Lunch with Chef Cayito

Living in Bangkok, I am fortunate to have so many options for good food.  From street food to the fanciest restaurants, you can find almost anything to your taste and budget.  A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to savor delicious food by Chef Cayito and days past the taste still lingers on in my memory.  Having good food served beautifully whilst chatting with good friends is an experience all in itself. Experiences to be enjoyed, cherished and memories formed.

What did we have?

We had so many dishes, I had to look at the photos to remember what we ate.  The menu offered us a variety of tastes leading us from one dish to the other.  The first dish was a mix of yogurt and granola with some fruit sauces. ( I didn’t ask what sauces they were, I was too busy eating). It was just lovely and light enough to get your taste buds ready.  French onion soup was next with just the right amount of crunch and flavors. There’s something about warm soup that just seems to soothe and relax the soul. Trained in French cooking in Spain and coming from Mexico, our dishes were a mix of French and Spanish influences.  Grilled octopus and mussels in marinara sauce reminded me of our trip to Spain many years ago.  The sauce was so good I requested extra bread to dip into the sauce.

Main dishes arrived with a light tomato salad to accompany the grilled lamb with raspberry sauce and duck confit.  The grilled lamb was tender and melted in your mouth whilst the duck confit was divine with crispy skin and meat melting off its bones.  Duck confit has always been one of my favorite dishes when dining at French restaurants and Chef Cayito’s version was so good I would have more if I weren’t afraid of rolling out the door.  In case we wanted some more accompaniment, gratin dauphinois followed. A lover of cheese and anything creamy and hot, no matter how full I was, I had room for gratin dauphinois.  Our dessert was a wonderful surprise of light pancakes with strawberries and blueberries to end the meal. Perfect.

There’s something about having European food that always makes my heart smile a little more. It’s perhaps because it reminds me of growing up in Europe and the many trips we’d have enjoying the good food. If you want to sample Chef Cayito’s cooking, you’lll have to find him at charity events.

Sweet dreams readers. I now have to get myself a snack.

Bangkok Dining: Sendai Ramen Mokkori Silom @ Narathiwat Soi 1

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I love it when friends take me to off the beaten track eateries.  Little treasures that just make you wonder what other secrets lay hidden waiting to be discovered.   This latest discovery came quite unexpected for it was a chance meeting and we took the opportunity to go grab a bite to eat.  In search of somewhere not too far from Silom, Narathiwat and the Rama IV area my friend navigated me to this little japanese eatery called “Sendai Ramen Mokkori Silom.”

Don’t ask me what the name means. I only know “Ramen” and “Silom”(road name.)   It’s one of those eateries you find in the least expected places.  It’s at the base of an old-fashioned condominium at Narathiwat Soi 1.  It seems to have been around for quite some time and probably well-known to those who go to that area, but for me it was an area I hardly go to and a street I’ve never driven into.

What’s surprising is that walking out of the condominium parking (you can get your parking ticket validated at the eatery) you do not see the eatery right away.  I saw another Japanese place and almost went there, but lo and behold suddenly this one appears.  It’s surrounded by a lot of things, and it the daylight it’s not easy to spot, but when the lights come on, you see it clearly with the red lanterns and the lights shining from inside.

It’s small and simple inside.  A wall full of photographs of the owner with celebrities and well-known people decorate the shop and japanese writings also adorn the walls.  I always wonder if they have something unique that’s not on the menu.

The menu is dizzying.  The large B5 sized menu is filled with pictures of many types of ramen, rice dishes and other japanese favorites.  Too many makes it hard for me to choose and so I go with my favorite Mabo tofu with ramen. (It’s ramen with tofu sauce) and of course the tonkatsu (fried breaded pork) with japanese curry.    The portions are HUGE.  Not somewhere to go if you are on a diet, but a great place to go if you want to just eat and enjoy.

I liked the fact that the atmosphere took us out of the typical restaurant vibe we get in downtown Siam.  It’s less hectic and probably because it was a lazy Sunday evening one could just chill and relax without feeling pressured to give up our table to the waiting customer.   (I don’t know what it’s like on weekdays since it’s near to the business district)

The food was good and delicious for its price even though the ramen noodles were not made in-house. It wasn’t the best ramen I’ve ever had, but I think it is not too far off from the authentic ramen noodles I’ve had in Japan.  (The owner is japanese and appears on the menu cover and on the photos on the wall) The tonkatsu was crispy and lean. However if you ask me to compare the tonkatsu to that at Saboten (another japanese eatery), I have to say Saboten still wins.  The thing is, food at this eatery is roughly half the price of Saboten.

