Bangkok Dining: Mexican Food @ La Monita

Sunday night is here and finally this writer gets to continue on with her blog. The fast few days have just been hectic, tiring and not enough “me” time. There have been some comments that I haven’t been reviewing enough restaurants so tonight I want to share with you a Mexican restaurant that just makes you feel like you are in the Americas.

It certainly does remind me of college days when we’d go to Happy Hour after hours or after late study sessions at night to munch on quesadillas and nachos. Since moving back, I’ve been only to a few places that serve good quesadillas, nachos and other mexican foods. La Monita is one of the better ones.

The first time I went to La Monita was about a year ago when it was just newly opened. Near to the Ploenchit BTS station it is only a few minutes walk to the row of shop houses neighboring Mahatun Plaza where the restaurant is open. I went with a long time friend of mine and together we ate several dishes, all were delicious and good. The restaurant itself was relatively quiet with only a handful of tables, dim lighting and relaxed service. You felt like you were in some remote Mexican restaurant. What I did notice though was that most of the clientele were expatriates. I kept in mind that I will have to go back and eat there again.

This past week, I had the opportunity to go back with another group of friends and what a surprise I had. Within the space of one year, the restaurant had expanded to occupy a neighboring shop house and it was brimming with clients. In the new adjoining section, they even had a second floor as as far I could see, all the tables were occupied. Reservations were needed. This restaurant was no longer a remote little place, it was now a hot and happening place. I even unexpectedly ran into a couple of old friends whom I had not met in a long time.

Okay so its now a busy restaurant with lots of people, but what about the food? The food was still as good as I remembered it to be. I love quesadillas and the ones at La Monita come with a choice of fillings and size. You can have either the ten-inch or twelve-inch quesadilla depending upon your appetite. I had the chicken ten-inch one and I have to say that it was very satisfying. The filling was well cooked and the guacamole is just enough to give it bite and taste.

I also had the soft-flour Tacos and those were equally satisfying. Soft wrappings with lots of stuffings have always been a type of food I enjoy and especially so when the filling isn’t too rich nor heavy. Their beef nachos were also delicious as well as rice with a kind of cuban topping. (If I remember correctly) They also have a number of other dishes on the menus including ensaladas, but since the dishes are relatively large, we could not stuff ourselves with anymore food.

If you want some drinks to go along with your dishes, they also serve drinks so its a good place to go for some “happy hours.”

The decor is simple and in bright colours which liven up the place. The seats are simple benches or if you want a higher view, they also have high chairs to go with the high tables that line the front of the restaurant.

The service is fast, efficient and friendly. Overall, I think La Monita is a great place to go hang out with friends, colleagues for a relaxing Mexican meal of Tacos, Quesadillas and Nachos ūüôā Buen Provecho!

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Bangkok Dining: Buttercup @ Amari Residences

It’s been a busy few days for this writer but fear not, she has not forgotten Having “Me” Time.¬† It’s¬† has become a part of her life that can no longer be separated, for no matter how much there is to do, you must take time out to enjoy it a little, experience the moment, remember the little things in life.¬† One such way of course is to reunite with friends, chit chat, catch up on each others lives and all this while enjoying good food and good atmosphere. (Girls always like the nice ambiance)¬† Last weekend, I had the opportunity to explore this cafe and restaurant called “Buttercup.”

The name itself is so adorable it brings me back to my childhood days when you still ran around on the grass and got your hands dirty with dirt and flowers.¬†¬†¬† We’d play with buttercups (yes the real flowers) and put them under our chin to see if its beautiful shade of yellow would reflect onto our chin.¬† If it did, it was supposed to mean that your wish would come true (or something like that).¬† How wonderfully simple life was back then.

This cafe and restaurant was just as cute as it’s name.¬† I’ve always liked bright colours and this of course, to go with it’s name, this place was decorated in a beautiful shade of yellow.¬† Not too bright, not too orange, this was a nice soft yellow with a tinge of grey.¬† The minute you walk in, you feel relaxed.¬† I suppose the fact that it also borders on a beautiful lush green courtyard garden and the fact that it was raining the morning I went gave it all a more relaxed atmosphere.

There’s a table to greet with you a selection of scones, cookies and other little decorations.¬† There’s a large bookshelf cutely decorated that gives it a more homey atmosphere.¬† There are also plenty of magazines and newspapers for you to pick and choose.¬† If you want to check out the cakes, there is a large selection for you to choose from.

The seating is also quite nice.  You can sit on couches, normal dining tables as well as outdoors if you dare to brave the heat.  I suppose it would be a good place to come back in the winter months.  All the seats are comfortable so you can sit there and spend time with your friends for quite a few hours.

