Thursday, February 26, 2009

Saffron, Bangkok



Thought I would try out some "higher end" Thai food and being lazy to travel, I opted for the Thai restaurant at my hotel - Saffron, which has made a name for itself for its contemporary Thai food.



Interior & Menu

Probably the only thing Saffron can boast about, interior wise, is its stunning view from the 52nd story of Banyan Tree, which overlooks the Silom area (the central business district of Bangkok). One thing about the place that really irks me is the chair, which has such low side and back rests that its uncomfortable.



Rice Crispies with Chicken and Shrimp Paste & Deep Fried Corn with Fresh Cucumber

Both appetisers came complimentary and the warm and crisp rice crispies were a great way to start off the meal. Dipping them in the chicken and shrimp paste gave rise to a nice snack that was mildy spicy and sweet with a strong coconut milk aftertaste.
I didn't think too much of the deep fried corn though, which was something new to me. But aside from the crunchy texture and the taste of sweet and sour sauce, I could quite make out any other flavours.



Khong Wang Ruam Mitr (Saffron Signature Thai Appetiser Sampler)

Its billed as the best way to try out what Saffron has to offer without busting your wallet or waistline - tasting portions are served and it is good for 2 pax. But in all honesty, I thought that it could have better. Granted, the prawn cakes were tasty without coming across as overly oily, but the other appetisers faltered somewhat. The satay was a little too tough and came across as flat. Thank god for the peanut sauce! The crispy noodles were a joy to chew on but I found it overly sweet. As for the spring rolls, the use of basil in them made it rather intriguing. It got rather spicy after a few mouthfuls with a discernible sourish tinge. Nice if you like basil.



Tom Yum Goong Mae Nam (Traditional Spicy River Prawn Soup, Lemongrass)

We were offered a choice for the level of spiciness. Namely, mild, medium or spicy. Opting to err on the side of caution, we went for the medium, which turned out to be a wrong move. The milky soup wasn't spicy and thats coming from someone whose tolerance level is remarkably low aka me. The lemongrass taste was also particularly strong with an accompanying sourish aftertaste.



Phad Thai Gatee Goong (Traditional Fried Rice Noodle, Prawns, Coconut - Tamarind Sauce)

One of my favourite Thai dishes for its simplicity and myraid of flavours, Saffron's rendition of the ubiquitous Phad Thai was starkly different from what I had been exposed to. The whole dish reminded me uncannily of char kway teow (fried flat noodles) but was surprisingly light on the flavours. There was an addition of egg as well and the whole dish was light, sweet and dry. Only complaint I have was that the noodles tended to clump together.



Gai Hor Bai Toey (Crisp Fried Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus Leaf, Tamarind - Sesame Dip)

Commonly known as pandan chicken, this dish didn't come across as too oily or fatty which were definite plus points. The chicken was well marinated with the flavours permeating through with every bite. Complementing it was the marginally faint trace of pandan aftertaste.



Kho Neaw Mamuang Hom Sabai I Tim Nga Dum (Mango Sticky Rice Spring Rolls, Black Sesame Ice Cream, Fresh Mango)

Another of Saffron's signature dish, the sticky rice spring roll was as its name suggests, sticky rice topped with a thin layer of mango slices and wrapped in spring roll skin before deep frying. The end result? Warm and sweet rice amidst a layer of crispy spring roll skin. The fresh mangoes enhanced the natural sweetness when eaten together. However, give me the original mango sticky rice anyday.



Bill

It worked out to be about $125 for 2 pax for a simple Thai dinner, which is certainly expensive. The dishes are generally decent but none fall anywhere near the outstanding category. So much for its fame. I must commend Saffron for its excellent service though.



