Did you ever end up going to Shenyang?
I am mostly in Thailand. I love Singapore to an extent, but especially Penang, Hong Kong, Hanoi, etc. for eating.
I like Northern (Bejing Style) Chinese food... and wondering how similar or different things are in the Northeast (Shenyang).
I just checked in to a hotel at Lavender. I think will also give consideration to Balestier, as I tend to like the old neighborhoods. I have never been there and immediately discounted it due to location... however the respected opinions on this forum are now making me reconsider. Is this be the same as Novena MRT? Or is that a different thing?
At dinner, the clientele at the tables immediately left and right if us was incredibly annoying. I could write a whole story on it. So many dishes being sent back for illegitimate reasons, and such amazingly special needs and requirements... worse than children.
Our Indian waiter was great. Competent, not intrusive, offered information when I was undecided between two menu selections. I have no idea how he managed to not slap some of the other customers.
Anyway, capellini with uni was not as wonderful as I imagined, but still prepared well. Charred octopus was special for me... my girl found the glaze to sweet... which I ted to agree, but that is just a matter of personal preference rather than any error in technique (or judgment for that matter). Pasta with sardines, raisin, saffron, fennel has the feel of a peasant dish (like puttanesca)... but the saffron is a bit of a luxury ingredient, and the whole fine preparation and presentation of a rustic dish is a bit strange... but not necessarily unappealing. This dish has some chili and heat to it, which was appealing to her Southeast Asian tastes. I skipped the carbonara (even though it is rare to find a proper one without cream) and had pasta with ox-tail sauce. Again, peasant ingredients which really appealed to my partially (ethnically) Polish roots (remember eating ox-tail soup as a baby)... but again done with a layer of refinement that is in one way confusing... but in another way interesting. The aged ricotta was nice, but could have used two or three times as much of the cheese to really round out the dish.
We had a half bottle (375ml) of a (relatively) cheap white wine from Sardignia, which I thought would be perfect with the style of dishes... and this really worked out well.
We waited FOREVER for all of our courses. However, I know this is a chef owned place... and I would rather wait than have the cooking passed off to a minimally trained local line cook in a big factory type restaurant. I suspect much of the problem was the remaking or modification of at least seven dishes in my immediate vicinity (three to my left, three to my right, and one across the room). The waiter was to accommodating to make sure everyone was happy. Maybe he should take a lesson from one of the crabby Hawkers one can find around.
What do you think of Tiong Bahru? Are there any other old neighborhoods like this that aren't about to be taken over by stylish yuppies (or what would they be called in Singapore?) There's a charming studio apartment in good location here, but 250 square feet! And not exactly cheap. Singapore accommodation is KILLING me.
It may be better for me to stay in a hotel, given the prices of apartments.
By the way, while I initially said I am more into the hawker centre and hole in the wall type places, my recent walks around Singapore have gotten me excited about some of the finer dining options again.
It's just that in the past, I always found fine restaurants in Singapore disappointing. Not necessarily bad... but not the mind blowing experiences to be had in places like Paris or Hong Kong or even Toronto, for example. I don't know if I went to the wrong places, or ordered incorrectly... or if the scene is truly changing. Anyway, you always seem to have breadth of knowledge on 'comfortable' places, so I am open to these ideas as well.
Specifically, do you know this place by a Sicilian chef called Gattopardo on Tras Street? We stopped by for a glass of wine. They have Barolo by the glass! However, I finished the last of that vintage and they are now on to the next year's batch... so not sure how it will compare to the one I had (which seemed overpriced, but I seemed to quickly forget after tasting the wine). Anyway, it was mid day and the kitchen was closed... but I plan to return as the menu looks very interesting... there's some innovation... yet still seems respectful of tradition.
Cappelini with uni sauce. Charred octopus with olives, sundried tomatoes and celery root. Pasta with sardines, rasin, saffron and wild fennel. Carbonara of course. These were the dishes I have my eye on anyway.
Finally, are Buona Vista or Clementi as bad as I fear they might be (culinary standpoint)? And what of Tijong Bahru (which seems promising, though not thrilled about the changes coming to it)
Thanks everybody for the replies and ideas.
Dorset Residences is a place my girl happened to notice when we were walking around. A good location, but I was really unprepared for the cost of accommodation in Singapore. I don't really understand how serviced apartments and quite often regular apartments are more expensive than staying in a hotel every day.
I have been jumping around different hotels to get a better feel for different areas of the city. I'm currently in Tijong Bahru, which is cool. Although I appreciate the traditional aspects of it more than the trendy aspects of it. The hawker center here is good. There is a great BBQ meat place but they say they are closing (forever) later this month, unfortunately. A bunch of Szechuan restaurants are decent and open late. I normally dislike suburbs, but this one has character, and it is so near the city... even walkable.
