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Spring & Summer

2 Jun

More and more exquisite restaurants and cafes have been popping up in Bangkok in the recent years, mostly serving fusion food of some sort: Thai-Italian, Thai-Japanese, Thai-French, you name it. Y and I visited Spring & Summer, on Sukhumvit Soi 49, just two sub-sois away from  Samitivej Hospital, in the Japanese-y area of Sukhumvit Road.

Spring & Summer is an old house converted into a classy restaurant. Mains are served in the “Spring restaurant”, and dessert in the “Summer chocolate house”, although you could just sit in one place and have all of the above. At night, if you aren’t afraid of mosquitoes and bugs, I’d recommend relaxing out in the spacious “Winter bar” garden on a beanbag with a cocktail in hand.

We ordered a Tuna Tataki Salad as a starter. Presentation was simple, yet amazing. We loved the extra large wooden fork and spoon that came with the dish, for us to toss the salad in. The dressing was a delicious soy wasabi vinaigrette, which worked perfectly with both the greens and the tuna sashimi. Sadly, the star of the dish – the tuna – was not as fresh as we would have liked it to be.

Crab and Artichoke Angel Hair Pasta

I always like angel hair pasta because of its thin texture, and I tend to order it whenever it is on the menu. This time, it was something different – not the more typical truffle oil drizzling in Gianni’s, not the mind blowing cold pasta in il Lido. It was stir-fried Thai style – spiced by chili and herbs, and zinged by artichokes. The sun dried tomatoes and olives added a delicious Mediterranean twist to the dish. Flavors were extremely well-balanced here, but the dish could have been better, because the stir-frying made the pasta overcooked, barring on mushy.

This huge plate of chili glazed baby back ribs has a more interesting name in Thai: ซี่โครงหมูต้องห้าม, which literally means “cautioned ribs”. When the waiter presented us with this dish, our eyes widened at the size of it: two half-stacks of ribs with a thick chili glaze served alongside a huge onion basket. The ribs were delicious to a mind-blowing extent. The juicy meat fell of the bone with just a flick of the knife. The only downside to the ribs were the chili glaze, which we found to be too sweet. As for the onion basket, it cleansed our palette well, although it could have been crispier.

Despite us being extremely full from the main meal, we HAD to move on to dessert, because Spring & Summer makes such wonderful chocolate treats!

This plate is christened Better Than Sex. I can imagine why the name, because the baked chocolate mousse was soooooo delectable, so chocolately, so addictive. We couldn’t get enough of it, and almost fought over who got the last bite. The vanilla ice cream was homemade, with a twist of banana in it, which I did not particularly enjoy, because of the slightly artificial taste that banana flavorings always have (I don’t like banana flavors in general). But oh, did I mention the yummy salted caramel drizzle that runs along the circumference of the plate? Too good.

This was another aptly christened plate: Chocolate Bravo. The lava cake was so perfectly executed: the crust was thin, yet moist, and so much sinful dark chocolate oozed out from the inside. It was served alongside a dollop of chocolate mousse, which rightly did not steal the limelight from the lava cake. Bravo, indeed.

On top of these, the friend had a Strawberry mojito (which was too syrupy) and I had a pineapple and tropical fruits smoothie (which was not too shabby).

For the first time in my blog, I will be splitting my verdict between the mains and the desserts, just because it would be fairer that way.

My verdict: 2/5 spoonfuls for the mains (for the prices charged, I’d be expecting higher standards), and 5/5 spoonfuls for the oh-too-heavenly desserts. I’ll definitely be coming back for the desserts, after a meal somewhere else first. Or maybe, just a meal of chocolate dessert here 😉

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Leonardo Ristorante

15 Feb

After a freezing cold visit to the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau, I was dying for a warm and hearty meal. Somehow, we stumbled upon Leonardo Ristorante at Szpitalna 20 (Stare Miasto), en route to Krakow’s city center. I must say this is truly a hidden treasure, as it is difficult to imagine how such a cozy and excellent restaurant could be sited in such a quiet area of the city, and underground, at that!

Cozy little place, isn’t it?