What’s on the¬† menu?¬† We tried chicken pot pie, spring rollls with ham and cheese, mini burgers,¬† fried chicken wings,¬† sphagetthi carbonara, spicy spaghetti with mushrooms and cake.¬† The food I thought was good and something you can come back again to.¬† It’s not out of this world delicious Michelin star level, but it’s a good everyday restaurant where you can come back again and again.¬† My favorite was the sphaghetti.¬† Both the carbonara and the spicy one were delicious.¬† Being a fan of pies and anything with puff pastry, I also liked the chicken pot pie.

Drinks and service? They had quite a selection of drinks from their own unique expresso with strawberry sauce (which my colleague tried), smoothies, and I had the green tea latte.¬† Now I’m particular about not having syrup with my drinks and always make a note to ask for it on the side.¬† In other restaurants, I might get a somewhat confused look from the waitress, but at Buttercup they understood my request.¬† A few minutes later, as desired, my green tea latte came with syrup on the side and no whip cream.¬† I have to tell you it’s a relief to not have to ask them to redo drinks.¬†¬† Service at buttercup therefore gets top marks from me.¬† Everyone was friendly, food was on the slow side, but we spent the time chit chatting way, and they got the orders all correct.

So if you are looking out for a place to catch up with friends, reunions or just somewhere to go have a relaxing brunch on the weekends, I think Buttercup is really quite a little discovery. It’s quiet and there isn’t a buzz of people everywhere.¬†¬† Oh the prices are also quite reasonable.¬† Most dishes range from around 180thb to 250thb.

Here’s their website:¬† www.buttercupbkk.com¬† They open from 9.00am to 8.00pm and their number is 02-319-9630 if you need to make a reservation.¬† Bon appetit!

Introduction: Bangkok Must Sees and Eats

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends lately requesting recommendations about where they can¬†entertain guests or friends¬†from abroad.¬† We want to take them somewhere that is uniquely Thai,¬†and¬†see¬†things that shouldn’t be missed on one’s trip here.¬† What is there to see that is local?¬† Where are some good restaurants that serve great¬†food and have good ambiance (without killing your bank account)?¬† Where can one go which is not confined to shopping malls and yes, more shopping malls?¬† How should we plan the day?

Bangkok is a large city of 10 million people¬†and there is much to see and¬†do¬†similar to most cosmopolitan cities¬†that¬†thinking of “uniquely local”¬†things can be¬†a daunting task.¬† I’ve therefore decided that it’s time for me to compile the best of what there is to see and do in Bangkok and Day Trips to places not far off.¬† These are¬†places I’ve taken my friends out to, places I’ve visited¬†and things that I find work for those who like things a little out of the ordinary.

Recommendations will include must sees for first time visitors, restaurants and suggested itineraries.¬† It’d be a we week long series so keep posted!

If you have any suggestions or ideas, please also feel free to¬†share them. ¬†ūüôā¬† We would all love to hear from you.¬†¬† If you don’t have any friends visiting just yet, what better way to spice up life a bit then take a trip in your own city ūüôā When was the last time you acted like a tourist in your own hometown?

Bangkok: The Beirut Restaurant

I enjoy eating food cooked in almost every style.¬† I love italian food, japanese food, french food, italian food, indian food, and yes even british food.¬† (There’s something about mushy peas as well as fish and chips)….The list is endless, but tonight I want to talk about middle eastern food and a great place to have it at Beirut Restaurant.

Beirut Restaurant is a Lebanese restaurant and apparently has quite a few branches.  I went to the one at Ploenchit Tower (accessible by BTS station Ploenchit) with some good friends who like to explore. The restaurant and the food turned out much better than we expected.  So good that since then we have all been back again together as well as with others.

So what do they serve?  As Lebanon borders on Syria and Israel, the food you get there is the classic range of blended beans, eggplants and other kinds of dips.  My favorite is the Hummus made of blended chickpeas and olive olive oil, Babaghanouj which is an eggplant dip, and Labneh which is a creamy farmers cheese dip made from strained yogurt topped with olive oil.  You can have it with garlic too.   If you like it with fried lamb or beef you can also have it.   I like Shawarma Chicken.   

Another favorite that also brings be back to college days is Falafel.  These are vegetarian patties made from chick peas, onion, garlic parsley and other spices.  Its especially good if you have it as a sandwich in pita bread.  
If you like something more healthy, there are Vine Leaves.  These are actual vine leaves rolled over rice and olive oil.  Its served cold which I always fine so refreshing.
With all this menu, what about the food?¬† I have to say the food tastes good.¬† It’s middle eastern food¬†that I enjoy¬†served in a convenient and clean location.¬†¬†Tables are comfortable and not too small nor too big. It looks like it was just renovated.¬†There were middle eastern customers too so I think it should be quite¬†authentic.¬† The owners take your¬†order in¬†english and¬†I¬†am guessing they are Lebanese, but helas we¬†never had that conversation.¬†¬† It’s all done quietly without much talking.¬† You say what you want and they take your order.¬† No rush. ¬†There are plenty of staff around too, but it can be a bit hard getting their attention.¬†

The good thing is that it’s not an extremely busy place so you can sit, eat and linger there for a good while enjoying your meal.¬† It’s not somewhere you have to eat quickly and get out quickly so that waiting customers can come in.¬† There’s also a starbucks upstairs and a Villa supermarket where you can take a nice stroll and relax your afternoon away.