The MRT seems so slow to me. I am wondering about getting something near Buona Vista (where I will be working a lot) or Clementi (where I will be working sometimes) if the rent is lower. How bad or good are these locations for food? At fist glance Buona Vista looks especially bad (for eating)... but I am really inexperienced with the area. It's difficult dragging myself away from the centre of the city.
I am a dentist, so should be making a decent salary (well half a salary, being there half the time). But really just looking for something (relatively) inexpensive for my girl and I. Clean, basic/minimalist, and convenient.
I had thought about Outram Park - easy access to the west for work and to the centre of the city. I would consider west, but don't have much experience there and not sure if they are culinary and cultural wastelands.
Thanks for the reply. I thought you might! Ha!
I have been spending most of my time in Thailand over the last several years, but it seems I will now be working in Singapore half of the time.
The job will mostly be at two sites - right on Buona Vista MRT and Clementi MRT.
I generally like to hang out in Chinatown, Little India, the Arabic district, and the Colonial district and central areas. Not Orchard area, and not really suburbs (unless there were a culinary reason to go).
I mostly eat at Hawker Centers and moderate old-fashioned type restaurants. I love Hong Lim complex hawker centre.
Can any of you guys form Singapore give some recommendation about which area would be ideal to get an apartment for easy access to the most amount of great food?
Being on the green MRT line helps my access to work.
I asked my Thai girlfriend to read me the menu and I tried to translate to English as best as I could.
The first picture says food that is "recommended".
1) "Goong Den - 90 baht". This is usually raw shrimp (possibly lightly cooked) prepared like "yum" (Thai salad) and should be sour, somewhat sweet, salty, hot, pungent). Usually good.
2) "Pla Grapong Taw(d)t nam pla - 220 baht". Fried fish with salty fish sauce poured over it. Usually has fried garlic too. The fish is sea bass.
3) "Pla Salmon Wasabi - 169 baht". Obviously salmon and wasabi of some sort. Not traditionally Thai, but some modern interpretation.
4) "Baag Ped Taw(d)t - 119 baht". This is fried duck mouths. They can be surprisingly good, and people often like to eat them with beer.
5) "Soot yod en gai - 120 baht". This translates sort of as "the most special chicken joint (tendon?)" or something like that. Not very descriptive, but likely a specialty of this chef. Worth trying if you can tolerate the gelatanous texture. It is probably done as a salad (yum) or as something fried.
6) Hoi gwwaan - 280 baht. Literally 'sweet shell' (meaning shellfish like scallop, oyster, clam), but in this case is a brown colored shell... I think maybe snails. Not sure where this shell comes from.
7) "Yam Het Kem Tong K(g)rob - 99 baht" - again it is yum, and it is mushroom... like small (long and thin) mushroom... and crispy.
8) Jim Goong Taw(d)t - 109 baht". This is fried shrimp... it should have some sort of sauce for dipping (jim means dip).
9) Pad Phed Moo Paa - 99 baht. Phad phed is one of the classic stir fried preparations, especially popular in jungle and mountain areas. It has strong tastes from unpeeled ginger, and whole green peppercorns. There is usually garlic and small green eggplants. Moo is pork and Moo Paa is liek a wild boar. It will be tougher texture and often with fat. It can be quite tasty. This dish is often unavailable... probably because they must hunt for the pigs.
Do you have any knowledge or recommendations on French Restaurants in Saigon? I am looking for one high end place with refined food... and another bistro type place.
The chef has such a good reputation... I would suspect the problem was just the lack of his presence... but it's just an assumption. Maybe go on a Friday or Saturday... NOT a holiday.
I hate to complain so much, but I've just has so much bad luck in Bangkok lately.
Today we went back to Masala Art on Thong Lor. This place truly knows how to execute delicate and balanced spicing. It's not the ripping hot and exciting southern Indian food like you'll have in Singapore or Malaysia... but it is nice in a different sort of way.... actually in quite a refined sort of way.
Nothing is really "hot", but requesting hot will will get you 'spicy'... meaning spice that develops layers of flavor that builds with each consecutive bite.
I should warn that there are some dishes that are very good, and some that are too heavy. The dishes from the tandoor are universally good. The saffron fish is especially good (as long as they cook it long enough... I like the black charred bits on it, and don't like it too watery), as are lamb chops (as long as they don't cut them too small). Prawns can be decent as well... either in traditional style or in a marinade of picked mango. As for curries, I like paneer labradar (spelling?)... lamb rogan josh was a remarkably tender lamb in a watery but flavorful sauce (correctly so). A Persian style/influenced dish with lentils (and I think chicken) and some sourness is nice. Dal makhani can be good. I tend to not like their version of saag... and murgh makhani (or whatever they call it there... the butter chicken) was somehow not great at the restaurant, but tasted good when heated in the microwave the next day. I have no explanation for this... unless the flavors had time to meld. I really love that each dish on the menu has individual spicing and character... not like some restaurants with pre-made sauces and different meats thrown in and warmed.