We were surprised with an amuse bouche of finely minced and pounded tuna on a bed of rockets. It was light and VERY juicy, leaving us lingering for more.

Salad with smoked duck and mango witch mustard and honey vinegar

I typically stay away from garden green salads, but this time, I couldn’t stop myself from ordering it, because of the smoked duck. Living up to my expectations, the duck was perfectly smoked, smelling of charcoal and not tasting too salty. The mango mustard and honey vinegar made boring garden greens that much more palatable. (I love my vegetables, but I can get picky.)

Traditional Polish sour rye soup with bacon, sausage, potatoes, and egg

This sour rye soup, aka zurek in the native language, is a must-order when in Poland. It has a distinctly sour taste which comes from the “sour leavening” of rye flour and bread crusts. It is typically served with sourdough bread, hard boiled eggs, and smoked meat, like sausages, bacon, or ham. This was THE dish that satisfied me after a long, cold day at the concentration camps.

Speaking of bread, we were served with a delicious bread basket, but surprise surprise, what had me was not the bread basket, but their homemade olive oils that were served with the breads. There was an onion-infused olive oil, and a sun-dried tomato-infused olive oil. The latter was the hero of the day. Whoever knew that adding sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary into a bottle of extra virgin olive oil could taste so delicious? When we got back, we decided to make our own sun-dried tomato-infused olive oil. Haven’t tasted it yet, though, but I’m hoping it tastes as great as Leonardo’s!

Roasted sea perch fillet with shrimp ravioli

The sea perch fillet was fantastic. It was so fresh, so juicy, and so perfectly roasted. Shrimp ravioli seems to be Leonardo’s signature dish. It is served as a side on more than three dishes on the menu. Unfortunately, we failed to appreciate it, and thought it simply tasted like minced shrimp in cream sauce, wrapped in a ravioli skin.

Veal sirloin with vegetables in tarragon sauce

This dish was another winner. The chef so skillfully executed the delicate veal sirloin, such that it did not turn out tough, but instead, almost melted in our mouths like the amuse bouche did. I just kept eating, and eating, until the plate was clean.

Pear strudel with vanilla sauce and ice cream

During the entire Europe trip, I had more than my entire year’s quota of strudels. But this pear strudel definitely was the most memorable. Wonderfully crispy layers of filo encompassing the warm and juicy pear and cinnamon stuffing. The warm vanilla sauce was a plus, adding to the moistness and pairing ever so perfectly with the cinnamon flavors.

Chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce and ice cream

While we were expecting a souffle, we were instead presented with a lava cake. We were disappointed, because we wanted to see how the pastry chef executed the souffle alongside the strudel, given the need to serve a souffle within 30 seconds of it leaving the oven. However, upon digging into the lava cake, our disappointment evaporated. The dark chocolate was so rich, and the cake so moist. The acidic raspberry sauce so perfectly complemented the thickness of the chocolate, making the entire dish easier to gobble down – and gobble down we did.

What bugged us was the crazy silvery and sugary thing that was served on both dessert plates. True, it did make the plate look all so Christmasy, especially when it glistened under the warm yellow lights. But we found it a bit of an overkill, as it competed slightly too much with the delicious dessert the pastry chef made, making it slightly difficult to eat the strudel and the lava cake without getting silvery streamers all over our hands and mouths.

I must say I was thankful we took the less-travelled route from our hotel to the city center. If we had taken the main road, we would have completely bypassed the inner streets, as well as this magnificent restaurant. Definitely a favorite on my list, and I would make a detour just for a meal at Leonardo’s, should I be in Poland again, even if I were not in Krakow. Pricing-wise, it was very reasonable (although comparatively costlier than other Polish eateries) – a main course was priced at about 52 Polish Zlotys, which is roughly 10 GBP, and 20 SGD.

My verdict: 5/5 spoonfuls

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

2 Feb

Hello folks! Sorry for having disappeared for so long! So much has happened since I last blogged. I’ve been away, holidaying on another continent, diagnosed with gastrointestinal disorders that prevented me from having even the slightest bit of lactose and alcohol, and trying to readjust from holiday mode to school mode, since school started and has already been hectic. Chinese New Year’s round the corner, and Restaurant Week’s coming up in a few weeks…I guess everyone is in a gastronomical mood!