Likes: Great view and service
Dislikes: Expensive and food could have been better


Final Verdict:
Ambience:8.5/10
Service:8/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6/10
Overall:7.25/10

Address: 51st & 52nd floor Banyan Tree Bangkok, 21/100 South Sathorn Road

Contact: +66 2 6791200

Opening Hours:

Lunch: 11.30am - 2.30pm

Dinner: 6.00pm - 11.00pm

Website: http://www.banyantree.com/bangkok/facilities/dining/saffron.html

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Zanotti, Bangkok



For Italian gourmet lovers, it is said that no trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to Zanotti, a fine dining Italian restaurant in the Thai capital's business district. Zanotti is ranked among the top 20 Italian restaurants in Asia and is apparently one of, if not THE best Italian restaurant in Bangkok. Reservations are a must at this restaurant and the smart casual dress code is strictly enforced.



Exterior & Interior

Located on the ground floor of a condominium along Sala Daeng Road, just about a 10 min walk from Silom (MRT) or Sala Daeng (BTS) station, Zanotti's facade is reminiscent of Jack's Place in the olden days. Ahh the nostalgia. The interior comes across as homely with carefully chosen art pieces adorning the walls. Honestly, the Italian restaurants in Singapore do a better job in this aspect, especially the fine dining ones.



Flute of Prosecco Rose and Pommegranade



Complimentary Bread & Bruschetta

There was an assortment of bread, all freshly baked and served warm. Focaccia, breadsticks, baguette, cocoa walnut bread and the likes. A great way to start off the meal but watch the intake because flour fills you up real fast.
The bruschetta came in a tiny tapas like serving and wasn't particularly good or anything.



Tuna Carpaccio Seasoned with Orange Drops and Served with an Octopus Mosaic

I thought that the acidity and zest of the orange drops brilliantly countered the rawness of the tuna, making for a sublime sensory experience. I wasn't too taken by the octopus though.



Seasonal Vegetable BarbaBuc in Pistacchio and Truffle Sauce

I will readily admit that this appetiser did the trick for me. Generous amounts of black truffle and lightly savoury vegetables with a creamily smooth aftertaste due to the slices of mozzarella cheese, whats not to like?



Italian Boiled Cotechino Salami on a Bed of Grappa Marinated Chestnuts

Its the first time I'm having boiled salami and the initial weirdness aside, it tasted a lot like luncheon meat, albeit a lot softer. The chestnuts in grappa were a little too sweet for my liking.



Egg Surprise Flavoured with Truffles and Herbs Served in Its Own Shell

The egg was really surprising in a good sense. Served up in an egg shell with its topped removed, the egg had a slush creamy like texture. Very much like scrambled eggs, just a lot creamier and softer. Spring onions and black truffles ensured that it didn't get too nauseating and provided a subtle fragrance at the same time. Very well executed.



Lobster Bisque Soup

The lobster bisque didn't come across as too rich yet packed enough flavour to entice. Throw in a few lobster cubes and flour droplets and you have a nice satisfying bowl of soup.



Ravioli filled with Boraggine and Robiola Cheese in a White Truffle Sauce & Stawberry and Champagne Risotto

The ravioli came in a cheesy heart shape, probably due to Vday (They celebrate Vday in Thailand as well?) and was stuffed with Boraggine which is a herb like spinach that didn't quite suit my palate because of its blandness. And the Robiola cheese didn't help one bit.
Equally disappointing was the risotto, which wasn't al dente and came across as too soft. There was no champagne taste as well but the strawberries proved to be a lifesaver, infusing a little zest into an otherwise plan and boring dish.



Passion Fruit Sherbet

A nice cold sweet yet sourish interlude before the mains.



Fresh Atlantic Black Cod Steam Baked in Fata Pepper with Datterino Tomatoes and Zucchini

Aside for the novelty of having to unwrap the plastic that covered the fish, there was really nothing interesting about this dish. Sure, the fish was fresh and firm without the tomato sauce being too overwhelming but it just didn't shine. And portions were tiny.



Braised Venison Marinated with Barolo Wine and Herbs Served with Polenta in Traditional Northern Italian Style

Sheer disappointment on this one. The venison was very soft and had a rather dry texture. Somehow or rather it tasted more like lamb to me then anything else. Check out the dainty servings as well.



Chiacchiere

This is the first time I'm having this and I must say I wasn't too impressed. It tasted like deep fried flour to me with coatings of icing sugar.



