Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cafe Parisien: Same French Classics in a Different Setting

I was shocked when I got to know of Le Beaulieu's abrupt closure. Even though I personally felt a change in energy (same price for smaller portion etc.) towards the end of their tenure, the place still held too many of my precious memories for me to accept its disappearace.

It took me a while to visit Chef Hervé Frerard's new brainchild Cafe Parisien, located at Sindhorn Tower right in the vicinity of the old Le Beaulieu, but I have since dined there twice in a hurry(both times their set lunch) , so I am ready to share my thoughts.



Bright and warm
If the 1st Le Beaulieu at Asoke represented a homey European restaurant giving the hidden jewel feel, and the 2nd Le Beaulieu at Athenee Tower exuded class but felt a little cold and distant, Cafe Parisien feels like a combination of both. Set in a glass house outside the magnificent Sindhorn Tower, Cafe Parisien is small, cosy, delightfully-illuminated by natural light while not lacking class in every part of its interior decoration.

Cafe Parisien's set lunch come with 2 choices of starters (usually a salad and a soup), 3 choices of main course and a fixed dessert.

Starters:

The starters I tasted were solid while not leaving a deep impression. The world-best baguette was still available, hip hip hooray!



Nicoise Salad, , tasty but wee bit overdressed according to my dining companion


Marinated Scottish Salmon Salad, crisp and fresh


Shitake mushroom soup, a solid choice to start the meal

Mains: 


Here's where the excitement starts. Each of the 4 mains I encountered was cooked to varying degrees of excellence. However, where Le Beaulieu excelled in both taste and quantity, Cafe Parisien might disappoint in terms of serving size for some of the mains if you are very hungry.



Really delicious Lamb Shoulder Blanquette, I still miss it today


Grilled Flank Steak, I wouldn't mind this main too!


Grilled Organic Pork Chop with Apple Calvados Sauce, Noah and I loved this hearty dish


Plancha of Sea Bass with Saffron Beurre Blanc Sauce. Nice fish with an amazing sauce, but portion quite small, so avoid this if you are very hungry


Dessert:


I would have liked a choice with the dessert, but so far the ones I had were pretty well done, with a pleasant serving size as well.



Apple Tart with Home-made Vanilla Ice Cream, will the tart feel sad if I say I liked the ice cream more?


White Chocolate Charlotte cake with Strawberry Ice Cream, nicely thought out, though perhaps too many different elements for my liking

Verdict:


I went to Cafe Parisien expecting similar solid French dishes from my favourite chef, and while I was not wowed both times, I was not disappointed too. There could be some misses among the many dishes to choose from (menu changes monthly), but I am pretty sure there will be many more hits.


Furthermore, at the price of 690++THB per set and no sneakily-expensive French Spring Water to stun you when you finally see the bill, this is definitely one of the best set lunches you can get in Bangkok at its price range.



And may I add, they have kids cutlery but no baby chair yet


Friday, June 17, 2016

Good to be a father

Earlier this evening, after feeding the kids, I left them to play while I cleared the table.

Then came the expected squeal from Noah, which was definitely caused by a pinch or scratch by her sister, who has learnt to retaliate when her brother refuses to share his toys.

Just this time, it was probably more painful, so much so that Noah started tearing and came to hug me.

I did a small pep talk to Ellie to warn her not to hurt korkor and sent her off to apologise. Little did I expect Noah to have already hidden himself in the guest room in anger so as to avoid her sister's approach.

Ellie found him anyway, tiptoed to give her big brother a few pats on his head before giving him a hug.

The next moment was pure magic. Noah's facial expression completely changed in an instant, and semi-reluctantly, he hugged her back. I proceeded to hold both of them in my arms and before I knew it they were playing together again.

It's these little things that remind me that I am a lucky man, to be blessed with a 2 lovely kids. Without them, I would never understand nor experience the capacity to love and to be loved without condition.


Even though most days are tough, and some really really rough, I still have to say, it's good to be a father.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

If the Stranger can cook: One-pot Braised Chicken Stew (Inspired by Gennaro Contaldo)

Recently, I have been using cooking videos on YouTube to entertain Noah, hoping to inspire him to try new food, as he has become frustratingly picky during mealtimes in the last year or so. Fortunately, like father like son, he's just as fascinated with them as me, especially those flamboyant 'performances' from a certain hungry Italian named Gennaro Contaldo, who not only appears to be absolutely passionate about his cooking, but also makes it look extremely achievable.

I did my take on Gennaro's Italian Braised Chicken Stew, following his steps as much as I could with the ingredients, and it worked a treat (Noah ate A LOT). So here's exactly what I did:


GENNARO'S BRAISED CHICKEN STEW (MADE IN A NORMAL PERSON'S HOUSE)

Ingredients (serves 3-4):



  • 8 kampung chicken drumsticks, or a mix of drumsticks and thigh
  • 2-3 rashers of bacon or 40-50g of pancetta, sliced into small strips
  • handful of rosemary and thyme
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced
  • half a carrot, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 500g of tomato, diced (I used a mix of cherry and vine)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 2-3 tablespoonfuls of tomato puree
  • 200ml of stock
All the diced vegetables, this is what your family is going to eat.

