Monday, April 28, 2008

Champ Saak Thong @ North Pattaya Review

One of my greatest little pleasures in my visit to Pattaya is a little Khao Nieow Kai Yaang shop in North Pattaya. This little restaurant is a well-known secret amongst Bangkok visitors to Pattaya and also known amongst Pattaya people.

On my last visit there, I found that the number of people at this restaurant had reduced. Fear was that maybe the food quality had gone down with the rising prices of food. That was not to be the case, it was just that they opened another branch in Pattaya Sai 3 closer to Central Pattaya than this one.

You can get to Champ Saak Thong easily if you follow these directions: On North Pattaya road (going towards the beach), look out for Tesco Lotus on your right. Across Lotus is a small soi with "DIFFER" in large letters, and also there is a Thai restaurant there (it will be on your left side). Drive into the soi for about 50 meters, Champ Saak thong is on the right hand side with parking on the left hand side. The soi has not much development, so if you see a lot of development, you're in the wrong soi.

The secret to their Kai Yaang is the honey glaze they put on it. The chicken meat is sweet and juicy, yet onto their paste they added some spice, like tamarind, but I'm not so sure. Sticky rice is sticky rice... som tum there is delicious, the right combination of sweet, sour, and spice. The naam jim jaew is very spicy (you have to ask for the spicy version, or they give you a sweet version). The yum seafood is good due to chunky pieces of fish. Khor moo yang (grilled pig neck) is juicy and meaty.

All in all, good light Esarn food.

Food: 45/50

Service is ok, really, pretty good for a place like this.

Service: 27/30

Atmosphere is ok ok.

Atmosphere: 18/20

Total: 90/100

Excellent value for money, and a must-stop lunch at Pattaya for the Issarn food lovers.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Elements Restaurant Review @ Sheraton Pattaya

Some people go to Pattaya for the sin.

Some people go to the Pattaya for the sun.

Others want to be by the beach.

Yet others decide its a close place to Bangkok for relaxing.

I, on the other hand, go to Pattaya to eat.

I had a coupon for a free dinner at Elements @ Sheraton Pattaya due to be completed in a few days.

I needed to make full use of my coupon, so I filled up oil to rush to Pattaya to eat my free meal.

I like Sheraton Pattaya. It is not surprising it immediately became an award winning hotel. The feel there is one of total relaxation, beautiful views, though you won't get to play in the beach, but with a swimming pool this nice, who really cares?

Besides, I was there at night, and the weather was balmy; windy enough to sit outside and enjoy the night air. Humid enough to keep your skin from getting dry, but not enough to make you sweat.

Buffet selections were very good; after my dreaded meal at Birds of Paradise @ Sheraton Laguna, I was praying that this meal would do good to the Sheraton name, and it did. I think this buffet is even worth its full price.

The highlight is an outdoor grill of seafood, with the sweet meat of rock lobster.

Food: 46/50

Service was very good, though they were slow when we wanted to order some drinks in between the meal.

Service: 27/30

Atmosphere was perfect, I blame the night :)

Atmosphere: 20/20

Total: 93/100

Brought back some much needed confidence in buffet meals at Sheraton properties. Worth my 2 hour drive going, and 2 hour return to Bangkok.

Pool Side Restaurant Review @ Sheraton Blue Lagoon Hua Hin

The Bkkeater is a firm believer in evolution. After all, how do you explain constant changes in body sizes and brain sizes even as far as recent history amongst humans, and not too far amongst apes and us humans.

But when you go further back, it could just be we came from the sea. We were the biggest fish of them all apparently because now we eat all the other fish, including whales.

In that essence, our food preparations too evolve.

For example, a Naan Pizza?
So simple, yet few have thought of it. I mean, we got a Pita Pizza, but whosoever thought you could add cheeze on a Naan?

Indian food enthusiasts are probably having a cow about it... pun intended.

But as I was getting back to my evolutionary roots (swimming) I was again starved, so I made a stop over at the pool side deck and ordered a pizza with a som tum.

The Som Tum was great, it wasn't spicy, and they used cashews instead of peanuts. Also they gave 2 good size shrimps and the dried shrimp were bigger than what your typical som tum lady sells. Hi-So Som Tum anyone?