Chocolate Cake

A staple dessert in most Italian restaurants nowadays, the chocolate fondant had a crisp outer shell encrusting viscous molten chocolate that oozed ever so slowly and tantalizingly. Just watch for the excessive sugar content.



Tiramisu

I will outrightly declare my love for Zanotti's tiramisu. This has got to be the best tiramisu I've eaten in a long long time. The mascarpone cheese was rich, smooth yet lightly coagulated. Sponge to cheese ratio was very optimal as well. A most excellent sweet ending to the meal.



Bill

Dinner worked out to be about $145/pax which isn't too expensive considering that its a special set menu meant for "hijacking" wallets (not that we wanted it though). Ala carte promises to be cheaper but if you want a good deal, go for the set lunch (<$20). Service was good but they should have informed us about the set menu only restriction and we would have gladly rescheduled our reservation. It wasn't until we were at the restaurant before they informed us, which defeated the purpose really.

Likes: Tiramisu
Dislikes: Mains could be better
Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:6/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6/10
Overall:6.25/10

Address: 21/2 1st Floor, Saladaeng Colonnade Condominium, Silom Rd., Silom Bangrak, Bangkok 10500

Contact: +66 2 636-0002

Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30 – 14:30 Dinner 18:00 – 22:30

Website: http://www.zanotti-ristorante.com/

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Din Tai Fung



To be honest, I can't believe that I've never tried Din Tai Fung (鼎泰丰) even though its rather prolific and alot of people have actually tried it. I guess I've been put off by the ridiculously long queues at each of its outlets during meal times. So imagine my glee when I found the crowds wanting at one of its outlet one afternoon.



The Place

The place is reminiscent of a typical Chinese restaurant except that this outlet had most of its seating in the open atrium of the shopping mall, which poses a genuine threat of uninvited aerial missiles from the shoppers above.



Tofu

For $3.30, I honestly didn't expect much. But I certainly wasn't prepared for the onslaught of the minature tofu. I kid you not. The tofu looks small enough to be devoured in just 1 large mouth. Taste wise, it had a high egg content and tasted very normal.




Xiao Long Bao

The dish that Din Tai Fung is known for, its Xiao Long Bao. I can't say that I didn't like it, but it wasn't that much of a mind blowing experience that I had anticipated. The rather dry skin enveloped a mouthful of light broth that flowed out with every nibble. Also, the XLBs didn't carry the strong pork taste which I personally disdain.



Fried Rice with Prawns & Egg

The rice grains were plump and moist, which made for a nice texture. However it lacked the quintessential wok hei and portions were minute to say the least.



Bill

I was stuffed at the end of my $26 lunch, but prices here aren't cheap and probably higher then your basic Crystal Jade outlets for the portion sizes. Food quality is decent and service is efficient but rather curt. So much for the legend. But I might just have another go at this place if the crowds are nonexistent.



Likes: Food decent
Dislikes: Portions are tiny for the price

Final Verdict:
Ambience:6.5/10
Service:6/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6/10

Overall:6.25/10

Address: #B1-70/71 Jurong Point Shopping Centre

Contact: 6861 1811

Opening Hours: 10am - 10pm

Website: http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/en/area_a_list.asp?AreaCountryNO=5

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dozo



Dozo - the upscale sibling of Tao's Restaurant that dabbles in fine modern Japanese cuisine. Dozo, which means please in Japanese, operates very much like its little sister, offering only 6 or 7 course set menus with no ala carte option.




Exterior & Interior

Located on the 2nd level of Valley Point along River Valley Road, Dozo's interior oozes sublime chic and sophistication with mainly red velvety plush chairs amidst a black backdrop. Floor to ceilings windows offer a somewhat muted view of the surroundings. Apparently the 3 window side seats on the elevated wooden platform is a hot favourite amongst couples so be sure to make your reservations early.



Flour Sticks & Drink Shots

The flour sticks were, well, flour sticks dusted with chilli flakes and the likes. Nothing too fancy here. As for the 2 shots of mango juice with tons of crushed ice, lets just say I had a hard time trying to get a reasonable amount of liquid into my mouth initially.




