Friday, October 29, 2010

Shanghai Xiaolongpao

One day we were driving on Rama IV road and noticed a restaurant; it was not the physical aspect of the restaurant itself. It was the hanging chickens!!! They looked so good that we decided that we needed to try the place the next time were in the area.

We parked the car at Carrefour (we needed to do some shopping); and walked to the restaurant which was only one minute walk away. When we reached the restaurant; to our surprise, the chickens turned out to be FAKE, even the chicken fat dripping from the chicken was fake. Yes, we were fooled and we had to laugh about it. Like Japanese restaurants that entice customers to take notice, be hungry and lure them into the restaurant; they have the fake & plastic food in front of the window. So, Shanghai Xiaolongpao learned from the Japanese restaurants and it worked on us.

Shanghai Xiaolongpao has 11 branches scattered all over Bangkok; so when you are in the mood for Shanghai dumplings, I am sure there is one near you.

The restaurant was actually very small, it had only six tables and it had an open kitchen to watch the staff making the food. The decor is the most basic wood tables and stools. Not the most comfortable setting but for a quick bite to eat; it will do.

The medium sized Steam chicken, without skin (160 baht). The chicken to our delight was very tender & juicy.

The rice that accompanied the chicken (15 baht). The rice had a nice richness & flavour to it but I would have preferred more ginger. Another nice aspect of the rice was that it was not too oily (I really hate that).

The plain noodle (30 baht). We decided to try their plain noodles as well to accompany the chicken to see what it tasted like. At 30 baht; it seemed expensive, but they had a good texture and tasted quite nice.

The steamed Pork shaomai (65 baht). Not the best in town but they were plump, moist & juicy.

The Pork dumplings (45 baht). The house specialty and here is how they tell you to eat them: Ways to deliciousness...

1. Eat while it is hot.

2. Place Xiao Long Pao on a spoon.

3. Have a small bite to drink the soup inside.

4. Dine it with sauce along with chopped ginger.

Of course we followed their directions and they were indeed very good. Again; I would say they are not the best in town but at 45 baht, the quality/ price ratio is not bad at all. They did not over steam the dumplings, the skin was not too thick and the pork was very juicy & flavourful.

Overall; not a bad place for a quick & simple bite to eat. This is considered fast food; but when you compare this to a McDonalds or a KFC; give me Shanghai Xiaolongpao any day for the good food & price.

Rama 4
(Near Carrefour or the Viboon Thani Building)
Tel.: 02-661-5117

Monday, October 25, 2010

Powder Room

We met our friends for dinner at the newest lounge/ restaurant on Thonglor (we like trying new things when we meet). The place is so new that they have not yet had their 'soft opening'. So; we felt privileged to be one of first people in Bangkok to try out the food. We could also be the first people to complain; well not complain but more constructive criticism : )

We heard that the Powder Room was the brainchild from the people who own Summer Thai restaurant & Spring chocolate house. Summer/ Spring already has a very good reputation & huge following in Bangkok. With this kind of reputation; we thought for sure that the Powder Room would have the same creativity in terms of design/ decor and of course very imaginative & delicious food.

We learned that the Powder Room's name reflects the concept of the restaurant...its all about Curries! All types of curries and from all around the region. I could not wait since I am addicted to curry. Chef Phol who crafted the menu and created the Thai food at Spring & delightful desserts at Summer; again wanted to create something new & exciting for Bangkok.

Apparently; Chef Phol went to Japan for several months to study the art of making Japanese curries. With this learning; Chef Phol was inspired to update or re-create many other type of curries from Thailand and the region. The curries are all home-made with painstaking techniques & the freshest ingredients. No pre-made/ industrial curries will be found in the kitchen of the Powder Room.

First impressions are important; and WOW were we impressed when we arrived at the fourth floor of the Grass Building. When the doors of the elevator opened; we walked into a cool & chic urban roof lounge. The main colour of the entire place was black wood. With strategic lighting throughout; the entire effect was dramatic and moody. The outdoor roof lounge was stunning with the entire city view. The inside restaurant had a long open kitchen with counter sitting as well as large & long communal tables. We could tell that every aspect of the place was well thought out and executed beautifully.