The boss/manager can be quite bossy and tell you to order differently... but his recommendations and guidance are in general very good. Some westerners may be put off by the Indian style service, but he's really a cool guy that ensures great service. The staff are really good. The manager was not even there today, and yet the staff were still perfect today. They put a comment card right in my hand.. apparently wanting a good report, which I was able to provide.
My only critique... too much cream in my paneer dish today. But still good, and everything excellent overall.
Masala chai is good here. Even a dessert of tired gulab jamman took on new life here... soft and fresh.
Again, there is nothing all that spectacular... but the refined, balanced and delicate spicing is truly done in a way that could be called "art". Combined with a really comfortable but not stuffy atmosphere and really pleasant male servers... it is a reliable place for me.
Did you ever go to Gaggan? I had a hugely disappointing experience there a while ago. There were some creative ideas, but the level of cooking was simply not at a high level.... not even a mediocre level.
I must say the day I went on turned out to be a Thai holiday... and the chef did not appear to be present.
The only dish that was prepared very well was not a fusion dish, but an Indian dish which they labeled as "tikka masala" but the preparation was absolutely that of murgh "makhani" (the caucasian favorite "butter chicken"). This is an immensely popular dish, but one that is very difficult to find in authentic form. This version was quite correct... fragrant with mace, cardamom, and the most important and characteristic kasoori methi (fenugreek). It seemed to (correctly) not contain any onions. The nan was pretty good too. But this is not wh yI came to this restaurant and spent a lot of money.
It was interesting that our waiter pushed a tasting menu on us (which I wanted anyway) and told us that it was not possible to order from the regular (and cheaper) a la carte menu. However, we overheard and observed a nearby table order a la carte.
I can appreciate traditional and classic dishes as well as modern and innovative ones... but I did not really enjoy ANY of the many dishes here, prior to the curry. I did very much like the cinnamon-banana ice cream in concept. It was a very interesting and atypical flavor combination... and it was an amazing combination. But the ice cream itself was quite grainy and simply not "good". I don't mean grainy the way Indian kulfi is... the 'Indian Ice Cream" which doesn't really have cream. It was well below average ice cream (in preparation) but with very smart flavor combination.
I desperately wanted this dinner to be good... but it simply was not. Was it an off night? Did you end up having any good meal(s) here?
I stay in Thailand more than half of the time.
I don't know that it ever becomes spoiled to the point where it is harmful, due to the high salt content. It is always usable... but simply tastes much better when fresh.
My girlfriend and I both do a good amount of Thai cooking, but I now always buy the tiny bottles of it from the local 7-11 store... in an effort to always have fresh fish sauce. I simply can not go through a big bottle fast enough.
If it is unopened, it will last for a while. The important thing is keep it out of the LIGHT. Also if it can be somewhere cool rather than hot, it will help. Again, you need to prevent the oxidative process. That being said, I took a bottle of fish sauce to Canada and after a couple years in the cupboard it became dark. It was usable, but just not as fresh tasting.
As for brands, Squid brand is darker and more smelly. To my taste, I prefer the gold label one. I assume it is something like the benefits of again a balsamic vinegar in barrels... not that there is any further improvement aging it in the bottle.
I don't know anybody in Thailand that refrigerates their fish sauce. But this could help in it's preservation if you don;t have sch easy access to it.
As for aging, it does not improve with age in the bottle and certainly not once opened.
I am jealous of the amazing southern Indian food available in Singapore. I don't know which places are good and usually try at random. Sammy's Curry is very good for me but somewhat inconsistent. Same with Appolo banana leaf - sometimes excellent, sometimes just good.
In BKK, Rang Mahal was okay for me... but not spectacular. The environment is nice... so that might count for something. But again, it depends on what is ordered... and who is cooking that day. For Northern Indian food, the rare restaurant that I think is truly special is able to make dishes full of flavor but not HEAVY... and with delicate spicing. I have resorted to cooking at home out of frustration with what's available. That's the problem with a lot of Northern Indian places.... a lot of sauces (or at least the bases for them) have to be made ahead... but the best dishes are those made fresh. I don't know a lot about southern Indian cooking (only eating), but it SEEMS like this food survives well when made ahead and ladled into a banana leaf.
