Friday, January 30, 2009

Hot and Steamy Nights in Bangkok : Food expose

I know I have cheated on everyone I know. I feel guilty and terrible that I have cheated, but not with the " Thai Bar girls" and the "Sandwich massage" but with the food. Yes I did not eat Thai street food but lived a surreal and an airbrushed life of a expat, eating at, the better and high end restaurants (comparatively) rather than the street food and local exotica and the hard core stuff that I was yearning for.

When I was growing up in Visakhapatanam (aka Vizag and Waltair), across the street where we lived in Dwarka Nagar was a house with Thai tenants. They were perhaps students or what and the girls always wore shorts (this is 1975) all the time and always showed their plump and fair thighs. I often wondered and fantasized.... hmmm thats the reason why they call it Thailand.

Seriously, we were in Bangkok for 4 nights and lived at the Wireless road, the expat area opposite the US Ambassadors residence in the Hotel Conrad complex at the All Seasons Mansion. We arrive at 8pm and again unabashedly order Indian Chinese food yet again, from dragon a home delivery. If you have read the previous post you would know, we are with Shilpa our host and we order Veg momos (yes momos and not dim sum), Veg chowmein , Veg fried rice, Veg Manchurian and Salt and pepper Prawns. Believe me, I haven't tasted a more authentic Indian Chinese food meal anywhere else in the world, even in India. Every ingredient was perfect and this is high street Bangkok.

The Other interesting meals were at MK's Gold at Siam Paragon(the upmarket version of a chain of Chinese restaurants), Seafood Market Restaurant at Sukhumvit, GreyHound Cafe at Central Chidlom, Loy Nava (traditional rice boat dinner cruise), Curries and More -traditional Thai restaurant at Ruamrudee, the Jungle cruise buffet at Safari Park, Calderazzo Italian Ristorante at Lang Suan, Witch's Oyster bar at Ruamrudee and Au bon pain at M Thai Tower at All Season's Place and that's it. If you don't count a deli or two here and there for breakfast or a Mc Donalds thrown in for good measure.

So how do you elaborate on 9-10 interesting meals without losing the reading retention span. I will try to write an abridged narration with outline experiences, price and a narration of food so please bear with me.

Mk's is chain of restaurants, I understand they have a upgraded version called Mk's Gold thats where I went, to a sit down restaurant for a quick bite, roast duck, roast pork with rice served with a soup and slivers of pickled ginger and some cucumber in and out in 10 minutes for a served on table with crockery cutlery and a white serviette service. In all Bht 100 with a gratuity. Thats nearly a Rs 140/-. Amazing Thailand. The food was yumm.

Sea food market restaurant at Sukhumvit, basically a large hall as big as multiplex with 6-8 screens, it was my third visit and the family's first. We start with a hostess with a trolley taking us around to shop at the stylised fish market, we bought, river prawns, sea halibut fish, shrimp cakes and lots of pakchoi and broccolli and french bread. Accompanied by Chilean white Saint Alacia wine. After shopping and paying for the ingredients we seat ourselves and choose a cooking style with cooking charges we choose between, stir fried fried and char grilled. Detective An (Ananya) freaks out she binges on everything, prawn cakes (fried), stir fried garlic river prawns and the garlic and soya pakchoi. Dear wife Praveen can't handle the smells, however, she feasts on the char grilled halibut fish and pecks on the garlic bread and sticky white rice. I gorge myself in the surreal lighting. In all a great experience . It costs Baht 1735 which nearly Rs 2400 now. I am sure going to a countryside place in inner Thailand will always be better, however in downtown Bangkok it was nice. It took us a little over an hour for the entire experience. Fantastic service 4 waiters to a table and unobtrusive.
Detective An loves it, she takes to the fish(seafood) as fish takes to water, metaphorically, that is. Good experience, for three persons with drinks (coke, Asahi beer wine and the starters and main course). The only caution, there are several smaller restaurants masquerading to be the real thing. The cabbies play dumb and try to misguide you.

The next stop is Grey Hound cafĂ©: Started by an advertising professional, has restaurants all over Bangkok. Dear wife Praveen detests restaurants located in malls. But she agreed to this one on Shilpa, our host, insisting. It’s a quirky place with Thai fusion cuisine with waiters with quaint messages like “I may not be cute, but I help you order the best”. The restaurant is designed in black and white”. Four of us ordered, drinks- Ginger ale, Sprite , a yoghurt smoothie. Lunch – A pasta for shilpa, Fried fish in beer barter with chips for Detective An and Dear wife and I shared a Pomelo salad (grapefruit with shrimps and dried fish), Phad Thai (Thai flat noodles and shrimp with peanuts and chilli powder), spare ribs of pork, and a portion of fried rice with salted fish which came with a bowl of soup. The food was fashionable but not yummy and we tried quite a bit. More like our Indian fusion cuisine places which have enormously dressed up plates with passable food. It costed about Bht 1400 which is nearly Rs 2000/-. Not bad for the price despite the shallow service.

Curries and More: I must confess I did not go, my dear wife Praveen went to this lovely restaurant on Rumrudee and loved the experience. I ate some of the food they brought back. Yummy, Some rice and some interesting dish of chicken (with a nice yellow thick curry, Indonesian) and a flavourful prawn dish again yummy, Tom yum Kung soup, a pomelo salad, jasmine tea, iced tea and blueberry cheeese cake about Bht1800 approx Rs 2500/- for two and a little spillover for home which I ate.