The first starter was Pear Buta (210 baht). In Japanese style, braised steaky pork with soy sauce and poached pear topped with coriander crust & dry chili.

The next dish was Hot & Sour Hickory Wings (160 baht). Deep fried spicy chicken wings coated with the chef's special hickory BBQ sauce with a Thai twist of zesty Jaew remix.

The next dish was Tom yum Spaghetti (250 baht). Spaghetti with tom yum paste, red curry prawn tempura, fresh lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves & micro coriander.

The next dish was Coriander Pesto Spaghetti (200 baht). Coriander Pesto coated spaghetti topped with a crispy pesto bread, salted pumpkin seeds & micro coriander.

The next dish was 4C Fritter (160 baht). Deep fried; crab-corn-coriander-curry cakes with mildly spicy lychee jus.

The next dish was Tamarind Salmon (230 baht). Grilled salmon brushed with tamarind teriyaki sauce, fried shallots & deep-fried chili peppers.

The first curry was Crab curry & somen (310 baht). Classical southern Thai crab curry with somen noodle, Cha-Om (accacia pennata) leaves & betel leaves.

The next curry was Japanese veal cheek curry (300 baht). Twice-cooked veal cheek curry in Japanese style, Japanese brown rice & pickles.

The next curry was the Powder Room curry (260 baht). This is Powder Room's signature dish...original Japanese chicken curry with Japanese brown rice & pickles.

The next curry was Vegan Green Kari (250 baht). Powder Room's twist of Thai green curry, miso with cauliflowers with steamed Japanese brown rice.

For dessert; Popcorn ice-cream.

Overall; I truly think this concept is very unique and will actually work in Bangkok. Here are people who are not copying but advancing the cause of curries. The food overall was well thought out, crafted well, presented well and tasted so so yummy. Each dish we ate (we had a lot & shared each one) had its own characteristic and taste.

The only dish that I would have 'constructive criticism' was the Japanese veal cheek curry. The veal cheek was very tender but the curry was too thick (not smooth & creamy) & sweet.

The price/ quality ratio is not bad at all; since all the curries are home-made and the portions are generous. This is Thonglor after; so the prices are very reasonable and comparative to restaurants in the area.

There is parking in the back of the Grass building, which is a huge plus since Thonglor is a nightmare with parking anytime of the week; its just awful!

We were told that the owners of the Powder Room are taking their time to 'truly open' because they want to do test runs; such as with the service, make sure the ventilation for the open kitchen actually works, the food is prepared and served the way it is meant to be, etc. Which I think is a great idea. So, the Powder Room is open now and people can come anytime. But apparently the Powder Room is staying low & quiet for the moment from the media & press until they are 100% sure they are ready.

Grass Thonglor (between Thonglor 10 - Thonglor 12)
Bangkok, 10110
Tel.: 084-467-3555
(website will be up & running shortly)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wan Chai Hong Kong Cafe

We decided to have lunch at the new community mall on Ekamai, called Park Lane. There are not many restaurants open yet at the mall but we knew that Wan Chai Hong Kong Cafe just opened; so we thought 'why not try it?'

When we walked in the restaurant; we were a shocked and disappointed by the decor. There was absolutely no thought into the decor. I think they just walked into 'Index Furniture' on Ekamai (which is down the road) and bought the most horrific and no taste furniture for the restaurant. I am not sure what a Hong Kong Cafe should look like but this was absolutely not it. Oh; sorry, they did have photos of the Hong Kong skyline to give us a hint that we could be in Hong Kong...which did not help one bit.

The first dish was their signature dish; Chicken rice set (199 baht). The chicken was tender & moist. The rice was flavourful with ginger. This dish was not bad but it was not worth the money. This is Bangkok after all; where you can get fantastic chicken rice for 50 baht. So, if they are charging 199 baht for this dish; either it better be damn fantastic or the quantity must be big. It was neither.

The second dish was another signature dish; Pork ribs set (199 baht). I am not joking when I say that I had about 50 grams of meat (probably less but I am trying to be nice). The pork ribs was 95% bones. Again this being Bangkok; I know a place that has this dish for only 50 baht and it is so much better. This dish was a waste of money.

Eating in this restaurant was truly a waste of time and money. We should have known right away when we walked in the restaurant that this was not going to be a good experience. We normally are very good at noticing these kinds of things. I think because we were so hungry that we let our guard down.

