & eating. You cannot miss your neighbor's conversations and seeing their food because we are jammed pack like sardines into a small space. If you have claustrophobia; perhaps, L'Ami-Jean is not for you. But you will have to believe me when I say that one night of claustrophobia is so worth it at L'Ami-Jean...the food is so amazing!

L'Ami-Jean is one of the hardest reservations to get in town. So be warned that you will need to reserve a table several days in advance and confirm your table that day.

Before we received the menu; the waiter place a huge complimentary slab of home-made Pâté on the center of the table. I really really hate it when they do this! The reason is the damn pâté is so good (the bread as well) that I end up eating so much of the stuff before even looking at the menu.

The next complimentary dish was jambon de Bayonne (I actually don't know but I swear it was really yummy).

This was so unique and we never saw it before on the menu...jambon de Wagyu Boeuf. The colour, texture and flavour of this jambon was very prominent. Not like any ham we had before. Not bad at all.

L'Ami-Jean truly spoiled us.

The were six of us at the table and some of us had the same starters and main course. The first starter was

The second starter was Cèpes. The arrival of the huge iron cast skillet with the beautiful mushroom was a sight to behold. The cèpes were firm yet very tender. They simply tasted much flavours for a simple dish.

The first main course was Grouse. It was the hunting season for grouse and it is very rare to find this game on menus. Not many people like this bird for the fact that it has a very gamey smell & flavour. But when cooked well; this is an incredible tasting bird. At L'Ami-Jean there is no doubt that he would have cooked the grouse to perfection. The grouse was tender, juicy and slightly gamey. So worth waiting for the hunting season to eat this.

The famous L'Ami-Jean's Pommes Purée. We guestimated that this dish had 20% potato and 80% butter & cream. But, no one was complaining. The pommes purée is one of the smoothest, most velvety, creamy & rich pommes purée you can find in Paris. Another dish to really hate because we know its not good for our cholesterol levels and waist lines but we just could not help ourselves and kept sticking our spoon into this damn dish. Way too addictive!

The second main dish due to hunting season was le Canard Sauvage. This duck was so fresh from the hunt that I think I found a bullet still in this wild duck. The duck was cooked to perfection; it was tender & juicy (which was great for such fresh game). The chef truly knows how to bring out the flavours of the game.

The iron skillet with the roasted potatoes with cèpes & chestnuts (my favourite). The combination of all the ingredients gave this side dish fantastic colours, textures and flavours. Another dish to hate!

We all ate so much but at the end...we could not resist the all time dessert that makes us all hate L'Ami-Jean; the world famous rice pudding. The richest, creamiest, smoothest and tastiest rice puddings anywhere. This is a dish to die for.

Overall; the hardest working & friendliest staff around. The food is simply one of the best in Paris and the proof is in trying to get a reservation. The chef is the most talented around. L'Ami-Jean will always be on the top of our list at the best bistro in Paris. It's absolutely one of a kind and out of this world.

Address : 27 rue Malar
Zip code : 75007
City : Paris
Website :
Opening hours : Tues-Sat: noon-2pm and 7pm-midnight
Prices : à la Carte from 35 to 45 euros - Menu at 33 euros.
Phone : +33 (0)1 47 05 86 89
Metro/Bus : Invalides, Tour Maubourg, Alma, Ecole Militaire

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

KGB - Kitchen Gallerie Bis (Paris, France)

After visiting the Spring Boutique; we started walking towards the restaurant we have read so much about.

Crossing the Seine River.

Another view of the Seine River and the now closed down La Samaritaine. The department store (which was architecturally beautiful), which had been operating at a loss since the 1970s, was finally closed in 2005 because the building did not meet safety codes. The rumor in town is that it will be turned into a 5 star hotel. No one is really sure.

Another view of the Seine River with Les Invalides and Eiffel Tower in the background.

We finally reached our destination...KGB. No it is not the Russian secret service; KGB stands for Kitchen Gallerie Bis. This is the baby sister of the incredibly famous one Micheline starred Ze Kitchen restaurant by Chef-owner William Ledeuil. Therefore; it would only make sense that KGB would have the halo affect from both and also be a very popular restaurant. We read good reviews for KGB and of course we needed to try it.

