Sunday, December 30, 2012

A special appreciation for a special person in my life

It's the end of yet another year. In a couple of days, I will be marching into my 5th calendar year in Thailand. Lots have happened over this period, but 2012 has been an exceptionally eventful one, particularly with the birth of Noah changing my life forever.

At this moment, instead of compiling a flashback of the key events that took place in the past 12 months, I would like to use this post to pay a special tribute to the 1 single most important person in my life, my wife Li Li.

Thank you, for giving up everything in Singapore to relocate to Bangkok, even though there are many more uncertainties than certainties.

Thank you, for going through the torturous first trimester and subsequently the nervy delivery to give birth to our dear little son.

Thank you, for becoming a full-time stay-at-home-mum, making Noah your priority, showering him with ceaseless care 24-hours a day.

Thank you, for being the rock that supports me when I do battle outside. Regardless of how heavy I fall, I know I can stand up again because you are holding my hand.

Thank you, for bearing with my tactless comments and remarks. I often say the wrong things at the wrong time, but trust me, I will improve myself to become the best husband and father in the world.

Happy new year Li Li.

I can't promise you limousines and diamond rings, but as long as we continue to stand firm beside each other, every year will be better than the last.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Enjoying Chef Hervé Frerard's touch of French flair in Bangkok: Le Beaulieu Part 2

Update June 2016: Read my review of Cafe Parisien here!

Update October 2015: Le Beaulieu is permanently closed, but fret not, a new brainchild of Chef Herve has popped up as Cafe Parisien, at Glasshouse Sindhorn along Wireless Road. Stay tuned as I will visit soon and write my review here!

Chef Hervé Frerard and me

This is the 2nd time I am reviewing Le Beaulieu (read the first one here). It has not happened before and probably never will again on this space, but it has been a long time since a restaurant can provide (consistently) food so unforgettable that I would like to give it a second thumbs up.

Another reason why I feel it's worth (re)reviewing is because after an AGONIZING wait (well more than half a year I reckon), Le Beaulieu is finally re-open at a highly improved location (Plaza Athenee Tower), just a very short walk away from Ploen Chit BTS Station (cut through Athenee Hotel, the walk will be infinitely more pleasant). Its classy decoration, insane collection of fine wines and the addition of a new Patisserie plus an alfresco-style wine bar has finally given Chef Hervé the class and ambience his food deserves.

Furthermore, having been to Le Beaulieu 4 times in total (twice at the old venue and twice at the new one), thanks to a group of brilliant foodie friends from Hong Kong, this was the first time I had the opportunity to taste what Le Beaulieu had to offer during its more pricey (compared to lunch) dinners.

"Don't worry, I am cooking," were Chef Hervé's last words during his brief but affectionate greeting, and it gave us the final affirmation that it was time to relax and enjoy the night, as we can leave everything else to him and his team. We went for the 7-course set dinner he designed for us, and boy did he deliver.

A gift from the chef to start the dinner off, this was Li Li's starter, the rest of us got a beef tartare on bread, equally delicious.

Our Amuse-Bouche for the night, fresh oysters flown in from France and arrived just that morning. Fresh and tasty, but not as meaty/succulent as the kind bred locally in Thailand
Pressed Foie Gras & Fresh Apricot Jelly, an artery-blocking simply divine starter
Widely accepted as the most unforgettable dish of the night, Slow-Poached Atlantic Cod Fillet,
wild rocket bouillon; chanterelle cake. From my experience, Le Beaulieu's fish dishes have always been astounding, this one's no different.

Saddle of Pyrénées Lamb, Croustillant of Shoulder & his jus - Lamb was cooked to perfect precision, and Li Li completely finished her plate, when she was not a lamb (or pea)-eater. I am sure she is now,  at least at Le Beaulieu.

No one could decide on their dessert, so the restaurant manager Q solved our problem by preparing a tasting platter for us, my favourite is the slow-cooked nectarines on the bottom left of the collage, but every dessert tasted wonderful. Most of us have already identified our favourite desserts and will (hopefully) not have a similar dilemma next time.

All in all, the dinner experience was first-class, with the food absolutely brilliant. Chef Hervé  and Q also checked on us several times to ensure that everything was in order.

Of course, being newly open, blips were expected. The service staff were not perfect. They did not seem know the dishes very well and there were a couple of miscommunications, all of which were subsequently adequately taken care of by the excellent Q, who is fast becoming the heart and soul of the restaurant floor, something that was not present at the previous location.

For those interested in the 'damage' caused by this delicious meal, it was around 150USD/head, inclusive of taxes and some fine French wine. Costly, but not an unreasonable price to pay considering the quality of food served. For something more affordable, you could visit Le Beaulieu during lunch or order less courses from the a la carte menu.

