Food and Food: Asia and Travels12 Mar 2008 09:19 am

I guess I could split the rest of our time in Bangkok up into days, but to be honest, it was mostly just eating. I can’t remember much outside of the haze of that, except for one night in particular that I will dedicate a post to.

Our first meal, the one that Mike had been craving since escaping from the meditation retreat, was Indian. We tried a Kashmiri Indian restaurant – they don’t seem to be as into geographically isolating the Indian food in Edmonton, which is unfortunate. A strong point about most restaurants in Bangkok and Tokyo were that they specialized, and did one thing well. In Edmonton, they try to please everyone. This is rarely good.

Anyhow, we went to this charming gardenesque restaurant called Indus. It was down a long soi (street) that started with Japanese restaurants and massage parlours advertising this:

Smile teen indeed. They get straight to the point, huh? Anyhow, Indus was incredible. They are probably best known for their marinated meats. The grilled meats were amazing, as were the homemade chutneys and papadums. The curries were alright, but the okra we got was outstanding. We were stuffed.The next morning we headed out, hungry for more.

Yum yum dim sum.Well, “tim sum”, actually. Previously, Mike and I thought our best dim sum had been at Sun Sui Wah in Vancouver. I had read about a place on a foodie’s blog we were going to try, part of a chain, but when we got there, the building was closed and being demolished. Which is all fine and well because we finally ate at the place (called Chok Dee, which means good luck in Thai; I foreshadowing?) our last night and ended up taking off before finishing; something we’ve never done during a meal before. It was that bad.

Anyhow, after our first choice was closed, Mike was very sad, but I saved the day by taking him to another chain, but a very high end one out of Singapore called Crystal Jade, located at Paragon shopping center. Even still, it was tens of dollars cheaper than our dim sum in Vancouver and ten times better and became the best tim sum we’d ever had.

Later, we tried to find Thailand’s (apparently) only Ethiopian restaurant, The Abyssinya Cafe, but again, it had moved or closed down. There was definitely a pattern going on, but luckily this trend ended after that night and we had great luck finding our dining choices.

We ended up wandering around “Soi Arab” in Bangkok, which is basically where all the Middle Eastern tourists and expats congregate. The streets smell of grilled shawarma and kebabs, shisha and the restaurants glitter with silver and mirrors. It was just like being back in Abu Dhabi again.

We had ANOTHER dinner of grilled meats (Mike blames it on reading “The Kite Runner”) with various pickles, some excellent hummus and hand made pita at Shisha Nasir.  We recalled how delicious this fantastic dinner was after having a terrible dinner back home here at a Middle Eastern restaurant last night. Seriously, it was terrible; Sultan’s Palace sucked. But! This is about the good times of Bangkok. The next morning we had another breakfast of tim sum set up, but at a much swanker place.

We rode The Oriental’s guest-only boat to their special pier and stepped off into undoubtedly one of the finest hotels in the world. Many of the world’s writers have lived in residence there, probably watching the sun set over the Chao Phraya river, contemplating life from their sweet suite. We were only there to eat though, as we’re not baller enough to pay $350 a night for a room, yet. We were still treated like kings, and were guided to our restaurant, China House. It was in an old converted house just outside the front door of the hotel, and was renovated a year or two ago at some astronomical cost. Money well spent, however, as the room (house?) was gorgeous.

It was highlighted in red silk and dark woods, with fine fabrics luxuriously draped all over the place. There were small enclosed booths for private conversations and meals spread out over two floors.

The music was mood enhancing, a mix of old jazz standards and heavy sounding Chinese instrumental pieces. Initially we were the only ones dining and we had three or four people serving us. This later went down to two waiting on us hand and foot; what is the world coming to? Although I expected the meal to be extremely expensive, it was only moderate, and probably about what we pay for dim sum back here at home… but the quality was jaw dropping. Fresh ingredients, not over cooked…just excellent.
We received a small amuse bouche to start the courses:

I think it was a mango dragonfruit prawn gelee parfait. The restaurant is also well regarded for it’s selection of Mariage Freres teas, and it’s one of the only places you can get it in Thailand I believe. I mean, I enjoy my tea, but this was above and beyond anything I had had. We ordered a pot of the signature blend they had comissioned for the restaurant (there was also one of the hotel)…but it was no easy feat to pick one out. Their tea menu was many pages long:

Better yet, they kept refilling our cups for us, and refilling the pot; but never letting the tea steep in the pot and become bitter. There a special tea bar, with water always at a perfect boil and the teas arranged on a wall.

Anyhow, the meal was amazing. We got mango shrimp rolls, deep fried taro, pan fried pork dumplings, pork and abalone steamed buns, braised pork belly with butterfly shaped steamed dumplings and more… and we even had room for dessert. Mike’s was the best; “three lime soup”. That name is deceptively simple as the dish came out as this:

Even the washroom (as in each singular toilet stall) was elaborate; when you closed the stall door, there was a flat screen playing old Chinese films on it. We were in love and then THAT became the best tim sum we’d ever had.

Walking around the next day we saw a movie being filmed. They were using New York style cabs. I don’t think it was a big production though as when we walked by later the main actors seemed to be Thai, so probably for domestic theatres only.

We had high tea at the Erawan tea room, which overlooks the Erawan shrine, probably one of Bangkok’s most loved shrines with dancers you can commission for luck. The tea room served an impressive spread of Thai and western snacks and treats, and a steal of a deal at $6 I think.

Plus their furniture was all curvy and sexy. For dinner we visited another ‘high end’ restaurant…again, for probably the same price as an expensive meal at an Earl’s or some other mid level chain at home in Canada. It was at a small Relais & Chateaux hotel (they are an organization that recognizes excellence in small luxury hotels and their restaurants) and done in a colonial style.

We dined at D.B. Bradley at the Eugenia. Initially we were the only ones in the room and it felt luxuriously awkward to be fawned over.

The service was a little try hard and fussy, but well meaning. The appetizers (Kobe pho and seared Kobe with mushrooms and grilled romaine Ceasar salad) were outstanding. The main dishes were just okay. After dinner we walked around the tiny hotel. It had mounted animals from Africa decorating the walls, furniture and floors, and some neat pinned insects.

The next day we did some more shopping and visitied the aquarium. Last year, I paid about $12 for entrance. This year, they did what all tourist attractions seem to do eventually – price for Thai and foreigners. It’s a fact of life in Thailand, but it’s kind of rude when they price their Thai only prices in the Thai script so foreigners may never know, and also the discrepency is pretty high. So now entrance fees are closer to $22. It’s still a great aquarium, but it put a bad taste in my mouth.

My precious garden eels!

Lobster checking me out.

Seahorses. Theirs were in exceptionally good health and were eating when we arrived, snorting tiny shrimp in through their snouts.

There are two stonefish in this picture…can you spot them?

The only manta I saw the entire trip. 🙁

We then grabbed some light snacks and headed out to meet Al. You’ll meet Al in the next post.

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