My Indian cooking is certainly not comprehensive... but there are some dishes that I have learned to prepare well... and it's much easier than I thought. It is just an entirely different cooking technique than what I know of French, Italian or even Thai styles, for example. Timing is very important... and the ORDER with which ingredients are added. This is something I never knew. I am now therefore much more critical of Indian restaurants. In the past I was happy with almost any Indian food... the intense flavours being so fun and new. Ignorance was bliss in many ways.
The delivery service sounds cool, but I don't know how interested they would be in going somewhere way out in Thonburi and coming to the other end of the city toward Udom Suk.
You know, a lot of businesses are willing to help you send whatever you need to you (in this case food) on a local motorbike driver. I suppose you could also arrange the same with a taxi for longer distances. Your food can be the passenger... and you can pay upon delivery. But the taxi will want your cell phone number and you or someone nearby to speak Thai with him. I'm sure it can be arranged with a modest tip to the restaurant and the driver. Although a lot of these dishes are best eaten fresh and deteriorate after steaming in the plastic bag for some time in BKK traffic.
As for D'Sens... it wasn't an issue of being overly ambitious. It was embarrassing flaws in basic cooking technique. Something I would never expect from a restaurant of that calibre. My detailed review with full explanation can be found here:
I also find that many Thai people have an aversion to Indian food (or they often think they do, with no basis).
The trick is to take them for Indian food when they are very hungry... and willing to eat anything. My girlfriend was forced to try my Indian food out of various combinations of hunger and boredom - rather than sitting there watching me eat. With a bit of time, she has learned to thoroughly enjoy it and even requests it on occasion. She acknowledges (unprompted) the superiority of Indian food in Singapore and Malaysia. I think she appreciates the intensity of this food... as well as the sincerity... the often rustic nature of it. She is less fond of the amazing and refined murgh makhani that I make in my BKK apartment... and even less fond of Bangkok restaurants that serve more 'royal' style food. Likely because they contain more cream, butter, yoghurt, and heavier preparations. My experience with Thai friends is that the cream or heaviness is more of a problem for them than anything else.
My favorite Indian place in Bangkok is a Punjabi place in Pahurat (little India). It is an absolute dive... though it has the best Tandoori chicken. Yes, the same boring, bland tandoori chicken that is ubiquitous in North America. However, this version is heavily spiced and most importantly has wonderful bitter notes from the black charred bits. It is charred from the tandoor outside, the red spice paste perfectly cooked and roasted... yet wonderfully moist inside. A bit of armchur power to finish (or more accurately it is probably chaat masala)... and some homemade mint/coriander chutney from a plastic squeeze bottle intended for ketchup... and there is absolutely NO fancy Indian restaurant that can compare.
For more upscale, I have been to Masala Art on Thong Lor many times. I think they have pretty good tandoori dishes... like the lamb chops and prawns (especially if you request them to be spicy). The curries are nowhere near as good in my opinion. They are not bad... but I can make many of these dishes at home so much better than most restaurants... I have stopped ordering a lot of Northern Indian dishes when I go out.
I have tried so many other Indian restaurants. Most have been incredibly inconsistent and not worth mentioning specifically. The Indian place on Sukhumvit soi 3... at the corner of the tiny soi that connects to soi 3/1... the one with outdoor seating and lots of shisha smoking... this one has a surprisingly good (by Bangkok standards, not Malaysian/Singapore standards) Hyberbad Biriyani. Made with lamb and requested spicy it can be good. Most importantly it's often open until 4 or 5am, making it a good choice when almost everything else is closed. It's good for late night snack and shisha... but not somewhere I'd take relatives.
I would advise ordering them some sort of Barbecue (tandoor) dishes... and some kind of curry without cream. I love a lot of vegetarian Indian dishes, but in my experience many Thais are initially averse to dishes like daal and paneer. I am not sure why.
Gaggan sounds really cool. Although I think it may be more for your benefit and appreciation than necessarily for relatives. It sounds just as much Western as it does Indian. Have you been to Red? That is where chef Gaggan worked before. He has an impressive resume. It sounds like he is directly involved with the goings on at the small restaurant.... making NOW the time to go.
Globalgastronomist - The menu at Angellini does look different. However I have never really been all that impressed with hotel restaurants in BKK. They always seem to have to be "careful" and appeal to the mass market... and therefore end up being not all that innovative... and not all that traditional either. Nor are they all that cheap! But I am generalizing.
When looking at the website, I too started projecting my desires of what I 'want' this restaurant to be. Sort of like meeting somebody online for a blind date. In either instance, the reality is usually not consistent with the expectations. But I hope I am wrong! This restaurant will be a big gamble. Let me know how it goes.