Cooking Procedure:

Season chicken generously with salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Sear the chicken and bacon/pancetta till there is a nice golden colour

Lay the rosemary and thyme on top and deglaze the pan with the glass of white wine

After the alcohol has evaporated, add in the rest of the vegetables

Dissolve tomato puree (amount can be adjusted based on your own preference) in the stock and stir it into the pot

After simmering for 45 minutes under low hear and a final swig of olive oil (taste and add salt/pepper if necessary), serve with some warm toasted bread

Some X-factors that might make a difference to your dish:

  1. Use kampung/free-range chicken. It's more tasty, more healthy and less oily. If you are afraid that the meat is too tough, use only drumsticks and thigh.
  2. The bacon/pancetta is optional, but having the odd bite of savoury smoked meat during your dinner is really pleasant.
  3. Make sure you brown the meat on a hot searing pan, do not skip this step!
  4. You can be creative with the vegetables, things like parsley, celery and even beans and peas will work.


Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Paris Mikki: Authentic French Pastry in the heart of Bangkok

For a long while, traveling into the heart of Bangkok on a Saturday morning with 2 little kids for a piece of cake sounded like a ridiculous proposition. Not anymore.

Just last Saturday, my wife and I woke up earlier than normal, prepared our kids, and left home for Asoke just for a piece of this:

The Philip 70, perfect for chocolate and hazelnut lovers
And this:

Lou Lou: A contemporary strawberry cheesecake
And of course, these:

The best croissants in town, according to BK's blind taste test, and also, my tongue. =P

Before Paris Mikki (not to be confused with a chain selling spectacles in Singapore/Malaysia), there was Let Them Eat Cake (which has closed permanently), which proved unique in Bangkok in their rendition of French-style cakes. However, there was always something missing at the latter, be it a lack of service, the cakes frequently appearing in front of me not cold enough, or some items feeling a little too complicated for my liking. Paris Mikki, on the other hand, feels old-school, down-to-earth and consistent, traits that I appreciate.

A brief chat with Carol, the owner of Paris Mikki, confirmed my many initial feelings about the patisserie. Carol is an alumni of the reputed Le Cordon Bleu Paris, both in bakery and cuisine. She trained and worked with the masters, so well that she managed to work in the best kitchens in Paris and stayed there for a decade, until it's finally time to come home. By completely immersing herself long-term into the charming Parisian culture, she has managed to bring a piece of it back to Bangkok, almost completely unaltered.

The dazzling array of pastry on display, I wish I could try them all

Throughout our discussion, Carol's friendliness and eagerness to share could not overshadow her aura of self-confidence. Unwilling to compromise on the consistency of her products, Carol does a huge bulk of the baking and does not believe in expanding her business on impulse before the kitchen is completely ready. She is convinced that her creations can hold their own even in Paris (backed by her French mentors who visited Paris Mikki and gave the thumbs up) and is already working towards opening a shop there in the future.

The elegant little shop is just a short walk into Sukhumvit Soi 19, the alley between Terminal 21 and Westin Grande

Paris Mikki's cakes are pricey no doubt, but they are certainly of the size and quality to convince me that they are worth every penny (especially after I paid SGD9.50++ for each piece of forgettable cake at Lady M in Singapore). Furthermore, unless you make your way to certain 5-star hotels, there is virtually no chance of you getting similar offerings anywhere else in Bangkok.

So, all this points to one conclusion:

Wah Lau Eh! Carol posing with my Stamp of Approval

Even though you might not see my sticker pasted on the shopfront anytime soon, please believe me that Paris Mikki has already won my ultimate stamp of approval.

Noah concurs!

PS. For the hopeless romantic who is interested to know why the bakery is named Paris Mikki, the next time you go to Paris, take a leisurely stroll along Ponts des Arts and you might find the answer, or maybe not.

PSS. Paris Mikki is also part of my 5 recommended eats within walking distance from Asoke BTS station.



stranger in bangkok

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dreaming of my Grandparents

I walked out of the room.

There, in the living room of my maternal grandparents' house, was my brother, some maternal aunties and uncles, and little Miss Ellie sitting on her green glider.

Standing behind the sofa was an old couple. They looked familiar, probably in their 70s. The lady had curly hair and the man had a box of something in his hand. They smiled lovingly at me. Was it really them?

"Can't you recognise me? I am grandma!" she said, with her usual boisterous tone in our native Foochow language.

One of my aunts smiled, as if she knew about the surprise.

Grandpa didn't say a word. He put his hand forward, gesturing me to take a snack from the box. It was my favourite 礼饼 (a foochow pastry eaten during happy occasions with filling made of dates). I took a wedge and sat down beside my brother.

