The Siam, Bangkok (part 2)

Fried egg, tomato and minced pork salad from The Siam

When my darling wife S and I choose a hotel to stay in, one of the most important factors (for us) is the food. While I realise that there are many that choose not to eat in the hotels they stay in, we tend to have at least one real meal (other than breakfast) if not more on property. To me, the food and beverage side of a hotel is as important as the room size, the service, and the architecture. When I choose to stay somewhere nice, I want to experience all that the hotel offers. And that means checking out their restaurants and bars (as well as their spa, gym, etc). When S and I checked into The Siam a few weeks back, knowing that the owners Kriss and Mel are real foodies, we were very much looking forward to exploring the hotel’s restaurants. Continue Reading →

The Siam, Bangkok (part 1)

The Siam hotel Bangkok

Over a decade ago, my next door neighbor, a stunning half Chinese, half British gal from Hong Kong met an equally handsome Thai rock star and fell in love. A number of years later, Kriss (the rock star, now also an actor) led S and me on a fun, rather amusing tour of his favourite old buildings in Bangkok, which culminated in us being chased out of the former Russian Embassy by security guards at two in the morning. Another couple of years later, Kriss showed us an amazing plot of land, on the river and in the old part of the city, that had been in his mother’s family for decades. He told us how he wanted to build a truly stunning, riverside, five-star urban resort there – something that would fit within his mother’s hotel company but that would also embrace his love of antiques, architecture, vintage glamour and luxury. That dream would eventually become The Siam, one of the most stunning hotels in Asia and easily the most significant new property to open in Thailand this year.  Continue Reading →

Grilled pork neck with a spicy sour sauce, recipe by David Thompson

My darling and always hungry wife S and I are big Thai food fans. Which means (quite automatically) that we’re big, big fans of Chef David Thompson. No chef has done more to teach us non-Thais about really good, authentic Thai food than David. So, when we heard that David’s latest restaurant, Nahm, located in the always chic lobby of The Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok, was finally opening its doors last Saturday, we jumped at the chance to be among its first guests.

We flew up to Bangkok on Friday via a very crowded Cathay Pacific flight. We were originally going to be quite boring and stay in that night, ordering up some room service (to say we had a very long week at the office would have been a gross understatement). But to our great fortune, David was able to extract himself from the restaurant for a few hours and invited us, along with a few other friends, to head out to a street stall just a short walk from The Met. I love David’s Thai Street Food . It’s a book I just love flipping through. So there was no way (no matter how tired we were), either S or I were going to turn down the offer to head out on the streets of the City of Angels with the book’s author.

We had a fabulous meal. One of the dishes I enjoyed most was a lovely plate of grilled pork neck–one of my all-time favourite cuts of what I’ve previously declared is my favourite type of meat. (keep reading)

Obsessed with stuffed tofu

There are some restaurants and cafes that I go to specifically for one dish. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the food served at these places isn’t up to snuff, it simply means that that one dish has become one of my favourite things to eat. A meal in one of these establishments just isn’t complete without an order of, well, for example, double-boiled chicken soup with shark’s fin at Noble House in Singapore, the charcoal-grilled Tuscan steak for two at Harlan’s in Hong Kong, a croque monsieur at Harry’s Bar in Venice, the truffled egg pasta at Buon Ricordo in Sydney, or the tempura mentaiko shiso at Torisho Taka, also in Singapore. These are dishes that I have, over time, come to associate with these specific restaurants. I can’t, for example, think of places like Billy Kwong’s without dreaming of Kylie’s crispy duck or imagine visiting Sadaharu Aoki’s pastry parlors in Japan without a taste of his green tea eclair.

Recently, I have discovered another such dish that I have become slightly obsessed with and that I have been snacking on at least once every week or two. When chef Chris Millar first told me he was opening a Thai cafe in Upper Bukit Timah, I have to admit that while I was excited for him, I wondered if it was the right thing for him to do. After all, his training was very much in classical European cuisine, and Rail Mall — where he had decided to open Sweet Salty Spicy — while accessible by car, wasn’t exactly central. Over the weeks leading up to Sweet Salty Spicy’s opening, Chef Millar told me more about his enterprise. He surprised me with the news that his business partner in this venture was Victor Chia, the “vegetable stud” of Tekka Market. My loving wife S has been a loyal customer of Victor’s for years. If you’ve been to Tekka, you’ll recognize him as the muscled vegetable stall owner that blasts bossa nova tunes and who stocks the best Western and Asian greens in the market. Chris also let on that he wasn’t doing the cooking. His young and superbly talented chef was going to be training under the guys from the famous Sailors Thai in Sydney in order to prepare for Sweet Salty Spicy’s opening.