Dishes were around 140-250thb each which is a pretty good deal compared to other japanese restaurants downtown where a medium pork loin at Saboten can cost you around 290thb.  The portions are large, the flavor authentic and the atmosphere unique. I could be somewhere in Soho.

Would I go back again? Yes I will.   It’s one of those places that isn’t pretentious, the food good and a nice hideaway from the crowds of Bangkok city.  Itadakimasu.

Old Bangkok Dining: Vegetarian at Thamna on Samsen

The vegetarian festival is coming up soon in Bangkok and so if you are looking for somewhere that serves delicious vegetarian food, I recommend this little restaurant called “Thamna”.  This literally translates to “farming” in Thai.   It’s a lovely little eatery that opened up roughly two years ago and is very close to my office, so close that I had not written about it.  It is, however, one of my all time favorites and somewhere where you can go have a healthy meal.

It’s a tiny little shop with a cosy ambiance and soft music playing in the background.  Paintings line the walls and it has a somewhat artistic feel to it.  It has roughly 6 tables so I recommend making a reservation if you plan to go there during the peak hours of noon.  Office workers from nearby go to this shop during the lunch break.

What kind of food do they serve?  It’s a vegetarian restaurant so no meat is served here, only vegetables and lots and lots of mushrooms.  I love mushrooms so this is a wonderful restaurant for me.  They cook up mushrooms in different ways.  I always order the mushroom puff balls which is mushroom mixed into a little ball and fried.  It’s not greasy and is served with salad and dressing.. Somewhat like a takoyaki but with mushrooms.

Then there’s the somtum (papaya salad) which is another favorite.  They serve the papaya salad with mushrooms that have been shredded and cooked in such a way that it resembles dried pork.  It also comes with sushi which is made of brown rice wrapped in seaweed.  I love it’s originality.

If you want something a little tastier, I liked the spring rolls with three types of mushrooms stir fried in curry.  For something more filling, they also have sphaghetti stir fried with three types of mushrooms.   They also have tofu dishes and curries which are also equally delicious.

What about the price?  Together with two glasses of herbal drinks, and a whole coconut, four dishes (papaya salad, sphaghetti, mushroom puff balls, and mushroom spring roll) the receipt came out to 590 thb.   It’s slightly pricey for the area, but then you have the lovely ambiance, the soft music and the quality organic food.  For a good healthy meal, I think it’s well worth it!

Location? It’s located on Samsen Road between Soi 3 and Soi 5, and within walking distance from Banglumpoo.   If you are visiting the Grand Palace and walking around the Old Bangkok area, its not too far, so a nice place to go rest those tired legs. It’s also just around ten minutes walk from KhaoSan Road.  There is no parking, but you could find a spot somewhere in the sois nearby.  I recommend taking the taxi if you don’t want to risk having to go round and round looking for parking.  it. For reservations, call tel. +662- 282-4979 or mobile 086-662-6060.

Have a healthy meal everyone! 🙂

Bangkok Lunch Trip: Seafood at Rabienta-Le, Bangpu

It’s Friday evening and the weekend lies ahead.  When I get tired, when I need a holiday sometimes all it takes is a little day trip to revitalize the soul.  Just an hour outside of Bangkok and already it can make one feel relaxed. I see the big open sky high above me and somehow it dissolves away the hassles and tiredness of everyday life.  If you are wondering what to do this weekend, perhaps you can take a little trip to Bang pu (Bangpoo).  It’s actually only around 45 minutes away and a good place to just go have a good lunch and come back refreshed.

Bang pu is adjacent to Bangkok in Samut Prakarn province and lies southeast of Bangkok.  It borders on the Gulf of Thailand and that’s where its charm lies.  You can go have a nice meal by the gulf and it’s only an hour’s drive away.  A good place to escape the hassle and bustle of modern Bangkok.  A restaurant Alex and I tried and have since gone back is called “Rabiengta- Le” which literally translates to the “Sea Balcony.”

They have a few branches, but the one in Bangpu is located in a particularly nice location on the edge of the gulf.  You can therefore have lunch with a sea view.  It’s not beautiful (especially during the monsoons season when the waters are muddy), but its the sea and somehow that always makes things alright.  You get the breeze and the wide open space.  The mind clears up.

Rabiengta-le sells all kinds of seafood, but what I enjoy is always the basic dishes.  We ordered fish deep fried in fish sauce, prawn cakes, crab fried rice and soft shell crab fried with garlic.  Everything was delicious and fresh.  Hot off the stove.  Yes, together with just the two of us, we polished off enough food to feed five people.  The table next to us had around five people and they actually ordered roughly the same amount of food.  I even had their dessert of Sala in ice and syrup.  Definitely a good way to end the meal. It’s so refreshing.

