Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chatuchak Market: A Good Weekend Stroll

Spending plenty of time in Bangkok's modern shopping centres, we didn't venture out to floating markets or loitered much in night markets like Patpong, probably because we couldn't wake up in time for the former and the latter's sleaziness and fake goods hawkering were pretty boring. Nonetheless, we kept half a day for exploring Chatuchak Market which turned out to be time well spent.

Patronized by tourists and locals alike, Chatuchak Market was probably a place that my mum would love for its variety of restaurant-related products. From utensils to furnitures, tablewares to kitchenwares, everything was available at wholesale prices as delivery companies standby ready to ship your purchases to anywhere you want.

As we strolled along in the hot weather, this little ice cream store caught my eye and I knew that it would be perfect for cooling myself down. A hand signal later, the experienced owner was assembling mine with ease.

Coconut Ice Cream (฿30 ~ SGD 1.20)

Creamy and flavourful, the ice cream was a pleasure to eat along with its mix of nuts, tapioca and nata de coco cubes. Let's move on!

More food stores! Some that I was keen to explore but the girlfriend was fearful of a bad tummy, and others that were fun for pictures but neither of us wanted to try. Oh well.

Buskers sighted! Some attractive, some plain odd. This guy deserved a special mention for all that makeup in the weather.

Tired of walking? Have a cuppa here! With a cool-looking lady DJ spinning Bossa Nova and using small wooden crates as tables, this coffeeplace seemed to be pretty popular and was a perfect spot for people-gazing.

Iced Latte (฿120 ~ $4.90)

Take your pick from the wooden menu and wait for your orders to arrive. Music, people, and a nice glass of chilled, sweetened coffee. An awesome way to spend Sunday mornings.

The layout of Chatuchak Market was both simple and confusing. The foolproof, opened-air main street formed a outer ring where you could slowly complete within an hour, while the dozens of covered lanes within the ring was a real challenge to navigate. Products sold here weren't exactly attractive too, with plenty of tourist stuffs and even more counterfeit merchandises. Squirming my way through just to get a shot of the iconic Chatuchak Clock Tower smack in the middle of the market, I rather spend more time at the outer ring.

Coffee, ice cream and kitchen shopping. I will be back!

Chatuchak Weekend Market
Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak
Bangkok, Thailand
Click for website and market layout!
Directions: The market is located just outside Kamphaengpecth MRT Station and about 5 minute walk from Mochit BTS Station. A cab trip from downtown will cost you about ฿200 if the driver takes the highway.

Taken with Nikon D70
Sunday, June 24, 2012

L'Espace: Excellent Place For Tea Break

My favourite mall in Bangkok got to be Siam Paragon. Firstly, they got a huge basement filled with fascinating food counters, restaurants and a supermarket with an eye-popping range of rice. Secondly, the spacious complex is perfect for a leisurely afternoon of window-shopping after catching a movie at the awesome cinema (Yes, I got time for that!). And when you need to rest the legs, L'Espace will be an excellent place to go.

Located at one of the major aisles on ground floor, L'Espace is a contemporary coffeehouse operated by the Mandarin Oriental group. Attended to by friendly staff, the girlfriend and I went in late afternoon to get some drinks before heading off for dinner.

Fresh Infusion Tea (฿110 ~ SGD4.50)

While the tea was pretty standard using Dilmah teabags, what impressed us was the number of chocolate chip cookies to go with it. Those little munchies tasted pretty decent too. Given the price, they were either very generous or we were too accustomed to boring Singapore cafes. (TCC seems to be the sole exception, being very nice to provide more of their in-house cookies if you ask.)

Mango Tango (฿150 ~ SGD6.10)

Preferring something cold and fruity, I thoroughly enjoyed my ice-blend with its taste of real mango. Very refreshing.

Total bill was ฿306 after taxes, approximately SGD12.50. L'Espace makes a very nice pitstop in Siam Paragon, with the quality and service worthy of Mandarin Oriental and yet at prices that were even cheaper than Starbucks. I spied that they had a very affordable Afternoon Tea Set for two too. Bookmarked!

L'Espace by Mandarin Oriental
Main Floor, Siam Paragon
Phra Rama I, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Directions: The mall itself is just beside Siam BTS Station, and the coffeehouse ain't that hard to find on the ground floor.

