Me and my sister have a disturbing Mala Addiction. For those in the Know it’s a beautiful balance of Chillies – Spicy – Sichuan Peppercorns – Numbing – Garlic – MSG – Salt – Sesame – and alot of other herbs and spices depending on the menu. Stuck in a Traffic Jam in a really quiet awkward area of Condos, Roads and pretty much nothing else we noticed some restaurants in front of the Entrance to several Condominiums. We were surprised by the amount of Chinese Restaurants within a few meters of each other. Our eyes widen as we saw pictures of fish swimming in red colored oil. Szechuan FOOD!!! Without any hesitation we walked in and was greeted by that familiar smell of pungent mala oil.
Upon opening the menu and trying to communicate with the waitress we found out that we stumbled into a rather big Hunan Community in Bangkok. All the restaurants and people eating here were Hunan. I’ve never really had an experience with Hunan Food but it looked and smelled like Sichuan Cuisine. So where is Hunan?
Just on the upper right is Chongqing and Sichuan so i believe that’s why the close proximity has the influence in the cuisine. Will try to learn more but lets take a look at the food. First we ordered the popular and everybody’s favorite Mapo Tofu.
Nice firm chunks of tofu with bits of minced pork – The star really was tofu and what i noticed was there was really less sauce or oil / gravy. I didn’t feel so much of the bean paste here because usually you taste bean paste with the mala but this one was very very spicy. Less emphasis on the MA or the numb but a lot of heat. I do think it was still nicely flavored although intensely hot, you need to eat it with rice and my spice level is quite high. Then the next craving we had was for boiled fish in Mala. They actually had like 3 types so we just picked one. I guess we picked the less spicy one or the Mapo Tofu was just like a nuclear blast of spicy.
The fish was perfectly cooked delicate and not over at all – Strangely it was quite brothy and with the oil it was a nice balance of oily and spicy. Underneath there was enoki mushrooms and the sesame provided a nice creaminess to the overall dish. I can’t put my finger on it yet but there is a definite difference to the Szechuan Style and the Hunan Style. I feel that this dish had a more simpler flavor than the usual Szechuan Style. I feel there’s more layers to the Szechuan style.
In “some” chinese restaurants they have these cold salty chicken feet. I’m really not sure which province is the heritage but they would be a bit yellow and mostly served cold. If anyone knows please let me know. It’s rally fun to nibble on the cold and salty gelatinous feet however here they serve it warm and very plump and juicy not dry and chewy like i mostly have had it. For those who have never tried chicken feet it’s quite a yummy snack. It’s like nibbling on a jerky that’s paper thing with tiny bones. A jellyish jerky.
Since we are on feet and gelatinous food – I had to order non spicy food for my parents who my dad’s strictly cantonese – He doesn’t really like spicy food as Cantonese food is quite bland compared to other chinese cuisine and my palate actually leans to the Cantonese Side (Aside from Mala) The Pigs trotters was full of gelatin the and sauce was thick with porky flavours and sticky from all the collagen and marrow that boiled in the sauce. Quite similiar to many trotters i had before with a slight spice which we all thought it was white pepper as we can’t see much in the sauce. Good with piping hot rice as it came with ample sauce.
Definitely a must for every table is vegetables. This dish is also popular in many Chinese Restaurants not sure of the heritage although it came with smoked ham and sausage which i’ve never seen before. I did read that Hunan cuisine involved alot of these ingredients so it could be a signature twist to the normal Spinach, Salted Egg, Century Egg and soupy vegetable dish. The taste wasn’t really different elsewhere due the the power of the salted egg and century egg flavors but this dish was definitely milder (Again maby the mapo tofu was so strong) I like this vegetables as it’s a good stepping stone to those wanting to try Century Egg .
Last but not least every Cantonese meal cannot start, last and end without soup. I have never seen a chinese soup with a kombu like seaweed before. It didn’t have the same strong taste but somehow the soup was actually a creamy mouthfeel and a umami taste of the sea flavour with the creaminess of pork “fat”? It was quite a good bowl of soup. The pork spareribs were falling off the bone. It was really good mixed with rice and chinese level boiling hot soup. A really good meal and a great introduction into the world of Hunan Food. Maybe next time we will try those skewers not in the menu that other people were eating.