The Pizza was a pizza, though the crust tasted Indian, like a Naan... so thats why they call it a Naan Pizza!

It was delicious.

Food: 45/50

Service is what is expected.

Service: 28/30

A nice sala with good views to go with the good eats.

Atmosphere: 19/20

Total: 92/100

Not bad value for money... For STARWOOD CARD HOLDERS!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

InAzia Review @ Sheraton Blue Lagoon, Hua Hin

Swimming. I like to swim. I was never (and still) am not a strong swimmer, yet I enjoy swimming.

The reason is that swimming is one of those things that increase appetite. Since I live my life to eat, swimming is good in that it allows me to eat more.

We reached Sheraton Hua Hin after almost 10 hours of straight driving from Phuket. Sitting in the car didn't exactly increase the appetite from the heavy lunch. In spite of reaching Huahin at 6pm, the first destination was the swimming pool, and there we remained till 30-40mins AFTER the pool closed. One of the great advantages of the "pool access" rooms they have there.

Famished from the straight hour and half of swimming, we headed to InAzia restaurant.

They claim the food is some 'modern asian' cuisine. They are right, in part, but there is no real 'fusion' dishes there. Just a choice of different Asian food from "Japanese", "Indian", "Thai", "Indonesian", and I think "Singaporean/Malaysian".

After swimming for so long, I thought I'd go for a Sashimi collection. Also, in the mood for some lamb, I ordered the 'lamb kebab'.

The Sashimi selection was not so good. A lot of 'fillers' were there in forms of squid and artificial crab sticks. Very less fresh fish, and the salmon was the high point of the dish. I must say though that the entire selection was very fresh and cut properly; just not worth it's price.

The Lamb Kebab should be renamed to lamb curry. It is served with 2 pieces of Naan, but the flavor of the Garam Masala was INCREDIBLE. They actually used the ribs of the lamb that tend to be reserved for lamb chops rather than just lamb meat or lamb shanks. Typical kebab dishes means 'no bones', but I guess this not being an Indian restaurant, and the fact that the dish was so delicious made up for that boo boo. The flavor was tangy, not too hot n spicy, not too sweet, not heavily curried at all. It is not too pasty, and not too watery. In short, it is very delicious and highly recommended.

Our final course was diced shrimp wrapped in seabass with a sweet and sour sauce. Everything in this dish went well because all the flavors cut each other perfectly. That we ate it with brown rice was even more telling.

Desserts were a "Thai-ramisu" (Tiramisu with a Thai twist) and a chocolate cake. The cake was good, but not memorable. It was the Thairamisu which was a hit though. Pretty much your tiramisu with mangoes and coconut meat inside. I think the coffee-ness of the Tiramisu is different too, and the type of cream was not as thick as your typical tiramisu, which is good because otherwise it wouldn't have gone well with the other ingredients.

The kebab, fish, and dessert made up for the bad selection of sashimi.

Food: 46/50

Service was top notch. I don't think they made a single mistake.

Service: 29/30

Somehow the Bkk Eater gets the feeling the finishing at InAzia was rushed, or something just doesn't fit right and doesn't make me comfortable.

Atmosphere: 18/20

Total: 93/100

Good value for money I guess if you're going for hotel eats.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ratchapreuk dam

The wonderful thing about road tripping is seeing the countryside.

Whoever wrote that probably has a fear of flying.

The endless hours of driving alongside trucks, buses, pickups, vans, motorcycles has taught me but one thing: NEVER DRIVE ON ONE LANE ROADS IN THAILAND. Unless of course, you have a low value for your life.

If you do insist on road tripping still, it would be better if you get a driver! That way, your viewjoyment won't be ruined by swerving left and right to avoid overzealous truck and bus drivers.

Road tripping however does have its benefits... you get to enjoy out of the way restaurants!

We took a turn off the main highway to Ratchapreuk Dam. It's a beautiful place, you could even think you were in another country with fjords and what not. It is a great fresh water reservoir. Funnily when we were there, there were some Thai school on a field trip there singing songs from Oasis. Watch the view, and live entertainment from a class full of kids going, "Today is gonna be the day that they're gonna throw it back to you..."

The cool thing of the dam is that on the drive up, the nice windy roads and reaching the part where I cross the dam, I could even feel that I was doing a CRV commercial, but that is another point altogether.