Philippe is not exactly a casual bistro. However, the pictures look like a perfect spot... comfortable enough yet stylish enough. Menu similarly seems to have enough creativity, yet still respect for traditional French cooking. I don't know how I missed it. I will definitely visit, but it is currently closed for Songkhran holiday until April 29.
Have you ever been to D'Sens? There's a hotel restauran I used to like. Similart to my experience with Zanott, i I had many amazing meals at D'Sens in the past... followed by one mediocre dinner (poor value considering the cost) and more recently an absolutely awful lunch.
The inconsistency issue is maddening for me. I think local culture is more accepting of uncertainty and also more accepting about lack of control over all the aspects of one's life. I also think that local culture favors sometimes convenience over quality. With life in Bangkok being SO inconvenient, one can understand. In contrast, some chowhound readers (like me) will trek across the city 30km in traffic just for some Ped ploe (steamed duck in soy sauce)... or simple pad prik goong (shrimp sauteed with large long greenish-yellow medium-hot peppers). I'll spend 150 baht and 40 minutes in a taxi just to eat a good example of Khao Moo Dang for 30 baht.
Yeah, I was at Rossano (near Asoke) one time... forever ago... and remember having a decent experience there. I recall ordering sardines grilled... like Sicilian style. I do recall choosing more rustic dishes... as they are difficult to find in Bangkok. It wasn't perfect and wasn't really cheap... but it was a reasonable experience and I'll give it another try soon. If you like this style I would also suggest trying di Vino. However, the specials change constantly so it will vary day to day. The regular menu is very small... and the best dishes I've had there have always been daily specials that I confirm with the chef's recommendation.
I agree that we need a casual Italian trattoria... just like we need some sort of casual French bistro (or even a cafe). Not some sort of expensive precious place in a high rent shopping center made to look like a casual place.
One place that is reliable for me is the pizzeria (name Napoli?) on Sukhumvit soi 29. It doesn't exactly fit the bill as it is a pizzeria... but it also has some pleasant spaghetti dishes and in my opinion the best tiramisu in BKK. Good espresso also. Their osso bucco was great on one occasion and disappointing on another. It's certainly not fancy... but it's easy enough to drop in with no reservation in casual clothes and have some simple food that is worthwhile and reasonably authentic. The Truffle White pizza has nice mushrooms and truffle oil, and the Buffala uses seemingly good quality mozzarella.
As for the fancy Italian places, perhaps I'm applying too high of standards, but very few restaurants excite me at all. I like the fussy food at Enoteca Italiana. But I agree that many of the other places are hard to distinguish. They all seem to have that same "Bangkok Italian" menu full of the same dishes. They all have a poorly prepared carbonara... "rocket" salad of some sort... and tiramisu. I'm so tired of tiramisu on menus here (even though I admit that pizzeria Napoli has a great and authentic version made with lots of coffee and liqueur - nice bitterness to balance the sweetness).
I should try Spasso. Despite my skepticism, I have had good luck with Klyeoh's opinions to direct my dining choices in Singapore (as I'm sure many others have as well).
I had at least five great meals at Zanotti a few years ago... and then two bad dinners and an awful lunch. Consistency seems to be a big problem at most of these restaurants. A lot of things are delegated to staff and if there is no supervision, things fall apart. Your experience at Limoncello is a case in point.
Zanotti has some really cool wines from Piedmonte, which are not the most commonly found. I remember having an amazing Dolcetta d'Alba (I forget which one). However, there is QUITE a variation in the quality of wines on that menu. A similar wine at the exact same price point was vastly inferior.
One bizarre thing about Zanoti is that they don't ALLOW you to photograph your plate. The waiter came and stopped my girlfriend from taking a picture of her own dish and explained politely that it is not allowed. As if it is some sort of intellectual property protected by copyright.
Who has been to Zanotti recently?
It was an old review, and quite long. I suppose I could have cut and pasted here.
The point is, I had some of the worst service of my life at Spring Deer and mediocre food... however that was not consistent with the reports of other diners. I am wondering if there is a two tiered system... for tourists or for foreigners at this restaurant.
Did you end up eating at Spring Deer, and how did it go?
I had an absolutely awful experience there. However, I saw good food and service at other tables. Clearly there are different tiers of product and service there.
My review from trip advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...
My favorite is Enoteca Italiana (mentioned in the above post). It has small portions of very innovative Italian food. I think the nearly constant presence of the chef in the kitchen and the sommalier are what maintain such high standards. The kitchen shines in its modern preparations. For something more traditional I'd look elsewhere. It's also a small place, so would be advisable to make reservations.
My review on trip advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...