Sweet Salty Spicy is a cool, casual cafe cum deli. There’s a corner devoted to selling some of Victor’s best produce. The cake counter is bursting with delicious Western pastries. And shelves are stocked with homemade spice mixes and Thai sauces. The dining area is bright and relaxed. This is very much the kind of place you head to for a long weekend lunch, to kill a few bottles of wine and hang out with good friends.

Overall, the food is good. S adores the papaya salad that is served with roasted pork, raw cabbage and coconut rice. My favourite dish, and the one that keeps me coming back, is the deep fried silken tofu with fresh crab, coriander and stuffed with minced pork. Yum. It has three of my favourite elements: pork, crab, and it’s deep-fried. What more could an unhealthy boy want? Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who has discovered just how good this dish is. The waiters tell me if often sells out (boy, I really rue the day I go there to find out it’s not available). Eaten with a little sweet Thai chilli sauce, this is a super-savory and satisfying snack. And one that I could happily eat daily (of course, I’d also probably die of high cholesterol).

I’ve pestered chef Millar into sharing the recipe for this with us. But since I can jump in my car, and be tucking into the dish within 30 minutes, I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to making it myself. I hope, though, that some of you try it and that you’ll be wowed by the results.

DEEP FRIED SILKEN TOFU WITH FRESH CRAB, CORIANDER AND MINCED PORK STUFFING
Recipe by David Thompson

50G MINCED FATTY PORK
1 TBSP LIGHT SOY SAUCE
DRIZZLE OF OYSTER SAUCE
PINCH PALM SUGAR
50G COOKED CRAB MEAT
2 TBSP CHOPPED CORIANDER LEAVES
2 SPRING ONIONS, CHOPPED
300G SILKEN TOFU
BANANA LEAF
1-2 EGGWHITES
PINCH OF SALT
PINCH OF GROUND WHITE PEPPER
DRIZZLE OF SESAME OIL
½ CUP PLAIN FLOUR, SEASONED WITH SALT AND PEPPER
OIL FOR DEEP FRYING

PASTE:
1 CORIANDER ROOT, SCRAPPED AND CHOPPED
PINCH OF SALT
2 GARLIC CLOVES, PEELED
2 SLICES OF GINGER
LARGE PINCH OF GROUND WHITE PEPPER

METHOD:
Using a mortar and pestle, pound together the paste ingredients until fine. Combine with pork and season with light soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Slap the mixture- pick it up and throw back in the bowl- until it becomes firmer and stickier. Work in the crab meat and two thirds of the coriander and spring onions.

Drain the tofu and slice in half crosswise. Gently separate the curd and place one half on a piece of banana leaf. Shape the stuffing into the equivalent rectangular shape of the tofu. Place the stuffing onto the bean curd and top with the other half of tofu.

Refrigerate for at least an hour, then gently steam on the banana leaf for 25 minutes- it should feel firm. Remove and refrigerate for at least one hour. When required cut the tofu sandwich into 6 pieces. Beat the egg whites with salt, pepper and sesame oil. Dip the tofu into the egg whites then roll in flour. Deep-fry in plenty of clean oil until golden. Drain, and served sprinkled with reserved spring onions and coriander.

CONDIMENT: SSS sweet chili sauce

Sweet Salty Spicy
392/394 Upper Bukit Timah Road
The Rail Mall
(opposite the railway bridge, near hillview)
Singapore
Tel: +65 6877 2544

A hot property outside of Bangkok

One of the great things about my job is that I get the chance to visit some really amazing hotels. Last week, I spent several days in Cha-Am, which is about two and half hours from Bangkok or 30 minutes from Hua Hin, art directing a photo shoot at a stunning new property. The Alila Cha-Am (soft) opens 1 February 2008. It’s been designed by one of Thailand’s hottest architects, Duangrit Bunnag. Architecturally, it’s brilliant. The lobby is accessible via a manicured lawn and a sweeping marble staircase. The raised marble reception area offers panoramic views of the property. Two rows of residences run down from lobby towards the main (active) pool and the beach. The centre of the resort is a low 1-story strip, covered by water, that houses the spa, another pool area (called the Chill pool), a bar, and the resort’s casual dining restaurant, Motion. Directly opposite the lobby, above Motion, sits Cloud Loft, a chic dining and drinking spot.

