Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hidden Dining Jewels in Suburban Bangkok: Bestow - Healthy Wraps with Killer Sauces

I NEVER thought I would be writing about healthy wraps on my blog, but here goes.

Proof that healthy food can be yummy too

Bestow is a health food restaurant open along Suan Luang R.9 Road, near King Rama 9 Park. 25 year old owner Best had no prior culinary experience, but through 8 months of sheer practice, research and determination, executed his concept, to bestow health in the form of delicious food to all his customers.

Unexpectedly cosy place, don't forget to read the signs!
Aside of a few minor exceptions (eg. a small selection of soft drinks and things like hot dogs/dessert tortillas to appease to children), the theme of 'lean, healthy and delicious' runs through the entire menu, which in itself is designed like a fun game of chess, where you can mix'n match your selections, understand how many calories your meal will have and and also its price.

I am no health junkie. No amount of healthy food will appeal to me if they don't please my palate. So why am I talking about some healthy wraps that contain at least 70% worth of shredded raw carrots, onions and lettuce? The answer lies in Bestow's array of home-made sauces.

I am going to reveal something big here. I HATE ketchup. On a normal day, nothing will convince me to dip anything into a pile of raw ketchup. One of the 'dares' I had to perform while trying to break into my wife's house during our wedding day was to eat a ketchup sandwich. Oh, I can live with dishes cooked with ketchup as seasoning, but raw ketchup---thanks but no thanks.

When I knew that one of Best's signature's sauces was the BTK aka Better Than Ketchup, I knew he was on my side. That said, his BTK (sweet, sour and slightly spicy) is only my 2nd favourite sauce in his repertoire, I order his Sesame Zinc (a creamy Japanese-style sesame dressing) sauce more often. After visiting Bestow a couple of times, I was convinced that sauce really matters. A good sauce can make even a low-calorie, veggie-centric wrap taste good.

Blowtorching the spring roll.

Final product

If you are dining in, I absolutely recommend you to try their spring rolls. It is their only selection which is blowtorched, resulting in a warm, crispy wrap. The crispiness does not last though, so if you are ordering a takeaway, their tortilla wraps will be more suitable.

Mostly veggies
If there was any gripe I had about Bestow, it would be that their food offered little variety. Ok, lots of wraps, but nothing much else. This was my feedback, and Best was quick to react.

Bestow's new BBQ ribs. Try their blueberry smoothie too!
He has just released his BBQ ribs (still on limited offer, check Bestow's FB/IG or call in to check availability) which turned out to be really enjoyable. The bones slide off cleanly, and it's flavourful without being completely drenched with BBQ sauce.

Bestow is proof that healthy food does not necessarily have to taste boring. Their location is not the most convenient, but if you are in the vicinity, no harm popping by for a quick meal, or you can try their delivery services on Foodpanda.

If Best continues to refine his craft, I am sure you will see Bestow appearing in more accessible locations in Bangkok in time to come.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Best Day Ever!

Have you ever exclaimed, "This is the best day ever"?

Or even better, exclaimed, "Daddy, this is the best day ever"?

Noah did last Sunday, his first full day in Bangkok after 5 weeks away, spent with only Daddy, as Mummy and Baby Ellie were still in Singapore.

There was nothing fancy, just a normal Sunday out. Church, lunch, and a movie. Plus his wooden camera around his neck.

BTS Station


Beside Chuvit Park

Up the escalator

Golden Gate Bridge?

On the red carpet?

Before his movie

Heading home after the movie

Taking pictures of his toys before dinner

I wonder when he will get his next 'best day ever'.

Maybe when he wins a prize in a competition, or when he holds his girlfriend's hand for the first time?

The day he gets married, or when he finally gets to hold his own little baby in his arms?

Whatever the case, I know I was part of his first 'best day ever'.

And it was one of my 'best day ever' too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pepenero: Best Italian Diner on Koh Samui

Updated April 2018

1.5 years later, I set foot in Pepenero, this time, in a bigger, swankier place.