Because after that stop off, I was hungry. And a hungry man is an angry man.

Logic thus told me to drive towards the direction of the Ratchapreuk golf course (where I was bound to get food) rather than the road. The road to the golf course however led me to a restaurant whose name I cannot remember, and didn't write.

And that is exactly what is wonderful about blogs, you're not liable; you can miss a few things and it doesn't matter... especially in a blog that is probably hardly even read by anyone....

I miss eating fish curry; the kind to eat with roti pratha (south Indian/ Singaporean/ Malay style). This restaurant without a name also had a fish curry, I think it was called "Kaeng Phrik" which literally means "Chilli Curry". The curry is made using some mud-fish or "Pla Krabok" or some name like that. The curry was mad mad spicy, so as an accompainiment I ordered Khai Jeow Moo sab (Pork Omelet) as well as bai kra phow gai. Everything was spicy... but yummy.

The food gets high marks because they warn you of their spiciness, and I took it as a challenge, and boy was I challenged...

Food: 45/50

For a place with no customer, they could've at least smiled, said hello, or commented when I told them how beautiful I found the dam. They just seemed bored with life, get some vibrancy people!

Service: 24/30

At least they have the basics, so the atmosphere is not bad, just not any good either.

Atomsphere: 14/20

Total: 83/100

Good value for money. Good luck finding the place!!!

Savoey Seafood Review @ Patong

One the greatest pleasures in life is the Phuket Lobster.

yes indeed.

The main reason is that it is simply delicious.

The second is that in addition to its wonderfully sweet taste, it is also an aphrodisiac.

It doesn't really get much better than that.

In my search for the ultimate Phuket Lobster (being in Phuket and all, it was the most logical choice), we stopped at Savoey Seafood @ Patong Beach. Now, Savoey is next to another place called Patong Seafood but I picked Savoey for purely materialistic reasons: the fact that they had a beachfront section, and that my lovely wife was looking radiant that night I felt the better atmosphere of the place might suit.

I wasn't wrong. The Phuket lobster was grilled to perfection. Now normally, taking the grilled version of the Phuket Lobster comes with risks, it could get burned or it could be undercooked. The safe bet is to take the Phuket lobster baked in butter, while I like that, the butter taste can overwhelm the taste of the lobster itself. So grilled it was and grilled it was brilliant.

The meat was succulent. It easily peeled off with the spoon and fork, yet it did was not too soft. It was chewy, but not tough. It was sweet, and a small dip into seafood sauce made it perfect.

We accompanied this meal with a nice Khao Phad Poo (Crab fried rice) and Tom Yum Goong. The combination worked perfect. The goong inside the tom yum was nice and chunky. There was good meat in the khao phad poo, not the fake kind of crab mind you. I like it when they make khao phad poo out of the fats from the crab meat itself, too many places overcook it with cooking oil. I prefer it light and flavorful, that way you can eat it with tom yum without getting a full or bloated feeling.

Savoey. You just can't go wrong.

Food: 48/50

Service beat 5 star establishments. All the wait staff seemed chatty and happy. They were very polite and didn't come across like they were trying too hard. They knew their job, and exactly how far they could take their chats without making anyone uncomfortable. What I appreciate most was that it was easy to find them and they didn't need to have 1 staff doing nothing but staring over our table. When our heads turn to look for them, they look back. Almost a Zen-like awareness for our peace and well-being while we satisfied our stomachs.

Service: 30/30

There is nothing I like more than sitting and eating at a place with a view. The patio entrance could throw you off, and remove the food, tables, and chairs, the patio is in pretty bad shape as well.

That I could notice it...

Atmosphere: 17/20

Total: 95/100

Incredible value for money.

I trust Savoey should be like a tourist destination for all upper middle class independent tourists who love seafood. It's just blasphemy to not visit there if you are in Phuket.

Khao Nieow Kai Yaang @ Haad Surin

The problem with not blogging a while is this:

keep eating, keep enjoying good and tasty food... but not sharing it with anyone!! arrrrrgh! how to stay up to date?!??

Here is a quickie then.

A drive to the cashew nut factory in the morning resulted in a cashewfast (its when you eat cashews for b'fast).