The hotel has 72 rooms and 7 pool villas. The very chic room interiors mix industrial elements and warm wood furnishings smartly and comfortably. The floors are polished concrete; the walls are raw concrete. Each room has a 37 inch Samsung flatscreen TV and an Apple TV. Upon booking a room, I’m told that guests will be given a movie menu. By the time they arrive, all their pre-selected films will already be downloaded into their Apple TV units. The property — as you would expect of any new and 5-star property — offers free WIFI access in the rooms and all around the property.

Every bathroom has a rain shower, which is something also pretty standard these days. But these rain showers are amazing. The whole bathroom area is the shower area, i.e. there’s no shower cubicle, just a flat steel square panel built into the bathroom’s very high ceiling. I have to admit that I’m not usually a fan of rain showers, but these were both effective and really beautiful.

Sadly, during my visit, the spa was still being finished. What I saw though was really exciting and I can’t wait to return soon and book a few treatments.

As mentioned, Alila Cha-Am opens 1st February. If you ckick over to the resort’s website, you’ll find a couple of attractive pre-opening offers worth considering. I’m already making plans to head back to check out the resort when it is fully operational. So is the rest of the team that worked on the photo shoot with me. It really is that cool.

One Night in Bangkok

One of the very best things about being based in a place like Singapore is that it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from a number of interesting and attractive destinations in the region. A very popular place for a quick weekend jaunt is Bangkok. Each and every week, hordes of Singaporeans and other travelers descend upon the City of Angels for a fun-filled program of great food, blissful spa treatments and mad shopping.

I usually like to spend at least 2 or 3 days in Bangkok but this past weekend, S and I dropped in for just one night. Some close friends of ours wanted to head up in order to dine at Le Normandie, the beautiful and classic French restaurant at the equally classic Oriental Hotel. Prior to this trip, neither S nor I had ever eaten at Le Normandie, a restaurant that several foodie friends consider to be one of the all-time great places in which to dine. And since both my darling wife and I both have a secret propensity for dressing up for dinner–and since there aren’t really any fine-dining restaurants in Singapore that one dresses up for (until Les Amis re-opens, we’re told)–we eagerly packed my best suit and one of her nicest dresses and joined our friends for this gluttonous adventure.

We arrived in BKK on Sunday morning, having hopped a dreadfully early flight. After quickly checking into The Oriental (and oohing and aahing at our room for a while), we packed ourselves into an SUV and headed off to lunch. On the way, we made a quick pitstop at MBK (Mah Boon Krong) because S needed to pick up a new pair of shoes; the one pair of flats, a brand new pair of Repettos, that she had packed for the trip had, after just a few hours of wear, inexplicably developed a rather large hole, rendering them useless and her shoeless. Fortunately, MBK is a treasure trove of both fakes and cheap original goods. S found, in just a few minutes, a nice affordable pair of soft, chocolate-colored flats to wear.

We had lunch at Chua Kim Heng (81, 83 Pattanakarn Rd, Suan Luang, tel: 02-2319-2510), a very casual Teochew (Chinese) restaurant that specializes in shark’s fin and pot-stewed (braised) goose, something S and I both love. As usual, we ate too much. We had deep-fried prawn rolls, two kinds of green vegetables, stewed goose web with noodles, rice vermicelli with prawns, liver fried with leeks, and a nice big plate of braised goose. The goose, which was the main reason we went, was very good. It wasn’t, at least to S and me, as good as the braised goose we had eaten at a stall on Thanon Songwat on a previous trip, but it was still very tasty. (Please don’t ask me for the address of the stall; we don’t even know the name. All we know is to take the river ferry to Ratchawong, walk straight, then turn right on Thanon Songwat and keep walking. After 10 minutes or so, it will be on your left.)

