Friday, February 29, 2008

Steak Night @ Neil's Tavern (soi Ruamrudee)

The Bkkeater is a member of a steak-dining club.

Pretty much what we do is go to restaurants, and everyone eats steak. The best part is, we eat exactly the same type of steak in terms of cut and quantity, the only difference is how we like the steaks prepared, and our side dishes.

This time, the steak night outing was to Neil's Tavern. The total number of people going was 8.

Neil's Tavern is a classic western dining establishment in Bangkok. It's been around forever, and a main reason for that is it's fantastic food.

For one, the garlic break is probably the best the Bkkeater has ever had in Bangkok. The escargot was good, not great. Sauteed mushrooms was a bit too dry for the Bkkeater; the smoked Oysters just a little too dry, and they could've honestly bit more generous with the size of the cheese-baked scallop. The Bkkeater even found the cheese to be of a cheap variety, and if it wasn't, then they need to find a way to not make their cheese smell and taste like Kraft... you know the saying.. if it quacks like a duck...

For the record, the Bkkeater would say he definately enjoyed every one of the appetizers and is keeping his judgments based on the fact that this is a fine-dining establishment.

7 of the 8 eaters had Chatauebrand steak, the final took a filet mignon. The Bkkeater took his steak medium, and must say he definately enjoyed it. In the middle were 2 Rock Lobster Thermidors to share.

The steak was a big of a hit-hit-and miss. The first few bites were enjoyable, though there was some inconsistency in the outer end and the middle of the steak. Then again, the Bkkeater had definitely been spoilt by his meal at Reflexions. The second thing was that the steak was going done well up until the Bkkeater had around 20% of his steak remaining and realized there was a taste of saltiness in his every bite. Somehow, the good people at Neil's had left their Steaks preserved with too much salt, and the taste was beginning to show.

The Rock Lobster to share was fantastic, no doubt about that. Can't find fault there.

Overall, its a place with good, but not great food.

Food: 44/50

You tend to get good service at establishment like these. However, they were slow on bringing us the wine, and were even slower to tell us the wine we had ordered finished. We waited 20 mins before finally asking them about the wine to have the waiter answer, "ah yes, the wine, it is finished." Bkkeater says, "Ah yes, why didn't you tell us that sooner??"

There was also a mishap when the waiter forgot to ask one of the diners his salad dressing and whether he wanted his potatoes baked, mashed, or fried.

Both these mishaps should not happen in a place like this.

Service: 26/30

The atmosphere is brilliant. Warm and Cozy: You can be there in a group of friends, a romantic couple, or a family, and somehow it fits you in perfectly.

Atmosphere: 20/20

Total: 90/100

Value for money: Very good.

Why? 8 people, 6 bottles of wine. Scallops, Oysters, Escargot, 8 steaks, 2 Rock Lobsters, and 4 plates of Garlic Bread, 4 viennese chocolate cake for dessert at the cost was 2200 baht per head... not bad at all!

Neil's is defintely a place the Bkkeater will return. It provides great value for money, a cozy atmosphere, and good food. Most likely, the Bkkeater will avoid the cheese-baked scallop and the smoked oysters, and will stick with only the Rock Lobster Thermidor for his main course.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reflexions Review (Plaza Athenee)

There are times when eating out can be described in 1 word: 'Delightful'.

Such would be the term for my night out at the Reflexions at Plaza Athenee.

For those who don't know the restaurant, it was opened approximately 5 or 6 years ago as a jazz bar, then moved into a jazz-themed restaurant... and at that time, the standards fell...

Then, the restaurant hired a new Chef and a new manager and went under renovation.

Renovations can be scary because like a box of chocolates, you never know what to expect.

In this case, was a wonderful mix of food, atmosphere, and service.

Bkkeater had a great meal for his dinner at the reflexions, starting with Sea Bass Ceviche and Raw Scallops.

The sea bass was nicely mixed with herbs (photos coming shortly). The cuts were superb, it was not too citrus infused as some ceviche's can be, and the touch of green mayonnaise on the side was a perfect compliment to the texture of the fish.