Taken with Nikon D70
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

La Piola: Home-Cookings of an Italian Mama

Staying at the President Solitaire hotel on my first Bangkok trip, I walked up and down Sukhumvit Soi 11 everyday and was attracted to the colourful restaurants and bars. But there was one special restaurant that I made a mental note to visit, finally fulfilled when the girlfriend and I entered La Piola for dinner one evening.

Located right at the end of Soi 11, La Piola caught my attention not because it was the fanciest or brightest, but because it had that cozy aura which looked so inviting from the outside. Old-school checkered tablecloth, solid-looking wooden furnishing and light-coloured floor tiles, it reminded me of Jack's Place but more "real" and close to an actual home.

Most importantly, I saw a person who instantly gave me a gut feel that the food is worth a try. I'll save that for the last.

Complimentary Breadbowl, House White (฿140/glass ~ SGD5.70)

Two slices of chewy bread meant for drizzling with with olive oil and vinegar, and two pieces of savoury foccacia with herbs and (sun-dried?) tomatoes. Nothing fancy, but satisfying all the same.

White wine pairing, why not? Nicely chilled with a sweet lingering taste, the generous portion was quite a steal as a full bottle would be too much for us.

Pizza Carbonara (฿250 ~ SGD10.20), Pasta Salmon (฿320 ~ SGD13.00)

The pasta I have eaten aplenty, but made into a pizza? Now that's interesting. Served on a excellent thin crust, the cream cheese and diced tomato toppings were made even more yummy with two ever-important runny eggs.

Cooked in tomato sauce with chunks of salmon, the homemade fettuccine disappointed slightly with its undercooked texture.

Tiramisu (฿120 ~ SGD4.90), Complimentary Limoncello

Yet again, my favourite way of ending a Italian meal. Light and creamy, it would have been even better if they were heavier with the rum and coffee.

It was my first time drinking the after-dinner digestive wine and its sourness took a while to get used to. Good for the stomach I guess!

Grazie, Mama!

Yup, this lovely Italian lady was the reason for my determination to visit La Piolo. On my first trip, I spied her pacing in and out of the kitchen to make sure everything's running right. However, I think years of managing the restaurant has taken a toil on her health which sees her resting in a wheelchair now.

Nonetheless, she sat quietly at a corner table throughout our meal, speaking occasionally to the captain which I supposed to make sure we had an enjoyable dinner. As we were about to leave, I couldn't help but to thank and ask her for a photo, which she gladly obliged with a smile.

Bill for two was ฿1182 after taxes or about SGD48.20. La Piolo isn't the place for classy Italian dining, neither will I say its a contender for "best Italian meal". Still, the place's warm touch and simple yet enjoyable homecooked-like dishes were definitely worth a trip!

La Piola
31/4 Sukhumvit Soi 11
Bangkok 10110
Directions: The Nana BTS Station is located right outside Soi 11. Walking all the way in for about 5 to 8 minutes, you will hit a right bend with 7-11 in the corner. The restaurant is just a few steps away from the convenience store.

Taken with Nikon D70 & HTC Sensation
Friday, June 15, 2012

Platinum Mall Food Court: A Boyfriend's Sanctuary

Guys, be warned. If you are heading to Bangkok with your girlfriend, please do yourself a big favour by getting a sim card with unlimited data and portable chargers. Because I'm assuming that your girls love to shop and that they will spend hours, if not days in their wonderland: Platinum Fashion Mall.

Are you perplexed by the hours they can spend on blogshops? Wait till you see the real-life actions here. Platinum Mall is like a mega-sized Far East Plaza with countless rows and aisles, selling blogshop-like clothes at uber cheap prices (that, I agree). As you can see, only a small corner is dedicated to menswear, which really ain't that attractive unless you plan to load up on t-shirts.

I hope that you have an excellent memory too. You wouldn't want to be into your fourth day when the girlfriend asked for the tiny shop that had the clothes she saw on the second day. True story, true nightmare.

The only safe haven for me was the food court on level 6. Clean and brightly-lit, it has plenty of local food as well as KFC on one side. Like all food courts in Bangkok, you have to get a pre-loaded card first for all purchases, refunding the remaining balance when you're done.

Spring Rolls

Deep fried upon order, this had crunchy skin and hot vermiclli within. Nothing fancy, but made a great snack alongside thai sweet chilli sauce.

Phad Thai, Hotplate Seafood Omelette

As I have noticed, its very hard to get a lousy plate of this national dish. Full of wok-hei, no single strands of the springy rice noodles were gone to waste.

While Orh Luaks are equally common in Singapore, I think the Thais does it much better with greater consistency, as the crispy starch and egg mixture were nicely accompanied by generous amount of seafood. Yums!