Please leave any comments and more knowledge for me would love to learn more about Hunan Cuisine. Thank you!
On our way to another restaurant we spotted the Poster of Whale’s Belly. All you can eat weekend brunch chosen from their Brunch menu. The pictures looked very well presented and in dainty portions. We detoured and set for the restaurant. The warm welcome that we received from the staff already signaled the level of service for this restaurant. Warm. Inviting. Sincere. Unpretentious. This was a 10/10 for me already.
Lovely Table Setting
The drinks menu ranged from cocktails, imported mineral waters, juices, beers, virgin cocktails and coffee all ranging from 150 onward. Let me say that the honey lime soda was exceptional and worth it’s price. It was fresh, and well balanced drink – To make it perfect i think is very hard which they executed perfectly.
They have a nice variety of choices that should satisfy everyone – Maybe some more non fish options would be nice but considering it’s called Whale’s Belly maybe the lean was on seafood. We ordered the Tuna, Salmon Tartare and Onsen Egg to Start with a Lobster Bisque and the Truffle Soup to start and nibbled on warm I think Charcoal and Sunflower seed bread with salted butter in a nice swirl pat. I appreciate the spreadable butter still cold but not rock hard. I believe that in fine dining restaurant this should be something that is cared about. 10/10 again.
Our first three starters arrived in succession. The salmon tartare was a pretty sight, i appreciate the generous topping of ikura. Sometimes chefs think garnishes are really a garnish but i think if it’s on something it contribute to the taste at least. If you are going to add an ingredient make sure you can taste it. And yes the saltiness of the eggs counterbalanced the creamy wasabi dressing and the yuzu cut through your tongue plus the firmness of the salmon was very good. I liked the fluffy chip on top for some texture. It was a bit different from most Parmesan chips i had this one was definitely fluffy. It was a great start definitely.
Now on to our Iron Chef winning dish. It really peaked our interest that this dish won – It came in a very pretty looking noodle spiral and the chunks of tuna on top.
I like how the layers work together – The Blue crab was not watery and tasted like fresh gulp of the sea. I admit i think there was a bit too much capellini but it was al dente and felt like those HK abalone noodles in texture. The lumpfish caviar helped with the saltiness and the tuna was fresh and dense with flavor. This time the yuzu is cut with a more intense peppery taste. I like the spice factor with this dish. But less noodles. Let’s say this portion is 2 bites – Perfect for sharing.
Our third course was the warm onsen egg with beurre blanc and crispy bacon pieces. Even though i prefer a more sharper beurre blanc but this dish had a dimension of creaminess although not overpowering until it was too creamy. The crispy bacon bits gave that nice crunch with every bite. Only problem is it wasn’t a 62 degree egg. I think the yolk over cooked somehow. I think the problem with Bangkok is fresh eggs are a bit hard to find. To find a new egg to make that perfectly poached egg with complete whites will holding together if a bit difficult.
I think maybe it waited a bit too long in the sou vide and the yolk set. All in all it’s still a beautiful dish and tasted how eggs should. Creamy, buttery and bacony. 9/10
I’m not a truffle oil fan. Usually it’s artificially flavored you can feel the fakeness of the oil. Mushrooms on the other hand i love. I think it’s the combination of mushrooms used to make a soup sometimes it feels grainy. This was a thick watery puree of well made mushroom pillowy goodness. The milk foam on top lent that pillowy feel. Then you crunch on an almond sliver. This is the best mushroom soup i ever had. Truffle oil… Not so much. But they should rename this the Best Mushroom Soup ever… Period. It didn’t even need the truffle oil.
Lobster bisque is a tricky thing. That delicate creaminess and lobster taste with the booze. There must be a balance. I’m not a fan of those heavy roux based soups. Sometimes the flour is too much and you can taste the uncooked roux or it’s just too thick and not in a good way. This bisque was made well – Balanced Boozy , creamy mouth feel with a sweetness i figure from the carrots. Slightly too sweet for my liking but as mentioned i like boozy bisques. Everyone mopped the bowl clean with the bread. Every foodie has a mean streak. Either they like to complicate menus just to see how the chef will perform or ask for crazy food combos. I do the opposite.