The price was also very reasonable.  All that food came out to only around 700 thb ($23).  That’s not much compared to if we had the same kind of food in town.

An added benefit is the little walkway just in front of the restaurant.  You can walk around and sit on the bench looking out to sea. We loved it and will definitely go back there again.

Oh here’s their website:  Sadly it’s only in Thai.     http://www.rabiengta-le.com/

Bangkok Dining: Dimsum at Yuan, Millenium Hilton by the River 

It’s the weekend and though I am still feeling under the weather, something about sleeping at the early hours of 9pm and waking up in the wee hours of the morning is refreshing.  The sky is blue, the birds are chirping and the wind is in the air.  It is refreshing and a great way to re-energize.  Of course, another great way to re-energize is to go out and have some good food with good company.  If you fancy some dimsum I recently discovered a new place upon recommendation of a dear friend.  It’s called “Yuan” (which makes me think of the Chinese Yuan which is the local chinese currency).

What I love about this dimsum place is that you get freshly made dimsum. None of that frozen and re-steamed kind of dimsum.  Each portion is large and you can taste the quality of the ingredients inside.  I had some dimsum made out of snow fish, the usual shumai, fried taro with red pork, fried cream buns and a few other dishes. My favorite was the fried cream bun.  It’s crunch on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside.  Great food, just go run afterwards.

If you opt for the “All You Can Eat” dimsum which goes for 730thb net it does not only include dimsum, but you are also give choices of soup, noodles and dessert.  A great deal if you eat a lot.

I had the fish soup with thousand year old egg, fried noodles with red pork, jelly fish,  and mango pudding.  Everything was delicious.   Nothing like those greasy chinese food I had while in college.  At Yuan, everything is good quality and non-greasy.  I suppose this is what real Chinese food should be like.

Ambiance ?  It’s by the river so that’s always a plus for me.  If you book early, you can get a seat by the window, but since the restaurant is relatively well-known it gets quite crowded and all tables are fully booked.  Not somewhere to go if you want a quiet romantic lunch.   If you want a private room, they also have a large room which is in a corner so it has a beautiful view.  It’s also large enough for kids to be running around in.

The decoration is modern and simple.  My kind of place.  The greatest surprise, however, was the music.  Throughout the entire lunch I could hear beautiful chinese music playing in the background and just assumed it was a CD playing.   Only later did I realize that the music played at Yuan is actually live music.  A young lady sits on the upper level of the room playing a chinese string instrument.  (forgive me I know not what you call it.)

Another great surprise for those who like to watch people cook is the kitchen.  It’s separated by a glass wall from the dining area so you can sneak a peak at all the chefs cooking.  I feel like I am Ratatouille watching all the action from a corner.  I see the dimsum section being steamed to order, the noodle section sizzling away on the stove and even the peking duck being roasted in a wood fried oven. It’s amazing.  Everyone knows what to do to get our food out on time.

Getting there? The journey for me is always as important as getting to the destination and getting to Yuan is in itself an adventure.  It’s located at the Hilton Millenium Hotel by the Chaophraya River on the Thonburi side so for Bangkokians who live on the other side of the river, the Thonburi side is somewhat of a mystery and feels like unchartered territory even though it’s just a bridge across.   I have good news though.   If you feel like going carless and avoid the traffic, this hotel by the river is skytrain BTS accessible.  All you have to do is go to the “Saphan Taksin” station and take exit number 2.  Follow the walk way until you reach the pier.  There will be piers for the Chaophraya Express but those are for those taking river tours.  To your left will be the hotel boat piers.  There are signs available telling you which hotel boat stops at what pier.   Each hotel boat usually comes 15-20 mins apart so just take a seat and enjoy the view.

Oh here’s their contact info:  Millenium Hilton Hotel:  http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/BKKHITW-Millennium-Hilton-Bangkok-hotel/dining.do;jsessionid=00E1A6D4599DA83DC74FFB61B8F0AC19.etc82

Address

:  123 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, Bangkok, Thailand 10600
Tel: 66-2-442-2000    Fax:  66-2-442-2020

It’s open 11.30am to 10.30pm, but when I called they said I could arrive at 11.00am.  🙂  Have a good dimsum everyone!