I also used to really like Zanotti (a few years ago). Being a large place, it operated more like a machine, but they were using quality ingredients and preparing things quite well. I then found the quality to be way down to the point where I was really disappointed. Kleyoh, have you made a recent visit? I am wondering if it is worth me trying it again. I remember they had some really good platters of assorted antipasti and I recall some pasta (ravioli?) made with white truffles that was excellent (and reasonably priced).
My favorite more casual spot for Italian is "di Vino" on Thong Lor, run by a chef from Milan.
My review on tripadvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...
The new people I saw working there were all Thai. However, they seemed inexperienced not only with restaurant business but with cooking as well. I'm not sure if there is a foreign 'faan' or spouse or otherwise in the background... but it is not obvious.
Although one girl spoke to us with a relative proficiency in basic english. She sort of took part in the service... but mostly was overseeing things. She was relatively young, was nice, though again seemed inexperienced in general. The whole situation was just a bit atypical.
To be fair, I caught them on one of their first days, so I'm not sure if things have improved. I was the only customer that day.
This is such a popular restaurant... surely someone has been back?
Are there any alternatives? I sometimes go to Vientienne Kitchen (I think this is the name) up the street. Yeah, it's expensive and yeah sometimes I can get better food on the street, but the place is reliable and consistent with nice staff (in my experience).
Have any previous customers of Krua Rommai on Sukhumvit soi 36 in Bangkok been there recently?
This is a restaurant that I discovered on Chowhound and there has been a lot of previous discussion on it. I have been there several times and always had good food, pleasant staff, a comfortable garden setting as a respite from busy Bangkok. We always order Issan dishes at this restaurant and have predictable and enjoyable results.
A few months ago, I had one of the worst dining experiences ever at Krua Rommai. Many menu items were not available. There was an extremely long wait for food to arrive (atypical for this restaurant).
The food was absolutely awful. Everything was absolutely wrong... as if prepared by someone who had no idea how to cook properly. I know I am being very vague... but the problems go far beyond minor criticisms. We ordered som tam Thai (the one with fish sauce and peanuts,etc.) and som tam poo pla rah (Issan style). They were completely wrong... bland and only hot (chili). Gai yaang (grilled chicken) was not gai baan (free range Issan chicken) but large farmed chicken (not the same as before). Chicken of this type can still be good in a certain context, but this example was completely dried out and tasteless and did not resemble any of the issan style grilled chicken available on carts everywhere. It tasted as if it were cooked (and overcooked) in an oven, not on charcoal.
I ordered oleang (old fashioned Thai style coffee.... the one usually made by hand in a coffee bag, served black, iced, and with sugar). This restaurant always had a nice example of this coffee but this time I was served a bitter and disgusting rendition which was obviously Nescafe or some instant coffee. We also ordered another issan dish... Nam Tok or Laap.. .I don't recall, but simply did not taste good at ALL.
The food was so bad that I did not eat any of it other than a couple bites of each dish to try. My Thai companion did not eat any either! I am not one to complain to the staff, especially in Thailand, but the food was so absolutely awful. I am not talking about personal taste and preference here... it was completely wrong. How could this restaurant go from being one of my favorite and reliable places for Issan food to the worst example of this food overnight?
When I pointed out many of the specific and severe problems with the food, the pleasant waitress said it had been sold and was under new management and that it was only the first or second day of operation under new management. No offer for correction or compensation was made, but then again I don't expect it in Thailand where the 'customer is always wrong' (though nearly always spoken to with deference and respect and in a sweet manner).
I paid the bill, left all the food, and went to eat elsewhere (I think on the street at soi 38 nearby).
Has anyone noticed the changes? Now that the restaurant has been operating for a while, what is going on? Is the food still awful? Is it excellent like it used to be? Or is it something in between?
Sorry for the multiple posts (I am new to posting). Curt, where is Kun Mai's place located? Is it a khao-lad-k(g)ang place? I see the multiple pots in the picture.
I have followed a lot of your posts on Singapore and Hong Kong which have been invaluable to me in the past (along with Peech and FourSeasons). I am a long time voyeur of this site but posted only recently.
In Singapore and Hong Kong, you can go to clean and comfortable restaurants with exceptional food. In Bangkok, it is rare, in my opinion (for Thai food, that is... Western food is a different story). Some of the 'clean' places are OKAY, but simply can't compare to the hole-in-the wall type places as far as food. This echoes what Curt mentioned. For ME, I love the traditional places in spite of their grungy-ness... not because of it.
Still, I would be interested in hearing some of your good Bangkok experiences.
Cacruden, your knowledge of the history of this cuisine is impressive.