Afterwards, we drove around aimlessly in Phuket hitting all the major beaches. Finally, a laid back beach in Haad Surin in the middle of the hot afternoon.

Lazing on a chair ordering kai yaang, khao nieow, and som tum. It was good no doubt, but I've had better:

Food: 35/50

I always say Thailand offers great service

Service: 16/20

The sounds of the waves crashing on the seashore. The bright blue sky. Sand, Sun, women in bikinis.

Atmosphere: 18/20

Total: 69/100

Quite honestly the bad food could have just resulted from picking the wrong stall... o well.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Birds of Paradise Review @ Sheraton Laguna Phuket

One of the incredible things about Laguna Phuket is the sheer size of it.

It is absolutely beautiful, a huuuuuuuuuuuge lagoon, 5 resorts, an 18 hole golf course, and a beach front that probably stretches 3km from end to end (with the laguna properties covering a full 1.5km of it).

These properties include the Banyan Tree Phuket, Dusit Laguna, Sheraton Laguna, Laguna Beach Resort, and Laguna Holiday Club.

Residents of the Laguna Holiday Club (where I stayed) get a spot on the beachfront right in front of the Sheraton Laguna property. On the way walking back we decided to join in the Birds of Paradise Buffet which I got complimentary from a Food Voucher.

Here is the thing about this place, I would never have eaten there if it weren't for the voucher, and after eating there, I safely conclude that I wouldn't even go for a meal there if paid.

Visiting the beach from Bangkok, especially Phuket, one wants to sink their teeth into some good shrimps, maybe small rock lobsters, fish, etc. But none of these meats were available at the Birds of Paradise. The main meal available was CHICKEN. Now I understand the restaurant is called "Birds" of Paradise but the name of that comes from the tropical birds in the Lagoon, not from the main course offering, whose prices are B1200 nett per person.

My grade gives my opinion, avoid eating here at all costs, or even for little income, don't eat here

Food: 0/50

Service is what you expect in a 5 star establishment.

Service: 26/30

The atmosphere is nice if you think about it objectively because you are set in the middle of a lagoon, and there is a great breeze. But when you are eating crap food wondering how the hell a 5 star place can do this and get away with it, while you stare at farangs eat their chicken like its the best food ever...

Atmosphere 10/20

Total: 36/100



PTT Station

Road tripping. Driving. Tar and concrete below the wheels. Trucks, Pickups, motorcycles, all sharing the highway.

8 hours between Bangkok and the Bkkeater's first destination: Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani.

Midway it was Midday.

We stopped at a PTT station on the side of the road heading North (we u-turned). Both the Mrs. and I felt our hunger pangs at exactly the same second and decided we'll stop at the next eatery on either side of the road, and PTT it was.

A u-turn, a quick peak at a 'Islamic Restaurant' too see if they served any interesting curries, and into PTT food court it was.

2 curries, one of clam (super spicy) and a fish curry (unbelievably spicy). We finished every bite, it was good, good thing we can eat spicy food.

Food: 40/50

Canteen style service, good smiles all around though.

Service: 24/30

There was an atmosphere?

Atmosphere: 5/20

Total: 69/100

At under a 100 baht to eat fish and clams, I'd say it is a great value. The hot stomache did mean ice-cream from the adjacent family mart...

A good option for those on the road.

The Travelling Bkkeater

The Bkkeater went on Holiday to Khao Sok, Phuket, Hua Hin, and Pattaya. The next series of Posts will be about his experiences with food establishments (mostly hotels due to the fact I stayed at the Laguna, Sheraton Hua Hin, and Sheraton Pattaya).

In order of eating establishments, here was how we went:

PTT Station past betweeen Chumporn and Surat Thani
Khao Sok Mountain Resort
Birds of Paradise @ Sheraton Laguna
Khao Nieow Kai Yaang at Haad Surin
Savoey at Patong
Some restaurant near Ratchapreuk dam (damn I can't remember the name!)
Inazia @ Sheraton Hua Hin
The Pool Side Restaurant @ Sheraton Hua Hin
Elements Restuarant @ Sheraton Pattaya
Champ Saak Thong at North Pattaya

so I hope you'll enjoy the series of posts that will come up in the next 1-2 days, and it should in some way influence your eating decision when you travel.

Admittedly, this was one beaugoise trip as the amount of hotel dining on show.