Subsequently, after some random chatter (which I don't remember) with the folks in the room, I was shocked to realise that my aunts and uncles did not know of their presence. I then looked at my brother, who was also munching on the same pastry. He nodded, indicating he saw them too, and the pastry in our mouths were more real than ever (I can still taste the sweetness in my mouth while typing this).

I shut my eyes to suck it all in, and when I opened them, I was back in my own living room in Bangkok (I sleep in the living room sometimes when I have to get up early in the morning). This was when I couldn't control it anymore. I sobbed like a baby.

I took at look at my phone, it was 5.41am, exactly 4 minutes before my alarm is supposed to go off, waking me up to cook chicken soup for my family. They even woke me up at the right time, so that I can switch off my alarm to allow my family to continue sleeping in peace.

Why did they appear? On this day, at this time, right before I was supposed to cook my favourite Foochow style kampung chicken soup, the soup that they cooked for my mum, the soup my mum cooked for me, and now I am cooking for my family.


The same pot of soup linking generations together

One thing I know for sure, is that the soup tonight will taste doubly sweet.



Monday, April 4, 2016

Answer Cheeze Food Truck: Cheese sandwiches that taste as good as they look

If you read my previous post on ArtBox@The Em District (direct link here), you will realise I found Answer Cheeze via an accidental decision while feeling bored at the popular pop-up market.

How Answer Cheeze looks at the current version of ArtBox
I will be lying if I told you cheese is one of my favourite foods, but even though a cheese sandwich does not sound like anything that inspires imagination, I was surprised it could taste this good. After my wife gave a similar thumbs up, I decided to dedicate a blogpost specially to them.

The blogger trying to catch their attention with a myriad of moves

One cannot talk about Answer Cheeze without mentioning the 2 exceptionally good-looking young men behind it. Oat and Ton, after graduating from Dusit Thani College together, spent many years refining their craft in the kitchens of 5-star hotels before recently deciding to come out on their own. With the bustling food truck scene in Bangkok overly-crowded with one too many burger trucks (so many that they are differentiating themselves with one suggestive name after another), Oat and Ton capitalised on the vacuum in the sandwich market with their own take on the perfect gourmet cheese sandwich.

Sandwich-making process at a glance

As the name suggests, their answer to your hunger revolves solely around cheese. Each sandwich consists of up to 5 kinds of imported cheese (Parmesan, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Brie and Emmental), all intricately-cooked to contribute both crispy and oozy textures in every bite we take. For a neutral like me, it delivers exactly what it promises, which is fantastic, but for the cheese lover, it could be a trip to cheese paradise. There are only 3 sandwich choices at the moment, so it's basically like a simple multiple choice question while deciding. My personal favourite is the BBQ as I love bacon.

Cheese Heaven or what

From my brief meeting with Oat and Ton, I can almost feel a silent determination from them to make this venture much bigger than what it is now, so the old man here is going to do whatever small part I can to give them the postive energy they need to perservere.

In any case, from now till 19 June, you can find Answer Cheeze parked at ArtBox@The Em District every Friday-Sunday from 4pm until all their 200 sandwiches run out (often before 10pm). After that, you will have to either follow their Instagram stream @answercheezebkk or their Facebook page to be updated on their next location.

Beauties and the beast

So ladies and gentlemen, here's the Stranger in Bangkok promising you that the sandwiches taste as good as they look, so if you do happen to find this bright yellow truck parking round the corner, do show your support.

I am pretty confident these gentlemen won't disappoint.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Monster Father

I did it.

I exploded.

It was a major explosion. I don't remember shouting so loud for a long, long time. Maybe it's the hardest I ever bellowed.

To a point, my heart told me to stop. Not the emotional kind of telling me to stop, but the physical kind, warning me that if I didn't stop, it will.

It was my son. Over much about nothing. It was during a time when he was sleepy and cranky, a wrong time to test his boundaries.

He asked for an orange and demanded me to feed him while his hands hung loose beside him. I was waiting for him to say the right things and make it more acceptable for me to feed him on request, but after a long while of asking in different ways, by me and then my wife, the requests became demands, then screaming for me to stop and whacking me in angst.

I will spare you more heart-wrenching details.

Then, the explosion, and Noah was stunned into silence.

The effort required for him to blurt out the words, "I am sorry, I will stop!" It nearly took a cardiac arrest.

Noah, if you get to read this, Daddy is sorry.

Daddy became a monster, and I hope I never need to become one again.

Nonetheless, I want you to remember that night.

Because, I am your friend, the person who spends almost every minute of your off-school hours with you. I am your guardian, your chef, your shower buddy, your biggest fan, your teacher, your playmate, your bolster at night.

I am the only man who loved you before you were born till forevermore.

Picture credit: One Eye Click

But first and foremost, and I want you never to forget.

I am your father.




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