After lunch, we dropped into Central Chidlom for an hour of frenzied shopping. Then back to The Oriental for high tea with some friends who live in Bangkok. I don’t know how many of you are fans of afternoon tea, but both S and I enjoy the experience. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that The Oriental’s afternoon tea is served in the hotel’s very pretty and very colonial Author’s Lounge. And it really doesn’t hurt that the actual tea being served is from Mariage Freres, S’s favourite purveyor of fine teas. We ordered both the Western and Thai tea sets. Each comes with a silver tiered platter filled with scrumptious snacks. The former, obviously, piled high with European pastries, cakes, sandwiches and scones; the latter with local Thai desserts and cakes.

After tea, we chilled out for a couple hours (I watched some TV while S crashed out) before dressing up for an elegant and very well-executed dinner at Le Normandie. One of our friends had brought along a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque (one of my personal fave bubblies), a Puligny-Montrachet, and 3 different red wines (a Palmer, an Angelus, and something else which I have embarrassingly forgotten). The chef cooked an excellent meal, the highlights of which (to me) were a three vegetable soup with mushrooms, a perfectly roasted pigeon, and an orange souffle served with vanilla ice cream. Post-dinner, S and I enjoyed a special treat. One of our friends had arranged for her favourite masseuse to visit us in our room and work on our tired bodies for a couple of hours.

The next morning, we met two of our companions for a quick walk around the neighborhood. They had discovered a wonderful porridge place 10 minutes away. (Again, I don’t know the name of the cafe, but it’s easy to find. Walk south towards State Tower, turn right on Thanon Charoen Krung–which puts State Tower on your left–and walk for 3-4 minutes. It will be on your left. You can also identify it by the small sign for gourmet coffee that’s placed on the street in front of it.) This wonderful little porridge place is run by two sisters. They serve pork porridge, spiked with pork balls, innards, tendon, century egg, a fresh egg, lots of ginger and served with fried dough crullers. The porridge was fantastic. Inside the cafe, towards the back, was another young woman with the most amazing stall. From a small makeshift and mobile cart, she sold gourmet coffees and fresh juices. We ordered an espresso, a latte, an iced coffee and a tea. It was great fun watching her work. She grinds her beans fresh and uses a proper espresso machine. One of our friends, who works in F&B, exclaimed that the espresso she made was better than many he’s had at some of the finer hotels and restaurants in the region. That she could produce all that she does from just a tiny stall was really inspiring.

We had lunch back at the hotel, at their ultra-sexy Chinese restaurant, China House. Both S and I had been there before and we both adore the restaurant’s gorgeous interiors, designed by the folks behind Design Republic in Shanghai. We also really like the food there. The consultant chef is Jereme Leung, from 3 on the Bund‘s Whampoa Club. S had helped Jereme write his first cookbook, New Shanghai Cuisine, so we know his food quite well. We had a nice, light but yummy lunch. Of course, we had Peking duck. We also had a lovely little bowl of minced pork noodles which were really delicious and proved once again that sometimes it’s the simplest dishes, done well, that are the very best.

After our meal, we rushed back to our rooms to pack and hop a ride to the airport. Two days later, I still feel full from all the food we consumed in just 36 hours. Of course, I’d do it, or rather, eat it all again in a heartbeat.

Old world charm in BKK

eugenia1.jpg

For the next 4 weeks, S and I will be filing reports from the road. Yesterday marked the start of a slightly crazy round the world trip. And while part of the trip is work, an almost equal portion of it is leisure. I’m personally very excited because next week we’ll be attending the wedding of one of my closest friends from university. She’s getting married at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna-Niguel, in Orange County, California (recognizable to most of us fanboys and pop culture buffs as the site of the wedding in the American Pie movie series). Other stops on our whirlwind tour include Bangkok, Tokyo, New York, Washington DC, Paris and Dubai. As you can imagine, my darling and always-snacking wife S has already put together a pretty long list of gustatory must-visits for each destination.

Yesterday, we spent the night in Bangkok. (We had to fly via Bangkok because I had purchased our round-the-world tickets from there; the price per ticket from there was considerably cheaper than what was quoted to me in Singapore.) Because we visit Bangkok pretty often, we decided to spend only one night there. Essentially, we had just enough time to check into our hotel, run to Emporium to pick up a few gifts for friends, chill out for a bit, have dinner with friends and catch a few hours of sleep before catching the 0650am flight to Tokyo.