The scallop too was served on slight mayo on the side. I loved the hearty touch into the sauce (picture to come shortly). On one of the scallops, the Bkkeater got a big piece of sea-salt. Even then, the next scallop piece seemed to have melded perfectly with the saltiness on my tongue giving an amazing sensation at the taste buds.

Next was a sea-urchin soup topped with a mushroom ravioli. Its hard to really explain the flavor sensations when one takes a sip of this soup. I would even argue that the flavor that lingers and the imagination of that flavor when I recall it while writing is simply divine.

The one mistake I made for the night was not to listen to the manager's suggestion for the steak. In Thailand, my experience has been that 'no' restaurant makes a medium-rare steak properly. Somehow, even the holy grail of steaks in Bangkok, being the New York Steakhouse, tend to char the outer layer of the steak too much while leaving the inside bloody and therefore having no smooth transition of flavor within the steak.

Prejudice intact, I ordered my steak medium. And I must say, it was the best steak I have ever eaten in Bangkok. Kudos to the chef for getting the flavors and transition of flavor 100% correct.

Mrs. Bkkeater had the duck. And what a duck that was! The duck is served on a bed of snow peas. Its cooked to perfection.

For dessert, it was chocolate mousse cake (served for my b'day), and a capuccino. The cake was so rich: not too bitter, not too sweet, not milky, and had a velvety-chocolaty flavor that leaves the taste bud at the back of the tongue just yearning for one more bite. Addictive.

The only problem with the food, was that 1 piece of bread served was slightly salty... as such, we found 1 way to deduct exactly 1 point from the food total.

*Update* Someone commented to the Bkkeater that no restaurant should make a mistake with the bread, as a result the Bkkeater will reluctantly deduct 2 points as he too agrees with the notion.

Food: 48/50

One thing the bkkeater dislikes are servers, especially in 5 star restaurants, who think they know what you want, and give it to you without asking.

If bread at a table is finished, ask first before giving a new tray of bread. Even though its free, the people at the table might not want to get new break for fear of losing their appetite. Just ask first!

Or another common example are servers who assume you are done with your food, and pick it up without your asking. Hey, sometimes you are saving to eat the remaining sauce with bread, or whatever... again, its polite to ask.

The above examples did NOT happen at the Reflexions. What did happen was that our water (with both the Mrs. and I with glasses more than half-full) one of the dear waitresses decided for me that we wanted our glasses filled to the brim and opened me a new bottle of water. Of course, I wasn't going to complain about it there and look cheap, even though I may have wanted more water, I would've preferred being asked first.

Other than that, service was attentive and not over-bearing. Without that one incident, the service actually received a perfect score. However, that kept me annoyed for all of a minute (then the tango dancers entered), and I will cut off 2 points from there.

Service: 28/30

Intimacy requires passion. As such, live piano, movies of tango, and even real life tango dancing build intimacy. On one of the walls, you see beautiful photos of Angkor wat and a collection of mixed photos around southeast asia including children. The other wall is a large window looking down into wireless road. Somehow, either the window tint, or the room lighting gives it the image of a reflection of the room as a shadow.. its a very interesting and very intimate play.

The live tango, unfortunately, is temporary.

The manager deserves credit for his handling of the restaurant.

Atmosphere: 20/20

Total: 96/100

Value for Money: Very worth it. If you value food, and I mean delicious food, and you're willing to pay top money for it, forget Sirocco, forget Lord Jim's, this place just is so much better.

The total grade of Reflexions shows how they lost points on areas they should not have lost on. They are slights that do matter to the Bkkeater in his quest to review every dining establishment in Bangkok for your enjoyment.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Frankenweiss Beer House

The Bkkeater had eaten here maybe 2 and a half years ago. Can totally remember both the beer, the orange juice, and the old coffee eaten there.

The location of Frankenweiss is all the way out into Puthamonthon Sai 3 and Sai 4. It is on Utthayan road, sometimes referred to as Switzerland in Thailand.

The setting is this big German farmhouse. The waitresses are dressed like Barmaids a la Octoberfest. The weather was nice while I was there, and I got a good seat with a nice view of the 3-4 geese that populate the man made pond.

I must note upon reaching it was crowded, and parking was difficult.