I most certainly enjoy the regional variations in cuisine throughout Thailand. Lanna style in the north (for example Chiang Rai), the Malay inspired dishes of the deep south (for example Narathiwat), the the "Southern Thai" food you find past Chumpon... in Ranong down through Hat Yai for example, Issan Food, and central Thai food (which I have termed Siamese, perhaps inaccurately, but really just referencing old fashioned central Thai cooking). There is Chinese influence as well... Yunan in the north, and the Thai citizens that have some ethnic Chinese background (Predominantly Chaozhou in Southern China? But other areas of China as well). It is interesting how the nature of the food changes gradually as you move geographically.
Of course there is a lot of crossover. Of course there is evolution and changes in the cuisines. The more modern society becomes, the more crossover there is. It is easier for people to move and travel, and for ideas to be exchanged physically and through other media and forms of communication. Ingredients become more accessible as well.
My point was not to say that certain regional variations of food in Thailand lack credibility. I do, however, feel that there are some restaurants in all areas and in all types of food in Thailand that do not respect proper cooking technique. Now I'm opening up a whole new can of worms with my terminology of what is "proper". I think there are variations and preferences in different geographical areas, or among different families, or among different cooks, and this is all well and good. However, sometimes variations are introduced that do nothing to enhance the dish or provide an alternate viewpoint... they only detract from the spirit of the dish. In many cases, it's not even a change in ingredients, but just poor (in my estimation) cooking technique.
Thai food generally has a lot of overlapping flavors, often intense flavors, and many of us do not like when the flavors are shifted to the bland end of the spectrum. There is something to be said for delicacy of spicing and balance of flavors (in a certain context). However, my (opinionated) view is that a lot of food is made to cater to a less sophisticated palate. However condescending it may sound, I don't know how else to put it. And I'm not talking only about chilis and "heat". I'm talking about all four classically described Thai tastes of sweet, sour, salty, hot (and I personally like to throw in bitter for certain dishes).
My comment about penang curry was only a mention of one of the dishes I ate at that restaurant that I happened to enjoy.
I was saying that there are many many Chinese-Thai restaurants around (which I very much enjoy). I was not suggesting they are not real Thai food, but that the central Thai cooking found at Chote Chitr has not been easy for me to find in Bangkok outside of people's homes. It seems to be somewhat easier in the central plains outside of Bangkok.
This is becoming long winded. My point is, my definition of "real" Thai food does not exclude regions of Thailand. It excludes what I feel is watered down food. I suppose that's the same as "dumbed down"... so Curt, I hope I have not lost all credibility :)
I do not mean to sound overly negative. Discussion on this board is helpful for me in finding the 'gems' in Bangkok. I just feel that Bangkok has a lot of poor restaurants and street food with a small percentage of exceptional ones sprinkled about. Choosing a place at random outside of Bangkok has yielded much more positive results for me. I am not sure why this is and if anybody else has had the same experience.
So Caruden, you've opened up some interesting questions about the boundaries of "real" Thai food... geographically and time-frame. Could be some fun discussions that border on the philosophical. But my original post is far more simplistic. I say that that the food at Chote Chitr (however imperfect) and the food I cook at home will be more "real" than what I am likely to get at a backpacker guesthouse in central Chiang Mai (to use an extreme example).
I ate here years ago and really enjoyed it. It is one of the few truly siamese old fashioned type restaurants around Bangkok. I am finding it really difficult to find this kind of food in Bangkok. Far more prevalent is Chinese-Thai food. If I recall, I think I had penang curry prepared the proper way with peanuts. It was perfectly balanced... sweet, salty, hot... enough kati - coconut milk, but not too much... the oil separating from the curry... delicious. The roasted eggplant salad was executed well and perfectly balanced. I seem to remember that there was nothing "special" about the meal, but just that nothing was wrong. It was good food, REAL Thai food... cooked the way I like to cook Thai food at home This should not be such a rarity, but it has become rare in Bangkok.
Yeah, I remember the staff being crabby. For me it's better than artificial and insincere "niceness" coupled with poor service. That being said, they were initially REALLY crabby, but warmed up once I asserted myself.
I am disappointed to hear that food quality has declined. I will make another visit, as my visits were so long ago, and report back.
My favorite is actually on Soi 2 in Ploenchit Centre... a Lebanese restaurant. Kebab kashkash is excellent. I like the lamb there, and have had good luck with various mezze. It closes at 10pm, however.
There are many restaurants on soi 3 and especially soi 3/1. The great thing here is that they are open very late (sometimes 4am or later).
There is also a place serving food from Oman that is interesting. It looks like indian food, but feels like Arabic food. It's much more mild than Indian. This would normally be a bad thing for my personal taste, but there is a certain refinement and balance to the cooking that is delicious and it is a style of food that is very rare to find.
The guy above has a real talent for sorting out which of the non-descript street stalls are providing something special. He has a really cool blog, which I originally found while searching out authentic Indian food in Bangkok.