I like to order the most basic thing on the menu and see how well they performed. Thus this is what i ordered to test the chef…. Can you guess?
Spaghetti Aglio – I never understood why it was so appealing until i went to Italy. Before it was an oil bland tasting dish. But Italy was another story. I must say Whale’s Belly impressed me. I would prefer a bit more garlic and a more firmer pasta but they had that nice balance of dried chillies, basil and the dried tomatoes for a bit of a kick. Although i wouldn’t call this traditional it was done well. I dare to say better than 90 percent of the ones i tasted in Bangkok. Good Job. Maybe a smaller portion with the same ingredients would have made this a 10. Let’s throw another curve ball to the chef with another annoying dish made so badly in many restaurants it’s a pity.
I doubt that alot of people know that it’s created in Mexico – Although the owner was Italian American but it’s not a traditional dish per se. A Caesar salad done well is a nother rarity. Usually it’s over dressed, or too little dressing – too sharp tasting – too watery. I think the perfect Caesar salad is right here. Salads need to be done right. Each leaf cleaned dried and coated with just the amount of dressing and served right away. Balance of saltiness – sharpness – creaminess i like a heavier hand of anchovies but this is a perfect salad.
Lovely – Totally Ethereal feel. The crab was light and tasted of the sea and not waterlogged which seems to be a big problem many times we had a crab salad. Very well done. The rocket was fresh – dressed and gave that not overpowering bitterness to compliment the crab. The dressing was a fruity lightness that really went well and made this dish a 10.
Good ratio of Filling
Buttery Buttery Sauce
The raviolis came under a puffy cloud of milk foam. Well i presume it’s milk foam. The buttery taste felt like creamy savory warm milk shake. Fluffy and not dense and heavy. I like that there was a lot of stuffing and the spinach was well seasoned. Sometimes you get a spinach ravioli which is a watery yucky mess.
Finally on to the main course…..
Sea Bass is so plentiful in Thailand it became a boring fish. It’s everywhere. So again, let’s see how the chefs here made it amazing. Firstly Sea Bass is quite a delicate fish – You over cook it and it’s tough. At Whale’s Belly they made the skin so crispy like you can hear it popping between you teeth. Like you were eating a very thin pork belly in HK. Fluffy Ethereal crunch of dry crispiness deliciousness. The meat was not overcooked at all. The thin fillet was a yin yang of crispy and soft flakiness. I see the base creamy sauce here in alot of the dishes with a few tweaks to make the taste not boring so I think it’s not a crime that isn’t unforgiving. This is the best Sea Bass i had in a not Asian Way. it’s a 20/10 dish. I think the next time we come we’d have 10 of this.
Lamb Chops are everybody’s favorite dish. My mom in particular. She wont eat lamb any other way. It’s because stewed lamb has a tendency to become stringy and dry. I stopped making lamb stew at home cause she wont eat it. Period. To my surprise. This lamb shoulder was dense and moist enough not to be dry and stringy. IT was tender and delicate. Then the peppery, sweet rich sauce kicks in to flavour the dish. The black pepper has that bitter spiciness which can stand up to the strong flavour of the lamb. I’m not sure if the Chef learned the insane Potato Puree from Joel Robouchon – It was such a smooth light buttery heaven that just mixes with everything and takes it to another level. Maybe a danger to your heart but it would sure mend a broken one.
The Wagyu Cheek was alright – I think it was the superbness of all the dishes that made this poor Wagyu last. We actually ate in order – Fish, Beef and Lamb as to not overpower our palate. Poor Wagyu – The delicate pickled roll up daikon which cut so sweetly with a balanced sourness through the red wine sauce and the pull apart cheek shed a poor tear when he heard us discussing we like the other two dishes more. It wasn’t his fault poor thing – sometimes getting a 9.5/10 just isn’t enough.
With barely enough room for dessert the 3 of us managed 1 Brownie and 1 Affrogato. I like crusty brownies. I’m not a fan of oily rich brownie mixes that half of what you are eating is vegetable oil. I like dark rich crusty brownies which puts up a fight with the cold ice cream.
With sucha heavy meal i was hoping the espresso will wake me up.