Bangkok Dining: Ramentei

 

Talking to a Japanese friend about Japanese food and ramen, I cannot but think about taking you to this ramen place I’ve been going to since I was young called “Ramentei.”  If you live in Bangkok, I’m sure many of you have heard about this place and have been to it.  They have a couple branches, with the original one being near Villa Supermarket on Sukhumvit 33.  There’s another one next to Thaniya Plaza where one goes to see golf materials, and there is also one between Suriwong and Silom roads.

What I love about it, is that it’s simple, serves good food fast and you know what to expect.  Delicious ramen, served efficiently and in a relatively clean restaurant.   Some locations are older than others, but overall, it’s clean and good.   You can choose between sitting in the Japanese style tables, or on regular tables.  I personally prefer regular tables since I always think they’re more comfortable and don’t require my pushing myself to get up.

What’s good? My current favorite is the Hiyashi Ramen. I’ve suddenly grown to enjoy cold ramen and especially when it’s full of vegetables and delicious sesame infused sauce, I cannot resist it.  You get to enjoy the full flavor of the noodle and its texture.  Alex had the pork ramen and that too was good if you enjoy hot soup with meats.  I’ve had other kinds of ramen though and so far I’ve enjoyed them all.  Also, I like the fact that Japanese people also frequent this place (which to me means that it is a sign of approval).  If the japanese come here for ramen, then it must be quite good don’t you think?

Oh another thing, if the portion is too large for you, you can always ask for the smaller bowl.  I think they take around 20baht off your bill, which isn’t much, but then you don’t have to worry about wasting food that could go to feed other hungry people.

The last time I went (which was a few months ago) the dishes were around 180thb each and very reasonable.  With all this inflation, prices may have gone up a bit, but I suspect it will still be value for money.    Itadakimasu!

Old Bangkok Dining: Duck Noodles @ Nang Lerng Market

I’ve been up since 5.30am this morning.  I’m up this early not because I’m ill, nor do I have somewhere to go this early in the morning, but I’m up because I was so exhausted yesterday I came home and fell  flat on my bed at 9.30pm and a good eight hours later, I am up.  I have to say that I feel totally refreshed and alive once again.  Since it’s the weekend (and because I’m getting hungry) I thought I’d take you on a little trip to have duck noodles at an old Bangkok market.

If you’ve been following me since last year, you’d probably know how I love having noodles for lunch. I still do (though now I can also have them for dinner) and when I discover a noodle place that’s delicious, I just get all happy and giddy.  Today’s duck noodles is the one at Nang Lerng Market which is near to the Nang Lerng stadium where horse races are held.  It’s on the border between old Bangkok and modern Bangkok and not too far by taxi.  It’s around thirty minutes from Siam Square.

These noodles are legendary but I didn’t have the opportunity to go try it out, until one day Alex and I were both free and decided this was the place to go have lunch.  And so we went.  We got off in front of the Nang Lerng market on Nakorn Sawan Road and made our way across the zebra crossing.   Just waiting to cross, we were already tempted by the delicious aroma of grilled chicken sticks that were being grilled.  They had the “shell shuan shim” sign which is like a mark of approval and so we had to try it.  It was delicious. Juicy marinated grilled chicken. Comfort food.

Although the Nang Lerng market is one of Bangkok’s oldest fresh markets it is no longer wet nor dark and grimy as you might expect for something that’s been around over a hundred years.  The market has been renovated and now the shop houses are beautifully painted in pink and white and new tiles adorn the insides.  It also no longers functions as a fresh market but its stills are instead filled with ready made foods ranging from curries, noodles to an assortment of desserts.

The duck noodle place is just off from the main square and it occupies a shop house of itself.   Catering to the modern Bangkokian, they also have an airconditioned room which although is not as authentic, but it is a good place to rest from all the commotion and the hot Bangkok air.  I, of course, took the air-conditioned room, and all its coolness for a mere ten baht extra.

The walls of the room are lined with photos of all the famous people who have eaten here and a large sign with the “shell shuan shim” sign also adorns its wall telling me again that it is indeed delicious.  I ordered noodles with plain duck (no skins).  The noodles came fast and the portions are relatively large.  The soup was full of flavour and sent me to another level of happiness.  Liking meaty foods, the duck was indeed satisfying. Large pieces of duck filled my bowl.

If you like goose, they also serve goose cooked in earthen ware as well as fried duck and other delicous dishes.    They also do catering and deliver.  Something to note in case you ever find yourself in need of some delicious duck noodles.

My stomach’s growling now thinking of the duck noodles, and since I haven’t had breakfast I should get myself something to eat.   Have a good Saturday and if you happen to go try duck noodles, let me know how you like it!