When I was in London, M and I visited Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – his flagship restaurant at Royal Hospital Road, awarded 3 Michelin stars. I must say it was the most heavenly meal I’ve tasted, and I felt like I was in heaven, for that 1.5 hours of dining.

Upon stepping into the cozy restaurant of about 12 tables, we were welcomed by a battery of waitstaff, who ushered us to our reserved table, and asked us if we’d like a champagne.

On the front page of the menu was a painting of Gordon Ramsay himself, working in the kitchen. Boy, we’d kill to try HIS cooking, although Clare Smyth, his head chef (and first female chef to be awarded 3 Michelin stars), is amazing at what she does.

We weren’t served a break basket, but had a waiter who brought a large tray of 5 different types of ciabattas and focaccias for us to take our pick, every now and then. Among the most memorable were the onion, olive, and potato (my favorite).

Amuse Bouche – Pumpkin Soup with Ricotta Cheese

When this was served, I was intrigued by how it was merely a round of ricotta in the middle of a large round dish, and a long strip of crispy pastry on the side. I loved the presentation. Then, the waiter started pouring pumpkin soup into the bowl, and explaining the dish to us. I loved it even more.

The pumpkin soup was smooth and full of squashed pumpkin goodness, and blended perfectly with the ricotta. The crispy pastry was topped with bits of bacon, pistachio, onion, garlic, and other herbs I could not identify. I wished they had given me two strips of it!

Then came the smoked potato and poached hen’s egg ravioli with pak choi, roast chicken jus and leek velouté. Upon slicing open the large ravioli, the soft boiled egg yolk burst, running into the leek sauce, creating a thick, flavorful gravy for the entire dish. Just like the amuse bouche, the leek sauce was poured in at the table, while the waiter explained the concept of the dish.

The salt cod brandade tartine, noir de bigorre ham, piquillo peppers, olives, confit tomatoes and quail’s egg was a sight to behold. Look at the vibrant colors! The savory ingredients sat atop a piece of crispy thin and slightly sweet pastry – the savory and the sweet blended to create a wonderful experience for the taste buds.

My main course was a spiced free range Devon duck with Swiss chard, beetroot and grilled onions. Fascinating name and wonderfully executed (perfectly seared on the outside and pink on the inside), but this might have been the most “disappointing” course. Technically, it was not at all disappointing, but the other dishes simply stood out more than this one did. This one simply tasted like a Chinese-style spiced duck, because the amongst the spices used by the chef was the Chinese 5-spice.

I absolutely loved the roasted rabbit loin with Bayonne ham, spinach, marjoram, basil, coco bean cassoulet and pickled mustard seed. I thought it was absolutely ingenious to wrap the rabbit in chorizo, blending in the meaty game with the juicy Spanish sausage. The coco bean cassoulet was a wonderful starch-alternative, which I couldn’t stop eating until it was all gone. The most amazing part was the presentation of the pickled mustard seed and herbs as grapes. Too beautiful!

We had a full-bodied red wine which the sommelier recommended to go with our mains, and I must say they complemented each other really well! Pity I forgot the name of the wine.

Before we were served with our desserts, the waitstaff surprised us with a flute of mango-jasmine smoothie, to cleanse our palettes. To date, I can still taste the freshness of the sweet and slightly sour mango, and the scent of the jasmine, blending together to create the most delicious smoothie I’ve ever had.

After the smoothie, the excitement continued – we were served both the tiniest and largest desserts ever served to us in the history of our lives.

Blackcurrant Fennel and Yoghurt Génoise with Violet Sorbet

This was the tiniest dessert I’ve had (the photo is misleading!). At the same time, it was the most refreshing and unique dessert I’ve tasted. It was not technically a genoise, because it was made of layers of jelly and mousse in addition to sponge, but the various usages of the blackcurrant in the cake was mind blowing. The violet sorbet was so light, so thirst-quenching. Who would’ve thought of making violet sorbet? I was dying for more by the time I finished my dessert. Thank God M had a HUGE dessert that required some assistance.