Thank you Chef Hervé again, for the consistently satisfying dishes, Le Beaulieu, for giving us a touch of France in Bangkok, and last but not least my friends (old and new) from Hong Kong who came specially to enjoy the dinner with my family and myself. Till we meet again.

Merry Christmas everyone, have a blast!

stranger in bangkok

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stranger in Bangkok. The Prequel

In the light of the recent release of "The Hobbit", which is actually the prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" franchise (and is going to evolve into a major franchise on its own), it seems like prequels are the new "in" thing for movie-makers to reprise old themes into new moneymaking material (think "X-man", "Wolverine" and "Star Wars" but to name a few). How can I miss the prequel train? I had a life before I became the Stranger in Bangkok as well, so let's call this blogpost "Stranger in Bangkok. The Prequel".

Prequel eh? But please, don't wind the clock so far back, I can't remember what happened 30 yrs ago!

From 2004-2008, I was working for a company based in Singapore, doing international sales and marketing (and basically everything else) for their new product line, and as a result traveled to every country you can think of on the globe to set up a new distributor network. It was an absolutely brutal working environment, long hours, a management who never fail to become the cause of your nightmares, incessant travelling on a shoestring budget, barely-acceptable salary etc. It is probably one of the most demanding jobs a fresh graduate could ask for. However, thinking back, aside of the last few months when I suffered the customary deliberate mental torture by the management before finally leaving the company, I have nothing to complain about during those 4 years of hard work.

The tough times were really unforgettable, but not necessarily in an unpleasant way. The mental grilling by the management with no lack of the vulgar-est vulgarities (in assorted languages involving everyone's parents, no less), the setting up and tearing down of exhibition booths which involved products weighing hundreds of kilograms (while dressed in suits manning the booths during the exhibitions), the living in 2* establishments and asking clients to pick me up at the 5* hotels nearby, the sleepless jet-lagged nights overseas clearing emails after a full day of meetings, the frequent stays in the manufacturing facility making sure the customized orders were made properly etc. etc. etc....

But hey, there's always the glamorous side of things. Being 1 of the only 3 or 4 colleagues who hit the road consistently, I was one of the 'faces' of the company. The one who was at every exhibition, every international dealer meeting and every end-user seminar, in any country/province/town/village. I convinced professors our products were the best, I made an entire auditorium of Argentinians laugh and clap during my animated training seminar and even went to South Africa to close a branch office down when I knew almost nothing about running a company, not to say close one down.

In addition to that, though I mostly stayed in budget accommodation and spent 90% of my awake time abroad either on the road, at the airport or at my customer's office, I can say that I have left my footprints on more places that I would ever imagine to have been able to by the time I was 28.

Please be warned that there are many photos coming up that were taken when I was a skinny boy in a suit,  and now I am a fat Daddy running around in T-shirt and flip-flops. How times change (for the better)!

I almost froze to death in Chicago

I fell in love with Greece, leading to it becoming my honeymoon destination

I grilled my own Argentinian steak in Buenos Aires. I still cannot forget the aroma of slow-roasted Argentinian beef

I viewed the majestic Pyramids and the Sphynx 

I dined under an old French tree 

I strutted my stuff in India

I attended a wedding in Iran!!

I drank, and drank, and drank, and drank Soju in Korea and realised for the first time I look very Korean
Then got tricked to eat live octopus (see video below) which I did not swallow.

I visited an oil refinery in Mexico

I took a picture with the Disneyland castle in Munich

I was in New Orleans shortly after the Hurricane catastrophe

I partied in Peru

I touched baby lions in South Africa

I sang to trained hundreds of locals in Vietnam, and this is what I usually do when I travel

I went to many more places, but I shall not bore you with more poorly self-taken pictures during my lonely adventures, bar this final one which might have paved the way for the next chapter in my life: Becoming the Stranger in Bangkok.

I made yearly business trips to Thailand!

Everything happens for a reason, and God's plans can never be anticipated, neither can they be pushed away when they pan out in front of you.

If not for the torturous years in my ex-company, I would not mature from a raw fresh graduate into a confident, focused and street-wise young man in the space of 4 years. I could have earned a lot more money in another company, but experience cannot be bought.

If not for my annual trips to Thailand and enjoying every minute of it, I would not jump at the opportunity to work in Bangkok once it presented itself.

Here's my prequel, a special part of my life presented to you on this space, an unforgettable, immensely gratifying yet very challenging few years that has never before been mentioned in detail on this blog. Hope you now understand me more because of it.

If you are still wondering why I so bravely took up the challenge of relocating to Bangkok, you might have found a large part of the answer here.

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