It came in a cute little up with chocolately crumbs on top. The espresso was so rich rich rich. The ice cream did it’s best to soften the blow and you chomp your way through delicious balls of crunchy cookie / chocolately bits. It’s a dessert. Not a drink.
I would say for this price range it was one of the best tasting menus made to order meals i’d ever had. You can spend the same somewhere else and get a crappy pizza and half hearted pasta with rushed service. Are we coming again? Definitely. Will i spread the word around? I promise. Thank You Whale’s Belly for reminding me and Bangkok what 5 star service and a fine dining experience for a reasonable price looks like.
*** Review is entirely from my point of view and we paid for our own food.
Located near our new office on Pridi Road, Phrakanong is an old old shop selling clear broth noodles with either morning glory or mung bean spouts. It doesn’t look appealing probably for caucasians but this shop has been making their own fish balls, wontons and egg noodles for many many years, kind of a fusion between chinese and thai tastes. It costs about 50 baht for a bowl of noodles, not cheap but rather filling and delicious.
As you can see their cooking station, they have all the types of noodles on show in the glass showcase, from “sen lek” thinnish rice noodles, “sen mee” round super thin rice noodles, “sen yai” wide ride noodles and egg noodles or “bamee”. You choose your noodles and your toppings which comes with a choice of fish balls, Ue Guay which is Fish Paste in a long tube with some spring onions and fried and then sliced, crispy wontons, fried taro sticks in a mound shape, spring rolls and little prawn wontons and shrimp balls. I’m not a bean sprout fan so i always ask for other green vegetables instead. In all those bowls of condiments that you see, there are salt, sugar, pepper, garlic oil, spring onions, preserved vegetables, msg (most likely) and the pinkish thing is called Yen Ta Fo which is a fermented bean paste which makes your soup pink and has a sweet beany tofuish taste.
Again it’s a rarity you can’t find these toppings anymore in Bangkok, I’m sure there are some left but i dont know where they are. Fish balls are common but all these other toppings are special and must be tasted when you are in Bangkok!
It’s easier to see the noodles without the soup or broth on top so we ordered it separately. The fish balls was delicious, the spring rolls crispy and the moo daeng or red sauced roasted pork has a nice texture to it. really Yummy, and all for 50 baht or less than 2 USD!
Pridi – Near Gas Station. You can park at the gas station for 20 baht.
Traveling during work always makes me homesick on the 4th or 5th day. At nice hotels they always have egg stations which offer a choice of poached, fried, scrambled or the stuffed omelet. Now the usual omelet if you’re not from thailand would be in a long wormy shape, nice and yellow and undercooked in the middle with a plethora of stuffings. In thailand we have our own omelet which is everyones favorite dish, be it at home or in a restaurant this dish is emptied out first. How to make your own? You need a hot pan and hot oil, because you want your egg to brown and have crispy spots. Do not put in too much stuffing because your egg would break andn it would resemble a brown scrambled egg. Trust me i’ve fallen prey to this one too many times. I used 3 eggs, half a tomato, 6 minced shrimps and some kale. Beat it all up together until foamy, you want lots of air inside so it becomes nice and fluffy. I used a table spoon of soy sauce and a sprinkle of white pepper. Drop a few drops of egg into the oil, if it bubbles up then the oil if hot enough. Pour everything in and let it bubble for a 2 minutes, when the bottom is firm enough quickly flip it over and cook until golden brown. Serve with siracha sauce with congee, or hot rice. Easy dinner. Done… PS: Every kid loves this… really….
Life’s simple… Freshly steamed crab, dig out all the yummy brown meat, some chicken stock, garlic, carmelised onions, black pepper corns and some salt. Pour everything back in the shell, arrange artfully or in my case not so artfully on a white plate. Garnish with dill fronds and serve… Dig in….. YUM!!!
Located in the same soi as Villa Sukhumvit (across Emporium), right next to the Japanese 60 baht store is this cheery looking ramen shop. Tomato Noodle… Either the noodles are pink or the soup must have a tomato base so we decided to grab a bite. The menu is quite extensive ranging from the different choices of Ramen, (both hot and cold), the extensive options to go with your ramen like onsen eggs, sausages, seaweed, butter, corn etc. Side dishes range from pot stickers, stewed pork belly, fried chicken, shrimp croquettes, enoki mushrooms wraped in bacon, sweet tamago and salads and soups to choose from. There’s also rice to choose from including curry rice, rice balls, meat topped rice bowls and even a selection of kids menu. You can even choose from the set menus which feature a main dish, a side dish and a drink.