Banoffee Pie Souffle Banana & Salted Caramel Crumble

Seriously, I’ve never seen anything quite so large as this! It was a souffle as wide as a cappuccino mug, standing at about 5 or 6 inches tall! It was a wonderful mix of banana and chocolate and salted caramel, especially at the bottom, where the salted caramel was. On the side we had a vanilla bean ice cream, which was refreshing – perhaps to help us digest the souffle? But yet, the souffle was so large the both of us struggled to finish it!

And after they cleared our dessert plates, we had a smoking cold bowl placed on our table.

It was strawberry ice cream in white chocolate coating. My guess is it was created using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) – it’s the in thing nowadays! You simply drop anything into a pool of laughing gas, and it solidifies in a matter of seconds. I once watched a video where a man dropped an eraser into laughing gas, took it out, and broke it in half!

Anyway, back to the petite four – for the first time in my life, I loved the strawberry ice cream. The white chocolate was too sweet for my liking, though.

The most awesome was of course, this dish of dark chocolate ganache and lychee flavored Turkish delights. If I wasn’t too full by this time, I’d have ordered another dish of this!

To go with the desserts, we ordered, again on the sommelier’s recommendation, a mildly sweet moscato. I loved it so much I remembered the name: Moscato D’Asti 2011. It was so fragrant I couldn’t stop sniffing at it. And it was mildly sweet, with hints of grapefruit. A shout out to dessert wine lovers out there!

After this meal, I seriously question the possibility of having another meal that would ever make me this satisfied and happy.

To conclude, 3 stars from Michelin, 100 spoonfuls from guiltygoodness!

Cong Caphe

1 Sep

I brewed a large cup of Vietnamese coffee today while studying, and my dear friend and suite mate R came in with some Vietnamese pork cakes and fermented sausages. Again, I am reminiscent of my days in Hanoi, and thought I should blog about my favorite cafe in the world – Cong Caphe, located at 152D Trieu Viet Vuong, Hanoi. It is not only a coffee house – it doubles up as a bar as well.

The atmosphere is homey and cozy, with a dimly lit interior, Vietnamese-French music softly playing in the background, and the faint smell of cigarettes adds to the Hanoian feel.

Cong has an interior reminiscent of the old days, with brick walls, wooden furnishings, posters of the communist ideology, and the list goes on.

The cafe feels like it was designed to feel like a house, a home. The first floor as the living room, and the second floor as a place to relax in greater peace, to sit on the floor on cushions and work/eat/drink on low tables.

This place is perfect to get some work done on your laptop, read a book, catch up with friends, or just to chill.

Cong’s coffees are wonderful – thick, rich, and perfectly mixed. Their signature is an iced milk coffee, which has hints of cocoa and rum. So delicious and addictive I couldn’t stop drinking. Remember to ask for less condensed milk though – it is really sweet!

I also had a very freshly squeeze pineapple juice one day when I thought I had overdosed on caffeine and milk.

Their smoothies are amazing. I had a passionfruit yoghurt smoothie, which blew my mind away. There was a perfect balance between the yoghurt and the passionfruit, with additional spices I can’t quite put my tongue to.

Out of my five days in Hanoi, I visited Cong four times, and on one day, I visited twice. I love it that much!

My local friends who introduced me to this cafe are just as addicted as I am to this place. Unfortunately for me, I don’t get to visit everyday and sit in there doing work, or just to chill, for hours, unlike them.

I wish I could be studying in Cong right now…

My verdict: 5/5 spoonfuls

Hanoi Social Cafe

15 Aug

It’s not the first time I’ve reminisced about Hanoi since I came back over a month ago. Every time it rains, I think of Hanoi. Every time I ride a bike, I think of Hanoi. Every time I drink coffee, I think of Hanoi. So I decided, it’s about time I blogged about two of my favorite cafes in Hanoi.

As many of you will know, I spent much of my 4 days in Hanoi chilling in cafes, reading a book, listening to the rain, and watching the world go by.