During my last business trip to the City of Angels, I had visited The Eugenia and I immediately knew S would love it. It is a charming 12 room Relais & Chateaux property on Sukhumvit Soi 31. The hotel is very nice, decorated smartly with vintage and antique furnishings. Quirky and kitschy design elements, like stuffed animal heads on the walls, lend a bit of levity while the owner’s fleet of vintage luxury cars (a Daimler limousine, 2 sexy cream-coloured Mercedes, and a Jaguar S) sitting outside the hotel ups the sex appeal tremendously. (Guests staying at the hotel can choose to be picked up by one of these cars; we tried both the Mercedes 220S and the Daimler. We wholeheartedly recommend the Daimler. There’s a lot more leg room, the air conditioning is more powerful and it’s simply a much smoother ride.)

eugenia2.jpg

We stayed in the Sawadee Suite, which was both elegant and homey. The copper hand-beaten bathtub was gorgeous and the duck down pillows and duvets were luxurious. The whole hotel has wireless Internet access and the room rate includes a complimentary minibar. The hotel also has a jazzed-up tuk tuk that is available to ferry you back and forth to the nearest sky train station. Just next door to the hotel is Le Vendome, an excellent little French restaurant helmed by Nicolas Joanny, who used to cook at Les Saisons in Singapore. Partly because we were lazy, and partly because we wanted to see what Nicolas was up to, we had dinner there. The food was very good. I had prawns pastilla served with a langoustine bisque to start. This was followed by a rack of lamb served with pork belly confit and eggplant caviar. For dessert, I had crepes suzette with almond ice cream.

If you’re heading up to BKK for a quick visit, I really recommend The Eugenia. It has a sexy old-world charm that few hotels are able to capture these days. Plus, there’s nothing cooler than being ferried to and from the airport in a vintage Daimler limo.

The Eugenia
267, Soi Sukhumvit 31, North Klongtan
Wattana, Bangkok Thailand 10110
Tel: +66-2-259-9017-9
Fax: +66-2-259-9010
Reservation: reservation@theeugenia.com

Le Vendome
267/2 Sukhumvit Soi 31(Sawasdee)
Klongton, Klongtoey
Bangkok 10110
Tel: +66 (0) 2662 0530-1
Fax: +66 (0) 2662 0529
contact@levendomerestaurant.com

Skipping around Southern Thailand

southernthailand.jpg
The view from Rayavadee in Krabi

Huge snaps to my wife S for updating this blog while I’ve been on the road. For the past 10 days, I’ve been flouncing my way across some of the prettier parts of Southern Thailand on an assignment. (In a nutshell, I was scouting the area’s boutique hotels and resorts for a client.)

I started my trip in Koh Samui. My colleague and I spent a couple nights at the SILA Evason Hideway, which is a swanky rustic-chic property with beautiful pool villas and personalized butler service. Its restaurant, Dining on the Rocks, is worth a visit. It’s easily one of the most unique and beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been to. Sub-divided across multiple platforms overlooking the water, every table offers a stunning view. If rustic-chic isn’t your thing, I’d recommend checking out The Library resort. While it’s located on busy Chaweng beach (which is either a good or bad thing depending on your personal preferences), this modern, ultra-cool and sleek retreat is both private and comfortable. The red mosaic pool is very sexy, as is the all-white library, stocked full of the best international art and design books. All rooms come with gleaming white iMacs and plasma screen TVs, extras that media addicts like me really appreciate. The food at the Library was also pleasant and affordable. Sadly, few of the meals we had in Samui really blew us away. (We were really looking forward to dining at the much ballyhooed Betelnut, whose chef, Jeffrey Lord, became famous at Poppies, a veritable Samui institution. In the end, though, I found his fusion food a little amateurish and clumsy.) In fact, the best meal we had on this island was a breakfast at Padma, the main restaurant at a chic all-villa property called Karma Samui.

southerthailand1.jpg
Clockwise from top left: island-hopping; the library at Library; Amanpuri; the view from Baba; brekkie at Zeavola; Catch beach club