This may upset a lot of people, but I think Bangkok has the worst Thai food in all of Thailand. There are some gems, but so many restaurants are serving mediocre and poor food. I suspect that many local people patronize these shops due to convenience (laziness). That being said, you can do well in Bangkok with some research. Migrationology is a great resource for inexpensive no ambience street food, which by the way, is usually the most delicious food in Bangkok.
For fancy restaurants I always end up eating French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, etc. Fancy Thai restaurants simply end up tasting inauthentic. I do enjoy a restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 22,near the main road on the right side coming from the main road. It's open from lunch until relatively late (midnight or so). It isn't exactly "high end", but is comfortable. It's more expensive than typical Thai restaurants, but I feel it's worth it. I especially like the goong sam rot... deep fried large prawns with chili sauce (literally "three taste" sauce. I'm not sure which three of the four tastes: sweet, salty, sour, hot thy mean.. because it has elements of all four tastes. This type of dish is usually seved as fish - pla sam rot.
I agree with previous posts that Thai cuisine is not the best to pair with wine. It can be done... however I'd simply enjoy a Thai meal and then later have a bottle of wine and some antipasti at Enoteca Italiana on Sukhumvit Soi 29. Or some decent wine by the glass and comforting pasta dishes (and good Italian cheeses) at "de Vino" on Thonglor.
I'm sorry, my prices were incorrect by one order of magnitude!
It's actually 15,000 yen for the 250 gram steak with four (if I recall correctly) small appetizers / side dishes, just as was quoted by RoyRon. I am sure of this number. It was really a good amount of meat, especially considering the high fat content.
The 150g steak with 10 side dishes was either 11,000 or 9,000 yen. And the 150g steak with 6 side dishes was either 7,000 or 9,000 yen. I don't remember.
I was going to say you guys were such wusses for not being willing to spend this much for such a quality meal. But I then realized I added the extra zero to the prices. In Thailand they sometimes like to add an extra zero to the prices to tourists that just arrive and still have no concept of the currency's value. Anyway, sorry for the error.
They had three different set menu options. The most expensive one, as mentioned by RoyRon is 150,000 yen and includes a heavy 250 gram steak and a few small dishes (I think 4 dishes). I chose this set..
The other two sets have a 150g steak and either 6 or 10 small dishes. I don't remember the exact cost, but I think it was something like 90,000 and 110,000 yen respectively. My girl had one of these sets, and it was enough meat for her (though she is rather small).
I went to Kobe later on this same trip, and while the famous Kobe beef was amazing, I still most fondly remember my experience at Zenan. The cooking technique was just so good there.
This was a great overall experience. It is a small operation and everything is done with love, and with attention to detail. The steak was the highlight and was the most well prepared teppanyaki that I have ever had. It was seared on top and botteom... then sliced and seared on the sides... then cut into cubes and the remaining surfaces cooked, but allowing the internal areas to be a bright pink, as per my requested medium rare. I would normally order my steak rare, but considering the high fat content of this Japanese beef, the medium rare was perfect for me. My girlfriend had a really nice glass of umeshu on the rocks, and the after dinner earl grey ta in a western style teacup was a nice finish in a lovely and relaxing room. It was a perfect balance of eastern food with some western touches. The steak sandwich prepared with the fattiest parts of he meat along with dijon mustard and roasted garlic chips surpassed any western version that I have experienced. This is the kid of restaurant that quietly does it's duty and manages to be perfect in certain aspects of the overall experience.... but the kind of restaurant that you never read about in reviews. The only similar experience I had in Tokyo this trip was at a little basement shop with a loyal local following that had a large selection of amazing sake, beautiful large and old style incandescent light bulbs, an atmosphere beyond words, and the most impeccably fresh fish in a wooden bucket on ice. My oily fish was prepared as sashimi, nigiri sushi (with a tiny slice of lime on top), and grilled with salt... served with soy sauce and grated radish on the side. The waiter took such satisfaction from knowing that he pleased us with his sake recommendations. Everything was completely in Japanese`without any english script on the sign or menu. I found it by luck... it being the most atmospheric place of this trip. Zenan comes in second in this regard, but really is noted for serving high end food. It should be noted that Zenan is quite expensive, but well worth it considering what you get in terms of quality of ingredients, preparation, service, and atmosphere. Are there any more places of this sort? I endured a few "mistakes" in Tokyo, and it's a shame considering how many amazing eateries are on offer. I will try to come up with the the name of my grilled fish izakaya... it's near Shinjuku station near southeast exit. I suspect there are countless restaurant of this nature that we are unaware of.... referred only to a few popular places that are reviewed, and bombarded by low quality tourist food garbage. Anyway, further input discussion is welcome.