Appetiser

You don't get to choose the first course and everyone gets the same thing - scallop, foie gras and smoked salmon, which wasn't too bad really. The scallop was nicely seared with a crisp layer atop but lacked the firm texture that I was looking for. Apart from the foie gras being really small, I thought it was decent but could have been more quivery. I thought that the smoked salmon was quite well done though. Not mind blowingly salty with a nice taut texture sans the raw fishy aftertaste.



Infusion of Cepes Mushroom and Truffle & Crab Bisque

The mushroom soup had bits of mushroom in it and 1 lone black truffle served on a little flat tea spoon by the side, which you can choose to plonk it into the soup or nibble on it individually. I chose the former, which didn't seem to make much of a difference to the soup. Overall still quite decent though but a tad too watery for my liking.

I thought that the crab bisque was rather watered down as well and tasted rather limp even though there were signs of crab meat in the soup.



Tempura Battered Soft Shell Crab on Galette of Mash

The tempura batter was decently thin but lacked any flavour, which made it really bland. On the upside, the crab wasn't too oily and the sesame vinaigrette alongside helped alot in ensuring its palatability.



Gratinated Escargots Topped with Yuzu Butter

A group of 3 escargots came with cheese and Yuzu butter while a solitary one was presented with garlic. Personally I preferred the ones in the cheese as it came across as creamy with a slight chewy texture. The garlic one needed a stronger dose of garlic in my humble opinion.



Beef Tataki with Shaved Parmesan and Truffle Mayo Mosaic

The beef tataki certainly didn't do itself any favours with its dryness but interestingly, a few slices of the beef were wrapped around a crispy flour cylindrical cone which was something different, especially with the truffle mayo. But I can't say that I enjoyed it very much as the beef was bland and relied on the mayo to give it flavour.



Succulent King Crab Claw Salad Drizzled with Sesame Vinaigrette

Freshly succulent, the crab meat (purportedly from Alaska) was complemented by chopped onions and sweet mango, which made it sweet and "oniony" (for lack of a better word) at the same time. With such a delightful centrepiece, who needs vegetables?



Baked Atlantic Cod Fillet on Puff Pastry

This dish is interesting in the sense that the cod fillet is literally stuck onto the puff pastry, which can be a pain if you don't wish to have the pastry, especially when its rather tough and unyielding to begin with. However, I've got to give the fish credit for being fresh and firm with a nice crispy layer of skin to boot.



Beef Tenderloin on "Pu Ye" & Granite Hot Stone

To be honest, I am unable to make an accurate judgment on the beef as by the time I was done taking my lousy shots, the 200 degrees celsius slab of granite stone had already cooled considerably and the beef just wasn't sizzling anymore. Maybe due to that, the beef slices turned out soft but still juicy and rather tasteless. A shame really, especially with the excellent asthetics.



Iced Fruity Refresher

You get a choice from a couple of hot or cold teas and its a nice refreshing change from the usual palate cleansers or drinks.



Freshly Baked Warm Chocolate Cake Served with Ice Cream

Puny would probably be one of the adjectives to describe the chocolate cake. The crust was nice but a tad thick while the molten chocolate was of the runny kind. Decent but not really outstanding.



Dozo's "Mo Cha" Creme Brulee

The sugar layer on the creme brulee was a tad too burnt but I appreciated the rather evident green tea taste of the creme brulee. A welcome change from the usual vanilla ones.



Bill

Dinner cost $59.80++/pax ($70.40 after taxes), which did come across as a tad steep even though service and ambience were top notch. Food quality wise, there is still ample room for improvement in my humble opinion and if Dozo can work on this, I'm sure it will be a hit.



Likes: Nice place, excellent service
Dislikes: Food quality can be improved

Final Verdict:
Ambience:8/10
Service:8.5/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6/10

Overall:7.25/10

Address: #02-02/03 Valley Point

Contact: 6838 6966

Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 5.30pm - 10pm

Website: http://www.dozo.com.sg