If you drive, there are plenty of parking spaces for you to choose from (if you go on a weekend).  Entrance is opposite the JW Marriot hotel.

Price wise is also quite reasonable.¬† The dips are roughly 150-160 thb each, Vine Leaves 220thb.¬† If you order 3-5 things there is also a special price for sets.¬† You can have a full meal with a couple dishes for roughly 300-400thb.¬† Not bad is it? ūüôā

Old Vienna: Coffee at Demel and Central

Amidst the boxes I’m¬†happy I finally found my box of photo CDs.¬† I’m delighted the DVD reader reads them well and the photographs are still there after almost a decade.¬† I shall have to back them up.¬† With digital cameras, I take more pictures but print less and then end up losing some when my harddisk crashes. Technology.¬† Looking through my Vienna photos, I am reminded of the coffee culture there.¬† There are cafes or “Kaffeehaus”¬†¬†on almost every road.¬† Each with their own atmosphere and their own unique style.¬† Stories abound as to how it all¬†started.¬† Some say when the Turks were defeated in 1683 they left bags of coffee, ¬†hence started the coffee culture in Vienna.¬† Fascinating.¬† Now coffee is known worldwide.

I have two favorites in Vienna.  Cafe Demel and Cafe Central.  Demel is wonderfully beautiful and dates from 1786.  The Hofburg towers above the small road from Demel at Karntnerstrasse and the selection of cakes and candies are in such intricate little boxes I want to keep the packaging.  They not only look good, they taste good.  Empress Sissi of Vienna is said to have ordered candies and other goods from this coffee shop. 

When you enter, you immediately see a long counter of candies and snacks.¬† There used to be seating in the front room, but now they have converted the entire area to a little shop.¬† Luckily, I had the opportunity to enjoy the ambiance of the old room that dates back over 200 years.¬† It’s a small coffee shop and there are crowds of people but the atmosphere is just wonderful. Inside you can watch them making chocolate and there is even a little museum.¬† (http://www.demel.at/) There is also plenty of seating in the back.

However, if you want to go to a more spacious coffee house and enjoy coffee with live classical music, go to Central cafe. Housed in the Palais Ferstal which was originally built for the Stock Exchange, it is in a beautiful architectural style of late romantic historism. (According to their website: http://www.palaisevents.at/en/cafecentral.html not exactly sure what that term means, but I like the architectural style anyways)

Central Kaffeehaus is a place for philosphers, thinkers and writers. Even Sigmund Freud and Trotsky used to come here.  I like it.  There are newspapers in various languages for you to read free of charge.  If you go there in the afternoon around 3pm there will be live music of either Strauss or Mozart or other famous classical music  performed by a Violinist, Cellist and Pianist.  I forget if they play everyday or not, but I suppose you could call and ask.   Nevertheless, the music sounds magical.  
 
Especially so when its cold outside and you need somewhere warm to just sit and relax.  I remember going there amidst the snow fall.  It was cold and getting dark, but the warmt that greets you inside clears all that away.  The high archs, painted ceilings and lighting that take you back in time makes you feel warm and fuzzy.  All this whilst taking it in all with one sip at a time. This is the soul of Vienna.  This is what I love.  
 
Even if you don’t drink coffee,¬†like¬†me,¬†you can just go there for tea or cup of hot chocolate.¬† Their chocolate there is good, more than good.¬† It’s rich and chocholaty. Just the way I like it…yeah.¬† Their Apfelstrudel is also so good. I like Apfelstrudel.¬† Somehow the ones in Bangkok just don’t taste the same.