From Samui, we hopped over to the Pearl of the Andaman, Phuket. As I’ve mentioned previously, I spent the summer of 1993 working in Phuket, so I have a strange love-hate relationship with the place. I love the island’s natural beauty but hate that this gorgeous place has become so over-developed and overrun with tourists over the years. I remember Surin beach when it was a sleepy, sexy strip of sand with only a handful of cheap cafes nearby. Now, the area is dense with expensive resorts, restaurants and shops (there’s even a mall). Fortunately, not all of these new developments are eyesores. Both my colleague and I were really taken by the Twinpalms Hotel and its ubercool Catch Beach Club, located right on the sand at Surin. The beach club is airy, clean, cool and serves simple but good food and satisfying cocktails. There’s live music every night. Up the road from Twin Palms is Amanpuri, the grandmama of all chi-chi resorts in Southeast Asia. Good news is grams still looks like a million bucks and her clients are all worth many times more. The restaurants (a Thai and an Italian) are still among the best on the island. A good place to chow down on some Modern Thai food in sleek surrounds is Silk, in Surin Plaza. Sadly, one of my one-time favourite restaurants has now become nothing more than a tourist trap. I took my colleague to dine at Lotus, at Bang Tao Bay, and was utterly disappointed. What was once a great, affordable place for good seafood has now become yet another lousy rip-off.

I was planning on grabbing a meal at Lim’s over on Kalim Beach because some friends had raved about it. Somehow though, the night I had reservations I got sidetracked and ended up dining in Baba, the restaurant at the ultra-chic Sri Panwa resort. The cocktails at this luxe retreat were perfect and the view was stunning (of course, the half-naked Eurasian hottie frolicking in the pool in front of us only helped raise the hip factor). The restaurant’s chef, Christian Karl, who was previously at Nobu in London, prepared a smart and delicous tasting menu for us. Another restaurant worth the trip is Rivet, the industrial, urban steakhouse in the newly rebranded and re-opened Indigo Pearl resort. There, I had a delicious pumpkin soup with crab cake and caviar followed by a juicy US ribeye, served with onion rings and creamed spinach.

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Clockwise from top left: beach and sun; dining at Zeavola; pad thai at Costa Lanta; the restaurant at Costa Lanta; Destination Air; Tubkaak

From Phuket, we jumped a boat and spent a few days island-hopping. On Phi Phi island, we stayed at the gorgeous Zeavola resort. Owned by the wonderfully exuberant Khun Quanchai Panitpichetvong, this resort is built to look like an ancient Thai village, but with modern (and luxurious) touches. There are two F&B outlets, a casual beachside cafe and a sexy, open-air restaurant with lovely design elements. The food is good too. For dinner, I had a yummy crab pasta with asparagus. For brekkie the next day, I had a fantastic dish the hotel calls “Thai Royal Eggs”, which was fried eggs with minced chicken, sausages and other yummy stuff served on a cast-iron pan. A really cute touch that I liked was that the brekkie menu here is printed on a wax-lined bag. Inside the bag are freshly fried dough fritters, which are served with your choice of sweetened condensed milk or a pandan jam. The following day, we ferried over to Koh Lanta and stayed at the chic but minimalist Costa Lanta. The female owners clearly enjoy their food and booze because both the cocktails here and the food was excellent.

Our last stop was Krabi, where we checked out three resorts, among them Tubkaak, which was pretty and charming, and Rayavadee, a very pricey secluded property that I had visited previously for a friend’s wedding. Amusingly, the best food I had in Krabi was neither a Thai meal nor was it at any of these chi-chi hotels. It was at at an Irish pub named Paddy’s, where I had one of the best burgers I’ve had in ages. On the last night of our trip, I happily tucked into a very satisfying and really delicious bacon cheeseburger, washed down with a cold wheat beer. My colleague had a homemade pie, which she wolfed down and stated was great. The fries were also excellent here, fried to just the right level of crispness. Simple but stupendous.

We left Krabi very fashionably. My colleague described our departure as “very James Bond”. We had booked seats on Destination Air, a tiny little airline that runs seaplanes around Southern Thailand. From our hotel, we took a longtail boat into the middle of the ocean. Right on schedule, our plane swooped down to pick us up and bring us to Phuket’s airport. It was a great and gorgeously scenic way to leave Thailand, flying directly over the islands we had just spent 10 days skipping through.