Tom Yum Tang Hoon, Duck Noodles

Need your daily serving of the fiery soup? Why not add in some noodles for a complete meal?

As for the other noodie dish, I really liked the tenderness of the duck meat, drizzled in a braised sauce that was strong in herbal flavours. Noodles texture was pretty good as well, but could do with lesser alkaline taste.

Mango Sticky Rice

No reason not to order this! Interestingly, it came with a variety of glutinous rice that provided contrast to the usual white one.

Prices here are very reasonable at about SGD 3 to 6 per dish, perfect for recharging after all that walking. Well its not everyday that your girl gets to go on such shopping sprees, so just be a nice boyfriend and play along. Be motivated by meal breaks!

Platinum Fashion Mall
222 (Pratunum) Petchaburi Road
Ratchathevee, Bangkok, Thailand
Click for English website!
Directions: If you can read maps well, the mall is actually right across the bridge leading from CentralWorld, which is another 10 minutes walk away from Siam BTS Station. If all else fails, hail a cab la.

Taken with Nikon D70
Monday, June 11, 2012

Blue Elephant II: Still Royal, Still Impressive!

Checking in at our Bangkok hotel in the early evening, I was eager to bring the girlfriend (who hasn't been back to Bangkok for almost a decade) out for a dinner that would start our trip on an impressive note. And when it comes to being impressive, I was very confident that Blue Elephant would be up to the job.

After my first visit during Chinese New Year 2011, I have been looking for a contender to challenge Blue Elephant and no one came exactly close. Its ambience, service and food quality was top notch for Thai fine dining so I was really looking forward to this revisit. Despite not being able to make a reservation, I was lucky to get a walk-in table which they politely informed have to be handed over in 1.5 hours time. That's fine, really!

Amuse Bouche, Lemongrass Juice (฿130 ~ SGD5.30), Matoom (฿130 ~ SGD5.30)

Different from the last time, the complimentary starter was a spoonful of black pepper chicken and a shooter of clear mushroom soup. One numbing the tongue slightly, the other warming the throat and stomach. Both, were most welcoming.

Drinks-wise, my lemongrass was very sharp and refreshing, while the adventurous girlfriend took on the Bael Fruit Juice which was supposed to quench thirst and urge appetite. Interesting stuff.

Khang Khao Phuak (฿240 ~ SGD9.80), Crispy Stuffed Crab Shell (฿380 ~ SGD15.50)

On to the starters! The first one, a taro pastry filled with minced chicken and prawn, was an encore from last visit as I remembered how good it was. Comparing the two photos, they seemed to have further improved on the batter by making it lighter. The other is a upmarket version of the seafood snack, with the blend of minced chicken and crabmeat being a real treat as well.

Bamboo Fish (฿480 ~ SGD19.60), Kaeng Kiew Wan Phak (฿240 ~ SG9.80D)

More encores as I got to let the girlfriend try the unique, herb-marinated sea bass filet. And of course, the Vegetarian Green Curry which blew me away first time round and still did so on the second.

Tom Yam Koong (฿290 ~ SGD11.80), Jasmine/Brown Rice (฿60/person ~ SGD2.50)

Classic soup for sharing, loved how it continued to be fiery and addictive. And yes, the free flow of fragrant jasmine rice and chewy black glutinous rice were musts to mop up every bit of green curry.

Star of Siam (฿290 ~ SGD11.80)

Now this was something new. The rather value-for-money dessert platter let us had a bit of all of their signatures. The tapioca cake was decent, durian cheesecakes were great for durian lovers, black glutinous rice ice cream was very creamy and fragrant. Finally, the very firm and sweet mango with glutinous rice steamed to perfection. Excellent way to conclude the meal.

Total bill for two was ฿2707.10 after taxes, approximately SGD110.50. Expectedly, it was our most expensive meal in Bangkok but definitely not without a valid reason. The consistency was remarkable and we thoroughly enjoyed the exquisite meal. Blue Elephant will continue to be a place for revisit but the next time, thanks to a friend's tipoff, I will want to make a trip to Sala Rim Naam at Mandarin Oriental for comparison!

Blue Elephant Bangkok
233 South Sathorn Road, Kwaeng Yannawa,
Khet Sathorn, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Tel: +66 (2)673 9353
Website updated!
Note: The restaurant is easily accessible via the BTS skytrain, alighting at Surasak station. You can even see the building from the platform!

Taken with Nikon D70