The first dish to arrive was steamed fish with mushrooms, ham, and bamboo. I picked this dish not because I have any clue as to what is good about this restaurant, but because it was so different. And well, the taste was just that, different. I liked it, ok, but not so much that I will ever think about it again.

The second dish was fried duck with sauce. The duck was over fried, I felt, but the sauce made up for it, and was quite tasty.

Final dish to arrive was fried pork leg. The sauce served with the leg was fantastic, and even the meat on the pork leg was very good, very meaty and less fats.

I wasn't too satisfied with my meal, the menu was vast, and I've heard a lot about this place. My conclusion is probably that this restaurant is probably better if you come in a big group and order a wide variety of food while having beer.

Food: 43/50

Service was fantastic. Every need met, and sometimes even before you realized it.

Service: 29/30

The atmosphere was incredible, definately chill, and being a Sukhumvit-person I probably will never drive out of my way to go there, I may just pop by if I'm in the area. I cut points because they would lose a good 60% of their business with the rain.

Atmosphere: 18/20

Total: 91/100

Value for money: Very good. Including a beer, and orange juice, and water, and our 3 dishes (seabass, pork leg, and duck) 900baht.

I would definitely like to get back there with a big group of friends. My final feeling is that the food would probably grade a lot better if I knew how to order and what to order.

My Choice Restaurant review on Sukhumvit 36

Ok, Bkkeater has been slow updating his site, but we make up with the difference today.

Since the last post, Bkkeater has been to 3 restaurants (with photos only at 1 of them) to enjoy a meal and review the food for the rest of you palate-adventurous in Bangkok.

The first of these was "MY CHOICE" restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 36. The restaurant is situated on the left side approximately 60meters into the soi. There is a sign outside in Thai writing some of their 'specialties', a very intriguing menu with a dish called 'Sator' on it that captured my attention.

For those who don't know what Sator is in English, I'm sorry, I won't be able to help with a direct translation. For my best knowledge, Sator is a vegetable (considered by some to be smelly, but i strongly oppose that viewpoint) that is grown and eaten by many Thai Southerners.

Anyways, the menu being interesting, I decided to stop by there for a meal, and was more than satisfied with the outcome.

This is not some michelin 2 or 3 star restaurant with fancy decor, artistic presentation, and food so incredibly flavorful and pleasant that you'll be dying for the next bite. This is more simply food fair that is just wonderful for the mouth and stomache because it is not commonplace to find a good Southern Style Thai food in Bangkok.

The first dish that came my way was baked duck (Ped Ob Liab). Granted this is probably more Chinese does not belie the taste. The duck was really flavorful. You see, the duck is not baked the Chinese way, I won't be able to describe the difference but its full flavored, and the meet literally flakes off.

The next round for me was Serpent hesh fish filet in yellow curry (Kaeng Leaung Pla), Sator and white rice. The Sator was a great combination of the Sator bitterweet flavor, and the sweet cheweyness from the diced shrimp. The soup had a citrusy-spicy-tangy flavor mellowed out by the taste of the curry, and cucumbers! Yes, CUCUMBERS in the yellow curry. I've never imagined such a combo, and must say that the cucumbers keeps your stomach cool from all the hot spices. In all, the sator and yellow curry combination with rice was superb. The best combo-palate I can think of is like eating bai kraphow kai with tom yum soup. Full flavors just bring alive your tongue.

Didn't have dessert, was too full to even look at the menu.

I ate everything with a Singha beer, and the food and beer really went well together.

Food: 47/50

The place was middle sized, mabye 20+ tables, but only 3 tables were full, Bkkeater was 2, another table of 2 and 1 big party of 12. For this there was 3 servers, and at times you had trouble finding them. Shouldn't happen in a small place. However, the staff was very helpful and knowledgeable about the food.

Service: 25/30

Like sitting in your Thai upper-middleclass Grandma and Grandpa's house with oddly decided paintings, color patterns, and curtains. Yes, those floral curtains that you don't see anywhere. Its a riot, and even though I graded it low, somehow it just worked and created its own charm.

Atmosphere: 15/20

Total: 87/100

Value for Money:

food for 2, one beer, fish, shrimp, and duck for 500++ baht. Very good I'd say.