Now the Dinner Cruise night on the traditional rice boat Loy Nava which has been in operation for over 39 years. This was an all farhang (goras) outing and me and Praveen were the only brownies on the wooden boat and deck (of course apart from the service staff and the dancers). This was a romantic dinner date, with Detective An at home , watching movies and gorging on yet again on Indian Chinese food.We started with a beer and orange juice at the pier, waiting to board the cruise. The Goras were elegantly dressed in collared shirts and trousers and women in dresses. Praveen was in formals and as usual I was as usual grubby in a T-shirt and jeans. Now for the food, reminds me of Bruce Springsteen's song, 57 channel s and nothing to watch. Similarly, to summarise excellent service, expensive wine, high end expat travellers, clipped British accent guide (Derek) and owner but terrible food.
We were served with soup, a choice of actually12 main courses brought to the table, desert and tea and coffee. The only thing edible was the Tom yum kung soup, the pineapple in the dessert and of course the tea. Everything else was just inedible, more quantity than quality (steamed fish, clams, prawns, callamari, fried pork, fried beef, soya based vegetarian stuff, chicken and more and believe me I pecked. If couldn't eat it, believe me a lot of people and more cannot go beyond pecking. The wine a sparkling one, a German Trocken was decent. On a experience quotient it was an interesting thing to do. Fantastic service standards, poor food. Amazing sights of Bangkok from the river Chayo Praya.

Just a hurried mention of the lunch at the Jungle cruise restaurant in Safari world, Me and Detective An dug into the fish ball soup and everything else was forget able. Curiosity, got me to peak into Jungle Cruise restaurant 2, there was Indian food, pooris, veg pulao, aloo subzi, dal , rice. There was even a Jain version, for all the droves of Indian Holiday makers. Me and Detective An had a super deluxe time picked and dropped in a Toyota Camry with the tour and guide Mr Mee who was a such a gentleman. It cost us Bht 3200 approx Rs 4500/-. I was memorable trip with cold wet towels and mineral water with chauffeur handing out an umbrella. Too propah I must say.

Calderazzo, dear wife had already been to this fine dining Italian restaurant on her previous visit, and wanted to repeat and relive the experience with us. Its a beautiful restaurant in a villa on Lang Suan road, Its five years old and has had nine version of the menu upgrade (means the menu has been revised nine times). Its sparkling white with nearly three waiters/waitresses to a table. We order, there are four of us, drinks - a glass of house wine- a chardonnay, a singha beer, a sprite and something else. Start with a bruschetta, lots of bread with olive oil and balsmic vinegar, I have a bed of mashed potato with a Italian sausage and great honey balsmic sauce, heavenly. Praveen has a pizza and Detective has a pasta (penne) with a kind of arabiatta with tons of parmesan cheese and shilpa has ravioli. Outstanding food and outstanding service. In all about bht1900 approx Rs 2600/-. Outstanding and a repeat yet again is highly recommended.

A quick stop at Witch's a pub for expats after a crawl in Suan Lum the night bazaar topped of the trip. Witch's is a kind of pub/ tavern place with a online community and a tabloid called The Cauldron attached to it. The white boys showing the Thai girls a good time kind of place, decent hot coffee, cappucino and we were ready to pack, just before that......

Praveen suggested and bought us yet again a great lunch at a Deli called Au bon pain, nice toasted bagels and cream cheese, Bagels with salmon and wasabi, tuna sanwich , sprite and coffee all this for the three of us, for Bht 500 about Rs 700/- Cheerful place with helpful and real smart staff. Some trips to Starbucks and others closed the trip from gastronomic point of view.

I have decieved the cause and the raison d etre (the reason of my existance), but what the hell. Once in a while I can behave and act like a true blooded expat when I really was one, though a brethren of the Asians in that.

Largely, Thailand felt unaffected by the global recession and crisis, the hoardings were all full and crowded, shops, malls were crowded and full of shoppers (it was also the Chinese New year weekend).

In all a great trip which cost me + 2.5 kgs...

So Long


Ajay Gupta said...

Incredible, you have that rare thing. In just a while, I relived my recent Thailand visit.


Praveen said...

great detailing sammy.

you were actually working on this while holidaying in bangkok.

curries and more was actually good...ego thai back home is close to it.

looking forward to it.

murali said...

Oye Samilu,

The Bankkok stuff is really good. When are you goin to write about your hot and steamy afternoons at the various 'bhawans' (kerala, andhra, orissa et el)in delhi, yaar!

Will look forward to that.


piyush said...

Grt...don't be so guilty of overspending :)

Good that you wrote in details..most of us hv been there but dont know much beyond the obvious,massages and a Serd Indian rest...
what's next buddy !

The knife said...

We loved the food at Bangkok. You must try out Cabbages and Condoms the next time you are there. Whacky settings, great Thai food, slightly expensive...totally worth it

LukTarn said...

i guess you did not have a very good time in greyhound cafe, what went wrong?

this cafe is awesome...never thought there will be complaints with my favorite restaurant...

Samil said...

guess it was located in a mall. paricularly not fond of restaurants in a mall. Was too fusion for my liking. hope its better next time cheers !

Anonymous said...

Hello. Excuse me just a question. I heard talking about Thailand here. I'm about going on holiday to Asia. I would like some info on Pattaya in Thailand. I would know if It's a good place to go with family or should I choose another place? Thank You so much.

Samil said...

Phuket is much better.