I truly believe this place will not survive if they do not re-think their strategy. They can charge what ever they want; but the food better so good that people will not mind paying for it. For now; all I keep saying is 'why on earth when there are so many affordable and good chicken rice & pork rib places in Bangkok did I try it?'

Park Lane Community Mall (second floor)
18 Sukhumvit soi 61
Bangkok 10110
Tel.: 02-382-0126-7

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bangpra Beach Restaurant

We took a day trip to go visit my friends factory in Sattahip. But before seeing my friend's factory; we decided to stop at the most famous food market: Nong Mon Market; where you can practically buy anything your heart desires to eat.

This market is located on Sukhumvit Road along the way to Bang Saen. Nong Mon Market offers a vast variety of locally produced seafood products such as fish, squid, and shrimp, both fresh and preserved. In addition, sweets and other local sweetmeats are also popular.

The most awesome deep fried crab rolls. We had to wait for 15 minutes to actually order some because there was a long queue of people. We had to start giving the 'evil eye' to some customers who arrived and tried to cut the queue. Apparently; my 'evil eye' worked because they waited their turn. The crab rolls were deep fried to a dark golden brown. They were a solid mass of crab which tasted so good. We ate the whole box of a dozen in the car.

Fresh coconut juice...always so refreshing and tasty. To refresh ourselves from the drive to Sattahip; coconut juice is always the perfect answer instead of Coca cola. It is just so pure & tasty. And of course cost nothing.

A huge pot of freshly steamed Hor mok (steamed fish mousse in banana leaf). I did not want to buy any because we were on our way to have lunch. But; oh boy was I tempted.

Tons & tons & tons of dried squid and shrimp (and other strange dried stuff). We could smell these items already a few meters away. A pungent smell of sea critters. Just lovely.

The most amazing cakes..fresh out of the oven...I am not joking. The ovens are in front view and we witnessed all the yummy cakes being taken out of the oven. The only problem with these very popular cakes is that there were a dozen types to choose from. Making my life more difficult! There are cakes filled with coconut, cashew, taro, custard, etc. and as well as plain. Which one, which one??? I chose the one with coconut and one with cashew.

I bought a few of these...Khao larm (sticky rice in bamboo), I bought two purple rice & two white rice. I can never resist. Another hap hazard in my life. I love these hollow bamboos stuffed with sticky rice & coconut cream. Damn they are so good.

We arrived at our destination. We were taken to this restaurant by a foodie friend many years ago. I was surprised that we found it again. The place is open air and very simply decorated.

The first dish was Squid in lemon sauce. The squid were so fresh, plumb and firm. Because the squid was sauteing in the most delicious lemon soup; the squid was tender & juicy. The perfect combination of tangy, salty, spicy and sweet made this dish so so awesome.

The next dish was Wing bean salad. The wing beans were accompanied with dried fish and cashews. The salad had so much texture and tasted so so good.

The next dish was Crab fried rice. I looovvveee fried rice even though I know it has to be one of the most unhealthy dishes on earth for me. However; the crab fried rice was absolutely devine. First of all it was not oily; which is a huge plus for me. There was an abundance of crab which is another huge plus. The rice also had egg, tomato and some greens. With a dash of fish sauce & chili; this dish was perfect.

The next dish was Fried fish with fish sauce. Boy do I love fried fish with fish sauce and this dish did not disappoint. The fish was deep fried perfectly; the outside was crispy and the inside was tender & moist. The fish sauce added the wonderful flavour to the dish. Heavenly.

The lovely garden sitting area of the restaurant.

Overall; a great stop for seafood whenever you are in the Chonburi area. Everything was simple and good; that includes the service, the atmosphere and definately the food. I still do not know how restaurants do it in Thailand. Our whole meal only cost 600 baht; and we got the freshest of seafood that was cooked perfectly and tasted wonderful. No matter how they do it; I hope they keep doing it forever.

32 Moo 1
Bangpra Sriracha Chonburi
Tel.: 081-865-2565, 086-326-4487

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In the Mood for Love

A foodie friend of ours wanted to try a new funky sushi bar in town. We are always game to try something new; so we decided to meet at 'In the Mood for Love'. A very unusual name for a sushi bar but at the same time very cool.