Old Vienna: Schnitzel at Figmueller

It’s the weekend and we all must dine.¬† I love long weekends where I have the time to meet friends, hang out and just enjoy eating good food.¬† Life is great at this point.¬† When we travel, we also must eat good food.¬† For me, travel and good food go hand in hand.¬† To experience a culture fully, you must eat the food they eat and enjoy the entire experience.¬† One of my favorite restaurants in Vienna which is frequented by both locals and visitors is the “Figlmueller.”¬†

Opened since 1905, at Figlmueller you can have one of the most famous “Schnitzel” in Vienna.¬† I¬†drool just thinking about it.¬† What is¬†this weird sounding food called “schnitzel”?¬† It is¬†basically¬†pork tenderloin which has been pounded until very thin.¬† It is then put into a batter and topped with breadcrumbs before being fried.¬† It’s served with salad and potatoes.¬†

You can have schnitzel almost everywhere in Vienna, but what makes Figlmueller so special is that the schnitzel here is very thin.¬†¬† They pound it so thin that the schnitzel literally falls off your plate with a diameter of more than 30cm.¬†¬†It’s not greasy and the pork is just so crispy and tender at the same time.¬†¬† It is delicious. My stomach is starting to growl even though I just had a lovely dinner and I don’t want to eat before sleeping so I shall have to stop my description of the food¬†here.¬† Go try it if you have time ūüôā

The ambiance?¬† There are two restaurants all within walking distance of the Stephansdom, but the original one is at Wolzeille.¬†As you make your way to the alley you might wonder if you are in the right place.¬† It’s quiet, until you get to the restaurnat and step inside.¬†It’s bustling yet its¬†cosy and you feel like you are in a traditional viennese restaurant.¬† The wooden tables and windows that open out onto the small alley where the restaurant is located makes it worthwhile.¬†¬†¬† I’ve never been to the newest one at Backerstrasse, but I heard from those who’ve been that its equally good and a bit a less crowded.

The price is also not too expensive.¬† It’s EUR13.90 for a Schnitzel and that is usually enough for a full meal.¬† With some salads it’ll be around EUR20 per person… I must¬†thank my local Austrian friend¬†who recommended me this place.¬† If¬†it wasn’t for her, I’d never have found it. ¬†Hmm.. I wonder if I’d ever get to go back there again…I hope so.¬†¬†

As with all¬†places in this day and age, I discovered they have¬†a website so check it out if you have time ūüôā¬† http://www.figlmueller.at/index.php

Chocolate Crazy at Cherubin, Sukhumvit 31

It’s been a few days since my last post and much has happened since then.¬† Well, by “much” I mean I’ve moved from an apartment¬†back into a¬†house, did some unpacking and am slowing getting used to driving new routes to and from the house.¬† Anyways, after all this packing and unpacking, I am now dreaming of some great Chocolate cake by Cherubin following my virtual trip to ISAO.

I love chocolate, I love dark chocolate.¬† I love chocolate that isn’t too sweet nor too creamy.¬† I love Lindt dark chocolates.¬† They’re the best.

There are a lot of bakery shops in Bangkok with all types of cakes to suit your style, but one that is especially appealing to me though is CHERUBIN.¬† It’s located on Sukhumvit 31, right next to ISAO (reviewed in my previous post) and is a cute little bakery with roughly 6-7 tables.¬† It’s quite spacious and there is an adorable little corner inhabited by a number of teddy bears.¬†¬† (I know I’m a little old for teddy bears, but there is just something about them that make me all soft inside.¬†)¬† It has a clean, sleek atmosphere yet there are also two soft couches and some teddies here and there to make you feel cosy and warm.

They have a great menu of cakes, with the main ingredient all being chocolate.¬†(Yes, they specialize in chocolate so if you are a chocolate lover like me, you’d love it.) ¬†With over a dozen kind of cakes to choose from I was at a lost and so I had to try their best recommendations.¬†¬† I had the “Nuts About Chocolate, “the “French Chocolate Cake” and “Caramel Monkey”¬†both were just wonderfully delicious.¬†

The Nuts about Chocolate was a two-layered¬†soft chocolate sponge¬†covered¬†with chocolate and almond¬†nuts.¬† The chocolate was just the way I like it..not too sweet, not too fudge-like and had a delicate choclate taste.¬†¬† The French Chocolate cake was also good for those who like warm chocolate cake where the centre just melts away with each bite.¬† This too wasn’t so sweet and the slightly salty taste was good.¬† I also had the Caramel Monkey which, of course, has bananas inside it, with some cream and a light coat of powdered chocolate.¬† Hmm… it was good.¬†

To go with these cakes, Cherubin offers a variety of hot chocolate, ice chocolate, teas and other drinks.  If you have tea, the pot is refillable with hot water so you could share it with a few of your friends.

Price-wise it is around 100-120thb ($3-4) per piece and you could spend a good hour or so there just having some chill out time or relaxing with good friends. 

Mind you, it has only 2 parking spaces so I recommend walking a little and using the BTS.¬† Get off at Phromprong station and walk to Sukhumvit 31.¬† It’s on your left once you enter the soi.¬† It’s a nice little walk.. you pass by Villa Supermarket¬† and other little shops.¬†¬†

I hope you enjoy the cake! I don’t have it at the moment, but just writing about it takes me back to its wonderful taste.¬† ūüôā¬† Hmm..I will have to start baking once I’m settled in with the big oven.