A view into the indoor area of Pepenero.
The more-popular Alfresco dining area, as expected on a resort island.
It satisfied me to no end seeing them expand within such a short space of time. It's no less than Pepenero deserved, as from my first and only experience, I was almost sure that it was up their with the very finest Italian diners in Thailand.

The Pepenero 'welcome' was amusing, as usual, with signs saying "Slow Food, Italian Mood" and the first page of their menu having disclaimers such as "Pasta Alfredo, Spaghetti meatballs, French fries, Potatoes with tabasco and Pasta with chicken are not Italian Cuisine *smiley face." I was literally laughing before my meal even started. But really? Spaghetti with meatballs is not Italian? Hmm...

I was still a little jittery when the food came because I was really really hoping the food would be as good as before.

Speck with Brie, great starter, especially when the Brie is not too strong for me.
Chef's special, a simple spicy spaghetti dish made with grilled tomatoes and Anduja sausages. so goooood!
Braised NZ lamb shank, look at the size of that thing!

One of the BEST meals I had in Thailand for a long time!

Well done Paolo!


We stepped into Pepenero and saw an empty table. Owner Paolo politely told us that even though he will keep it for us, it would be better for us to come back in half an hour.


He then apologetically explained that the kitchen was small, and they made everything fresh on order, so they needed time to serve guests who were still waiting. True enough, though there were only 3 other groups in the small restaurant, many of them hadn't eaten.

Well anyway, it was a casual Friday night on a resort island, waiting was not a problem. We requested to simply sit at our table and until he's ready to come to us.

Menu bound on the heaviest piece of solid wood you can find. This menu will break your toes if you drop it accidentally.
Oh, and Paolo was nursing a broken leg. He didn't even need to be here. Instead, you find him hopping on crutches painstakingly to every single table again and again to make sure they were fine.

I came to realise within a few minutes that that's just how Pepenero is. They live and breathe their food. For a moment I felt I was not in Thailand anymore. Such cosy, intimate settings eating authentic Italian food hosted by a passionate Italian family just doesn't come by easily in this part of the world. I was a bit shocked to find it in Koh Samui, an island more famous for its sinful moon parties, a place I had been trying to avoid for the past 6 years.

Finally when Paolo came to us, we simply asked him to choose 3 dishes for us to his liking, and he did not leave without explaining in detail how the dishes would be prepared. All of us lost track at some point, but that's just because we were so confident that we didn't bother to pay attention anymore.

Managed to coax some Parma ham and Mozarella out of them as we waited for our food

When the dishes came, we were pretty blown away.

Home-made Gnocchi with asparagus cream, clams and asparagus

Personally, I have not eaten Gnocchi or any other pasta prepared like this. The mix of fragrant asparagus and fresh clams was so incredibly good. A dish I might never forget.

Home-made Bigoli with Italian Sausage Ragu, red wine and fennel seeds
Bigoli is a bigger form of Spaghetti, suitable for pairing with a robust ragu sauce. This was also an excellent dish, with a familiar name but tasting pleasantly unfamiliar.

Ribeye Tagliata style with shallots
It is difficult for me to judge this dish because I have never eaten beef so rare. It was just very slightly seasoned so that we can taste the real flavour of the meet in every bite. I have to say though, that every element on this dish you see was very well executed, potatoes and vegetables included.

Home-made Limoncello before we left, so sweet but so strong, I nearly did a cartwheel after downing the shot

Don't get me wrong. I am not about to make a conclusive judgement on Pepenero after just 1 visit. The food was not perfect (beef too rare for me, dessert a little too sweet too late into the night) but it never is, no matter where we go.

I feel extremely compelled to write this simply because I believe that regardless of what we feel, the food is perfect for Paolo. He will only serve what he feels is flawless to every single diner every single time. That is how Pepenero is, in their own time, dish by dish made from the heart, diner by diner whom he will get to know by heart.

Paolo and I

Keep up your good work Paolo. It was a pleasure to be your guest. You won't see me much, but my promise to you is to appear in front of you whenever I land on the island.

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