If you want something sexy, cool & exciting when it comes to sushi, this was the perfect setting for it. Soft blue lighting dominated the ceiling above the room, dark glassed walls and wicker lamps hanging above the sushi counter - the mood lighting recreated the setting of the 2000 film by Wong Kar-Wai which brought us back to Hong Kong in the 60s. So; I was definately wrong to expect something Japanese with a name like In the Mood for Love.

On top of all that; the menu had the most unusual, wacky & fun named sushi. Of course it took us a while to order because we had no idea what were ordering. We had to read each ingredient carefully to make sure what we were going to eat.

The amuse bouche was Elixir Oyster Shooter (260). This consisted of a fresh oyster with quail egg in sake with elixir juice. It was unique indeed; hard to describe since there is nothing else like it. But, the contrasting textures of the oyster & quail egg was a clever idea and at the same time the combination of sake & elixir tasted good.

The first roll was Green satin. Consisted of karikama, daikon, horenzo, avo, kaware and crab mixed and wrapped with cucumber. Even though there were a lot of ingredients to comprise this roll, I was not totally impressed with it. The roll was crafted nicely but I felt it was too bland.

The next roll was Sweet 16 (400 baht). This is one of the restaurant's signature roll. The roll consisted of eel, spicy tuna, avocado and topped with strawberries and shrimp roe. At first; I thought this was too weird and when I bit into the roll, I still thought it was too weird. The taste & sweetness of the strawberry was a good contrast of the savoury flavours in the roll. But I think I am a traditionalist when it comes to my sushi rolls.

The next roll was Guilty But Happy (360 baht) Shrimp tempura, ebiko, cream cheese, scallion, mayo and red sauce drizzle with wasabi mayo and nitsume sauce. The contrasting textures was nice in this roll as well as the tastes of the ingredients.

The next roll was Hole in the Wall (320 baht). The roll consisted of seared hotate, jalepeno, tobiko, & cucumbers skewed with avocados. The flavours of the roll were nicely balanced and I could tell from the textures & flavours what I was eating (which is a good thing).

The next roll was Rainbow roll (390 baht). Everything in the sushi bar was put into this sushi. That explains the explosion of colours & textures from this roll. The ingredients were fresh and the roll was good (not the best in town but non-the-less, pretty good).

The next dish was Hirame ponzu (560 baht). Thinly sliced hirame with lemon and ponzu sauce. The hirame was sliced to paper thin perfection. The lemon & ponzu sauce added the necessary acidity and saltiness to the sweet fish. A simple but very nice dish.

The last dish was Aikamo Toban (260 baht). Pan fried duck breast with bunno sauce. The duck was of good quality. The bunno sauce was not sweet (which was a good thing). However; the duck was a bit over cooked making it chewy.

The first dessert was Green tea ice cream (120 baht). The ice cream was smooth, creamy and rich in green tea flavour. Nothing to complain about with this dessert.

Overall; a very hip & cool place to hang out due to the ambiance, decor & vibe. Unique for Bangkok but in a very good way. The service however was unattentive because the restaurant was full; but I would not use that as an excuse. The management has to teach their staff to be more concerned with the customers needs. There were staff who were just standing around but on the other side of the restaurant the whole evening. I had to wave to get their attention all the time to either ask for the menu, pour our sake or to clean our table since new dishes were arriving, etc.. This was not good.

As for the food; it was good but not outstanding. The sushi was imaginative and was aesthetically very nice. But since they combined so many ingredients into their sushi, they could pay more attention to detail when it comes to making the sushi. The ingredients that go into the sushi should not only be the freshest & best quality but also have the right colours, textures & consistency since that is the very first thing we will notice & taste. The food had a few hits but also a few misses. At these prices; I would rather they have more hits.

Honestly; I will probably forget about this restaurant unless someone brings it up. But, then again, who cares if I don't go to this restaurant. I am sure that 'In the Mood for Love' has a very strong following.