For the starter; we shared a set of 5 tapas. We were delighted & disappointed at the same time when the tapas arrived at our table. We were delighted because what we saw was a mix of beautifully presented tapas bursting with vibrant colours; but, we were disappointed because it each tapas was the size of a table spoon. OK; I am exaggerating but I am not far from that description. For example; there was only one strip of smoked salmon or there were only two shrimps. What the *@%! 19 euros; this was not good value for money. However; each tapas tasted wonderful. Too bad we were longing or more food but we were being too stingy to pay for more.

My friend's main dish was a Poitrine de Veau. The portions for the main dishes were perfect. Each dish arrived in bowl which is a nice concept. The veal was amazingly tender & juicy. Everything in the bowl; from the veal, to the seasonal mushrooms to the mashed celery tasting absolutely wonderful. The thick & rich sauce added so much flavour to everything in the bowl. This was a hearty dish and it was fabulous.

My main dish was Thon Blanc with seasonal colourful vegetables. The burst of colours in this bowl was magnificent. I could not wait to try the white tuna because is it a seasonal fish and is only available until the end of September. The white tuna was so tender yet firm. The seasonal vegetable and mashed pumpkin tasted wonderful and were a perfect company for the white tuna. The light & airy foam sauce was a delight and just added the right flavour to everything in the bowl. Such a lovely dish.

The veal and white tuna were definately a much better deal. At 28 euros for each dish; they were worth every euro. So so yummy.

Overall; the service was good at KGB, the decor was very minimalist but what was interesting was that on the huge white walls hung vibrant coloured paintings from different painters. This was a nice contrast to the somber white walls and furnishings. The atmosphere was alive with chatter since the place was full of customers. The food was outstanding no matter that the tapas were a joke. Another great place to add to our 'to eat' places in Paris. The next stop...the big sister restaurant Ze Kitchen.

25 rue des Grands Augustins
75006 Paris
Tel.: 01 46 33 00 85

Métro: Saint Michel or Odéon

Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Fixed-price menus: €27 and €34 (lunch), with mineral water and coffee thrown in

Spring Boutique (Paris, France)

It was such a gorgeous day in Paris that we decided to park the car and walk. We wanted to visit the Spring Boutique in the 1st arrondissement before having lunch.

Walking past the Seine River.

Crossing one of the most prettiest squares in Paris; Place Dauphine. It lies literally right in the center of Paris on the I’le de la Cite, in the 1st arrondissement. It is called a square, but is really triangular in shape.

The lovely restaurants & cafés in the Place Dauphine.

Spring Boutique is the off spring from the Restaurant Spring.

Restaurant Spring...from Le Figaro to the Michelin - many many people and critics adore this little restaurant that used to be tucked away in the ninth arrondissement (it just re-opened in the 1st arrondissement a couple months ago and the Spring Boutique is a few meters away). From the press, apparently it is one of the most surprising dining experiences you'll find in Paris. For a start, the chef is not French but American. Anyway, we have not had the time to try the restaurant yet (but we will do very soon); but we decided to see what Spring Boutique was like first.

The boutique had a wide selection of the best & finest foods in France.

You name it; Spring Boutique had it, from spices, sauces, jams, honey, candy, sausages, herbs, etc, etc, etc.

A wide selection of Natural & Organic wines from every region of France. The boutique was nice; but what was unique was the amount of Americans who kept coming & going into the shop to browse or talk to the sales person. Spring of course has a huge following of Americans living in Paris which is not surprising since the chef of Restaurant Spring is an American.

After looking around Spring Boutique; we were getting hungry so we started walking towards the restaurant that we had chosen for that day.

We crossed the Pont des Arts foot bridge with the beautiful Institut de France building in the background.

This was a unique sight. At first we did not know why hundreds & hundreds of different locks were on the fence. As we got closer for a better inspection; some of the locks had writing or etchings on them, with quotes as....'forever love', 'our love locked forever' or ' George & Stephanie forever', etc. Then it hit us on the head...we understood; the locks were 'Love Locks'. Leaving a love lock on the fence and throwing the key into the Seine River (if you had that kind of lock) was a symbol of eternal love. So sweet but at the same time so sickening that we wanted to throw up.

Another view of the Seine River. Paris is just the most gorgeous city on earth!

52 Rue de l'Arbre Sec
75001 Paris
Tel. :