Eating Italian in Bangkok

It might seem a little odd for some of you that I’m writing about Italian restaurants in Bangkok as opposed to recommending places for delicious Thai food. But what I, and many other foodies, have discovered over the past few years is that Bangkok is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in Southeast Asia. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the quality of Italian food there is, on average, much better than in any other place in this region. Whenever I visit the city of angels, I make it a point to have at least one or two good Italian meals. Sometimes, more than half my meals end up being at Italian restaurants. Anyway, here’s a short list of places to try on your next visit.

Biscotti
I haven’t eaten at this lovely, airy, and chic restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel for a little while. But over the past half-decade or so, I’ve had some really great meals there. The pizzas, baked in a wood-fire oven, are always good. So too are the pastas. Very popular are the penne with lamb ragout, young leek and red wine reduction and the squid ink angel hair with scallops, shrimps sprout and garlic cream. This is a very popular place and is almost always packed at lunch with businessmen who like the set lunch that includes a generous appetiser buffet.
Four Seasons Bangkok, 155 Rajdamri Road
Tel: 0-2255-5443

Zanotti
Zanotti is the restaurant that most hip Thais mention when you ask them what their favourite Italian restaurant is. For over a half-decade, chef-owner Gianmaria Zanotti has turned his homey establishment off Sathorn Road into a little slice of Northern Italy. His ingredients are always fresh. The place is always busy (you MUST reserve a table if you plan on going for dinner). From what I’ve seen, many regulars never actually crack open the menu. They trust the chef will know what they want and serve them food that keeps them coming back for more.
Saladaeng Colonnade Condominium, 21/2 Soi Saladaeng, Silom Road
Tel: 0-2636-0002, 0-2636-0266

Giusto
This pricey but slick restaurant is on Sukhumvit Soi 23. It’s the kind of place you’d take someone to show off a little, while also having a good meal. Chef Fabio Colautti has prepared a really long menu of dishes that come from all over Italy. If you get a tad confused reading it, feel free to ask Giulio Saverino, who runs the front of house here, for advice. On my last trip, Mr Saverino put together a great antipasto plate which I and my companions devoured. Everything on it was delicious. The wine list is just as extensive as the menu and has some lovely choices available. Sadly, I recommend against asking for help here. On my last visit, when I asked about a specific wine, the sommelier then proceeded to suggest several alternatives. All were priced at least twice as much as the wine I had asked about – a sure sign that he was thinking more about his commission than my interests (and limitations). The restaurant also has a nice bar, perfect for pre or post dinner drinks.
16 Sukhumvit Soi 23
Tel: 0-2258-4321

Delicatezza
delicatezza.jpg This cheap and cheerful little restaurant is a favourite, secret haunt for hi-sos that prioritize substance over style. The decor is simple – some might say non-descript – but the food is excellent. It’s not fancy fare though. It’s good, rustic Italian food cooked simply and with love. The chef-owner, Zariya Charoenphol, tends to be a tad heavy-handed with her pepper, but that suits me fine. I usually end up adding extra pepper on a lot of the food I eat, so for me, her seasoning is spot-on. On my last visit, I had a side order of sauteed spinach and a big plate of pasta with mushrooms and bacon in a rich, cheesy (and peppery) cream sauce. It was yummy. Order some of the homemade ice creams for dessert. These are also fabulous.
351/3 Soi Thonglor, Sukhumvit Soi 55
Tel: 0-2382-2850

Antonio’s
This charming, intimate restaurant is perfect for a first date. It tells your potential partner that while you appreciate beauty, you aren’t into flashy things. It also tells him or her that you value quality. Antonio’s, run by Aussie-Italian Tony Armenio, serves excellent food of the highest quality. His starter of ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms and sauced in a truffle cream is excellent. From what I hear, it is also becoming something of a cult dish. On my last visit, I had a breaded veal chop. It was great, both crisp on the outside and amazingly pink and tender inside. Antonio’s, while not as popular as Zanotti nor as flashy as Biscotti or Giusto, is perfect for people serious about their food.
59/1 Soi Sawadee, Sukhumvit soi 31
Tel: 0-2258-4247, 0-2258-4108