I’ll start off with Hanoi Social Cafe on 6 Ngõ Hội Vũ, Hoan Kiem District. Popular amongst expats as a place to finalize proposals or to have a cuppa before a big meeting. But don’t let its popularity amongst expats turn you away, as this does not mean the cafe lacks local flavor!

At Hanoi Social Cafe, I had my virgin taste of Vietnamese Egg Coffee. This is not a common beverage, but definitely a Hanoi signature. I hear that this is one of the two places that serve it. The other is very inaccessible – faraway and a top a hill.

So…Egg coffee. What it really is is black coffee with a layer of beaten raw egg whites floating above it. Gross you may think, and gross it did smell. Raw eggs!

But I swear it was the most memorable cuppa I’ve had in my life. The beaten egg whites were not just that – they were beaten with condensed milk, making the whole layer thick, creamy, and sweet. Tasted like the insides of roasted  marshmallows. Imagine thick dark black coffee, sweetened with marshmallows!

After I had my first sip, and licked off my creamy egg mustache (yums), I was told by the friendly wait staff that I was supposed to stir the egg into the coffee. So I did, and the coffee became “marshmallow coffee”. I preferred the egg and the coffee separate, though, because I could taste the wholesomeness of each part of the mixture.

Note #1: DO NOT SMELL THE COFFEE BEFORE DRINKING! It will do nothing but turn you off!

Note #2: DO NOT ORDER IT ICED OR COLD! The stench of the raw eggs is worse when it’s cold!

I dare you all to have a go at Vietnamese Egg Coffee!

My verdict: 5/5 spoonfuls

PS: Just go for the coffee, and forget about having food there. Desserts maybe, but not real food.

Will blog about my favorite cafe in the world – Cong Caphe – soon!

Dean & Deluca

5 Aug

The American cafe chain Dean & Deluca has recently become my favorite place for pastries in Bangkok. Used to be Dusit Thani, but somehow, standards have dropped over the years, making their pastries almost inedible nowadays. I’ve never tried their food, but a very good friend has become obsessed with D&D’s food after I introduced it to him, so I thought, why not have a shot? The long overdue girls’ day out with R and S was thus held at D&D’s Chong Nonsi outlet at Mahanakorn.

Tuna Nicoise Salad

I’ve been having a lot of tuna lately, both in tartare and seared forms. Perhaps learning to appreciate the fish for what it’s worth, like how I’m learning to appreciate the Porsche Panamera for what it’s worth. D&D sells salad in half and full portions; this was a full portion, standing at 250g. Just the right size, I would say. The half portions would be more appropriate if you wanted a side salad to complement, say, your sandwich or main course. Although by the time I got to the bottom of the salad bowl, I realized that quite some oil was used to toss the salad, the salad greens did not feel greasy or overly drenched in oil. Beats me how it was so well executed! The tuna was well seared too, perfectly pink and rare on the inside, and not the slightest bit mushy.

Spinach and Cheese Sandwich

Vegetarians might find D&D problematic though. Thank god I’m a much more flexitarian (flexible vegetarian) than I was two years ago. I’ve been eating a lot more meat, but still being extremely picky about the kinds that go into my body. R took quite a long time to finally find something that was meat-free. We all loved the inside of the sandwich – thick gruyere and melt-in-your-mouth spinach. But the sandwich itself was nowhere near melt-in-your-mouth. The crust was impossible to manage!

Prawn Massaman Risotto

S had the most interesting order amongst the three of us. Massaman risotto. Never heard of risotto that is not cream or cheese based. This was a refreshing change to the norm, although I can’t quite say we truly enjoyed it. The risotto was clearly too dry (where’s the gravy?), and the massaman flavors did not permeate the entire dish. Tasted rather like curry rice.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake

I had the shock of my life when R told me she does not like dark chocolate. She hates it for the same reasons why I love dark chocolate, and hate milk and/or white chocolate. She eats chocolate for the milk and sugar, not for the chocolate. Such paradox, my dear!