We ordered a tomato ramen since it was their signature dish, a pork belly topped rice bowl with a side of gyoza. The gyoza (pot stickers) came excellent, piping hot with a crunchy bottom and soft juicy filling. Now some people like deep fried gyoza which to me is a mystery, but i must say it was a great balance of juicy, crunchy and soft wrapping. Dip with the soy and vinegar was just yummy.
Now the ramen was well ramen, but strangely, i loved the soup. It was so tomatoey in a rich porky broth. For people who do not like tomatoes, skip this place, well come for the gyozas and the rice dishes but it was a sourish pork rich broth. hmm… yums. Too much ramen noodles, not enough broth in my opinion. Next up was the rice dish, suprising was very good, the pork belly was melt in the mouth a nice balance of sweet and soy and savoury without being too oily. Slurp up the soup and it’s a great palate cleanser. For Thai standards it is a bit pricey as a normal lunch would cost around 50 baht here it was almost 500 baht, but come here for a special treat and indulge in a bit of tomatoey goodness. Definitely for tomato lovers!
Reservations at Gaggans proved to be a difficult task since they were completely full, maybe due to the fact they ranked 3rd place in the Top 50 resetaurants of Asia. Which to my prior experience there, Chef Gaggan Anand deserves every accolade there is, but without any regret I had the chance to suggest a French Bistro in its stead. JP French was talked about by many groups of people being homey comfort food at acceptable pricing. I felt it came along the lines of Chez Pape (one of my favorites located in Soi 11) simple ingredients cooked well. Ok this is what we ate;
Complimentary Amuse Bouche, one with parma ham and one with a pate. I liked both, the pate was very dense and intense flavoured but not over powering. Good Job!
Lobster Bisque – A bit flat but tastes were fine, i preferred a creamier or a heavier bisque. Mushroom soup is as is, mushroom. Cream and a intense intense mushroom taste, very earthy and a great comfort food.
Frogs Legs – Dad ordered it, too adventurous for me actually but they said it was just like in France.
Escargots – Over baked, it came out dried and chewy. Sad, i usually have a thing for snails. The buttery herby topping was under seasoned and the poor snail was well not good. A sad miss.
The JP Chef Salad comes packed with a poached egg, slices of smoked duck breast, parma ham, duck confit and some foi gras pate on toast and of course the salad. Personally I’m not a fan of the salad dressing, it was a clear but doesn’t really taste French to me (my preference is towards a more mustardy taste), ill admit however with hot baguettes you can turn this into a heavy lunch or a light dinner.
Hot Goats cheese Salad – Same salad but topped with generous goats cheese, again the goats cheese wasn’t as expected, it turned out dry. Usually it should have been a crispy topping and a melty oozy character, this was dry and brittle.
As seen there were a few hits and misses but so far I would rate this dinner going at a strong 6, and a 10 for service and hospitality now on to the main courses:
Steak Tartar – A hit more mustard, tabasco, salt and less gerkins this dish was also a star. The meat was of great flavor nd quality you could taste the meat. It has a presence even over so many of the other ingredients in the dish, alas too much capers and gerkins, i had to pick them out.
Spaghetti with seafood and tomato sauce. Not bad, but not exactly a dish to reorder. Too tomatoey and dry. It’s hard to explain but pasta lovers will understand exactly what i’m saying. You couldn’t taste the seafood and the pasta was overcooked.
Beef Tenderloin – As you can see in the picture it was a big hunk of meat, nicely seared and perfectly cooked. A 2 thumbs up. The beef here is of great quality!
As mentioned earlier, we said the hospitality was great and it was true! We had a complimentary creme brulee with candle compliments of the owner, very nice! The creme brulee was excellent by the way which was why i didn’t eat the other desserts except for a spoonful of the apple tart. Yum!
All in all it was a more than decent restaurant, stick to the traditional dishes and you wont be disappointed. Great pricing, great service and some above average dishes! We will be back!