9/9 Sukhumvit soi 36
Bangkok, 10110
Tel.: 02-661-5076
BTS: Thonglor

Friday, October 15, 2010

Water Library

A long time ago; we were in Singapore and ate at a popular restaurant called Ember. The chef was an expert at the delights of European cuisine with a tinge of Asian flavor. The food was so good that we said the next time we are back in Singapore, we have to return. Then one day we hear that Ember was planning to open in Bangkok. How can we be so lucky?

Of course; we ate at Ember in Bangkok and the food was equally delicious as eating in Singapore. But to our surprise; the restaurant did not work and the chef left.

Then a few weeks later; we were happy to hear that the chef of Ember was cooking at a new & stunning restaurant called the Water Library in Bangkok.

The Water Library at Chamchuree Square is Bangkok’s newest fine dining cafĂ© and premium water bar...yes, you read right. Bangkok's first water bar. Opened in 2008, Water Library offers premium bottled natural mineral waters from around the world.

When we walked into the restaurant; the center of the restaurant had this modern & enormous interpretation of a shelf to display the waters (photo above). It was incredible and beautiful. At first we were skeptical about the water menu because we thought the water would be so damn expensive. But to our surprise the 'waters' were very affordable and there was even a special where you buy one and get one free (the water we ordered was from Scotland and it only cost 140 baht for two).

The restaurant itself was enormous & had a round shape. The space had huge volume & height. Every table had a view due to the unusual structure & design.

The amuse bouche was...fresh croissant flown in from France. This has got to be one of the strangest amuse bouche in town! A croissant? But some how it, kind of, works. The croissant was amazingly flaky & crispy. The inside was warm, tender & soft. The croissant was sweet with a slight salty after taste. Apparently, the croissants are so popular that customers reserve or order croissants to take home. Oh, the freshly baked bread was so so good.

The first dish was Scallop tartar with wasabi ice cream. The scallop was so so fresh and tasted so so good. The wasabi ice cream was a totaly cool idea and it worked perfectly. The wasabi ice cream gave the dish the needed acidity, sourness & spiciness to balance the sweetness of the scallops. Very original & creative.

The next dish was Tofu & mushroom with fois gras & shitake emulsion. The fried tofu was slightly crispy on the outside and velvety soft on the inside. The Japanese mushrooms added colour, texture & flavour to the dish. The fois gras sauce was thick and rich in flavour. All we could say about this dish was WOW!

The next dish was Kurobuta pork tenderloin. The pork was stunningly tender & flavourful. I truly hate it when restaurants use thick & sweet sauce to go with the pork. But not here, the caramelized jus was light, tasty and did not overwhelm the pork. The pork was accompanied with sweet potato gnocchi. A lovely dish.

The next dish was Confit of Victorian lamb rack. The lamb was of the highest quality and was cooked perfectly. The meat was still pinkish, the meat was so tender & juicy. Amazingly good.

For dessert was Apple tart. After our main courses arrived; we were asked if were in interested in the apple tart for dessert because it would take 25 minutes to make it. Definately... was my answer. The pastry was flaky & crispy, the apples were soft & tender. The tastes of sweet, sour & tangy were evident. The apple tart was out of this world.

This was not part of our meal. I just wanted to show how good the service was at Water Library. Typical, I splashed some sauce onto my shirt, I was trying to wipe off the sauce with some water. To my surprise; the waitress arrived with a glass of sparkling water & a towel to help get off the stain. That what I call service!

The service was friendly and professional. They were trained very well and you can see that they knew what they were doing. Not only in terms of service but also how to handle our wines in terms of decanting, etc.

Overall; a really good experience in terms of ambiance, service & food. The chef truly knows how to cook western food with a lovely Asian twist. They use the highest quality products. The food is beautifully presented and the portions are big. So you actually feel you get your money's worth. I am so sorry, I forgot to write down the prices of our meal. I promise to find out the prices of each dish and post them.

Since the restaurant is in the Chamchuree Square shopping mall, there were tons of parking. The only strange issue for me that since the restaurant is in the shopping mall; the mall closes at 22:00 sharp. So when we finish dinner (we eat late), the shopping mall was closed & empty. However; the security guard was very helpful in telling us which door was open to enter the garage to get our car. I look forward to having another great meal at Water Library.

Chamchuree Square
8 soi Krunghep Kreetha 8 Yaek 8,
Huamark, Bangkok 10240
Tel.: 0-2160-5188-9