Very rudely surprisingly, the cake did not turn out as heavenly as I thought it would. Probably one of the worst of its kind I’ve ever tasted, even. It was dry and crumbly, and the chocolate not sufficiently thick. I’m at a loss for words.

I’ve concluded that Dean & Deluca shall remain my favorite place for pastries, and pastries only. I absolutely adore their cherry pies and almond croissants. But their food is merely passable.

My verdict: 3/5 spoonfuls

Reflexions

30 Jul

Too many things have been running through my mind this past week, and too many things have been happening since last Sunday, so I haven’t found the composure to blog about Reflexions and do it justice. I’m pretty sure my working my ass off at my friend’s tuition center has been escapism. Now it’s time to face reality. And good food is my reality.

The much anticipated dinner with DL happened last Monday at Reflexions, a French restaurant in Hotel Athenee, on Ploen Chit Road. Chilled out at Glaz Bar while waiting for DL, despite reminding myself that I should give my liver a break, especially because I got drunk the night before.

Bread Basket

If you will remember, my relationship with a restaurant typically begins with the bread basket. I don’t know why I love bread so much; I just do. This bread basket was fantastic. Served warm, and exuding such appealing aroma that I couldn’t help but jump straight into the rolls. There was a multigrain roll, a focaccia roll, and a plain roll. Wonderful soft, fluffy, and delicious bread!

Tartare de Thon et Carpaccio de St-Jacques (Tuna Tartare and Scallop Carpaccio)

Beautiful presentation that reminded me of corals, especially with the sliced baby vegetables. The tuna was magnificent, but unfortunately, not the scallops. Slicing the scallops that way was disappointing to me, because it destroyed the distinct body and texture of the scallops. The balsamic reduction was a good pairing, bring much flavor to the appetizer.

Veloute de Lentilles Noires (Creamy Black Lentil Soup)

The soup was served with crispy bacon and garlic crouton, which added crunch to the dish. It was so good that DL wiped the bowl dry.

Filet De Par Poêle (Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Crispy Skin)

The so-called crispy skin was what attracted me to the dish, but ended up disappointing me because it was not crispy enough, almost as if it were grilled rather than pan-seared. The rather bland fish sat atop sauteed leeks, chorizo, mushroom, asparagus coulis, and luckily, a yummy cream sauce. I’m guessing the sauce was probably made from crustacean, because it got my throat slightly swollen pretty quickly.

Cote D’Agneaux Australiens Grillé (Grilled Australian Lamp Chops)

The perfectly grilled lamb was served with goat’s cheese on the side, and with cumin sauce. While I thought the presentation was meh, DL seemed to love it, first slicing the chops with his knife, and then eventually picking them up with his hands and gnawing on them.

Tartlette Chaude Au Chocolat Noir

Dark warm chocolate tart served with vanilla bean ice cream and berry coulis. I didn’t want to order a dessert because DL loves dessert and has a strict diet to follow, and I did not want him to end up watching me eat, but I can’t possibly pass up on dark chocolate! He ended up watching me savor every bite (I’m so, so sorry!). But unfortunately this was a disaster. The tart was warm and dark, but slightly too dense. The vanilla bean ice cream was not flavorful enough. Would have let it slide if it did counter the effects of the tart, but it did no such thing.

This dessert was the last lactose-based dish I’ve had the past week. Turns out, lactose intolerance decided to come back and haunt me again, this time not only making me run off to the toilet with a bad stomach, but also making me puke. Most uncomfortable feeling ever. I haven’t had a drop of milk since then.

This little thing must have been the highlight of my night. It is a maitai cocktail mousse frozen by nitrous oxide. I’ve heard of the wonders of laughing gas and how it freezes everything that comes its way, but I’ve never eaten anything frozen by it. The waitress was serving this up an adjacent table, and I was so intrigued by it and asked her to explain what that was. After explaining, she came by a few minutes later and decided to serve it to us, on the house.

Upon leaving, the staff presented me this pretty white rose as a thank you gift. Brought back memories of the beautiful bouquet of white roses I received back in oh gosh what year now? 2004 perhaps?

My verdict: 3/5 spoonfuls. I wish I could be more impressed by the place, but oh well.