Archive for February, 2007

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Recent Bests

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Recently, we’ve come across a series of “Best of” items. The first three were not something I expected to discover while in Bangkok. The fourth is something I never expected to discover.

Best Steak & Best French Fries – This is no exaggeration (though we have yet to visit Argentina, so it’s possible this blue ribbon for steak will not last long).

We came across both of these things in one restaurant, or rather, a micro-restaurant that just opened its doors on Th. Phra Arthit, called Mr. Pas. We think we understood that the chef (a Thai fellow who owns the place with his brother) studied with Gordon Ramsey, of “Hell’s Kitchen” fame. (I can’t believe we were lucky enough to stumble upon this place as we were walking by!) cimg4735-320.jpgWe ate lunch the first time we walked in: Hawaiian Chicken Burger and Fish & Chips, henceforth known as “the Best Chips/French Fries”. Simple enough dishes but they were crafted exceptionally well, and were remarkably reasonable in price, especially considering the care taken in preparation. We could barely wait 30 hours to return for dinner, which was a parma-wrapped steak with asparagus mashed potatoes for Marc and a mustard-crusted pork chop for me. Now this- this was outstanding. The steak was done perfectly to request and just melted in the mouth. Melted! My chop, served with warm raisin compote, was golden, garlicky, tasty, brilliant. Oh yeah! We also had an exquisite starter of chicken livers sauteed in a whiskey reduction; though, as this is the first chicken liver I’ve ever had, it doesn’t yet warrant a “Best Of” rating. We are going back for dinner tonight and my mouth is already watering. Unfortunately, they don’t serve wine, just beer. No liquor license yet?

Best French Toast – This meal raised french toast to a whole new level. cimg4727-320.jpgAnother place we credit ourselves with findin is Ricky’s Cafe. (It’s actually in the most recent Rough Guide travel guide but we don’t have that guide so I take credit for finding it on our own.) The reason this french toast wins the “Best Of” award is because it is actually banana french toast. Who would’ve thought? Mix egg with smashed up, fresh banana and use that to coat the bread before frying = fantastic. It was out of this world. We’ve been back for breakfast there every day but one since we’ve been in Bangkok; they also serve a delicious blue-cheese omelette.

Best Outdoor Aerobics – I went out on Valentine’s day to the Tesco grocery to procure food for our hotel-bed picnic that evening. Outside the Tesco, near the doors to the KFC, a pile of people had assembled to do aerobics. There was a guy wearing tight shorts and a microphone who was directing the activity from a stage set up on one end of the block, and the people following his direction covered the entire sidewalk to the other end. I had to walk in the street to avoid being aerobic-ed. It was great. Plus, it was really hot (by Canadian standards) so these people deserve extra credit for not only exercising, but doing so in the heat, within spitting distance of a fast-food joint. Now that’s dedicated health management.

Gluttony, cont’d

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

cimg4522-320.jpgI would like to say that the majesty of the former residence of Lao Royalty inspired us to crave a more delicate cuisine but I would be lying. It was actually just a question of unbridled gluttony. But the residence was impressive, especially the Limoges china and bohemian crystal. And the antique sideboards in the dining room. (Can you see where this is leading?)

L’Elephant. This is the name of the restaurant at which we melted. They serve French food, impeccable with all the details and ceremony which we love. Marc won the toss so he got to order the duck, with a starter of French onion soup. However, I won in the end with the starter of greens with blue cheese dressing and pork fillet, sauteed wild mushrooms and *swoon* garlic mashed potatoes. Dreamy. Plus wine: exquisite. We went back there twice.

cimg4558-320.jpgAnd then there was the Laos restaurant owned by the same group called Three Nagas. With Doug and Amy, we treated ourselves to a traditional Laos feast with stewed water buffalo (for the record: chewy), various savoury soups, minced pork wrapped in lemon grass, and steamed fish stuffed with pork. The laminated article posted outside the restaurant said that this place offered a taste of Laos that is different from Vietnam, different from Thailand or Cambodia and they were right. We could taste Laos in the dishes, taste the unique flavours and the bold meats. Except what we couldn’t taste past the spiciness.

I could go on about the food, about the great espresso that the bakery up the street made, about the fantastic cheeseburger at the sports bar, but I won’t because it would be better to take note of the falls. All tourists who visit Luang Prabang are required to visit Kuang Sy waterfall, about one hour outside of town along one of the dustiest, bumpiest road in existence.

I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.

It was like something out of a coffee table book of pictures describing what one can see in the jungle. Or like what I imagine the first Europeans, foraging through Indochina, found and then described in letters written home and in voluminous, romantic essays. Though I’m pretty sure that those foraging falang didn’t wear their bathing costumes under their clothes so as to take a dip in the frigid blue water.

It was frigid. It was breath-takingly icy, especially when you put your head under. But the wine that we brought with us up to the falls warmed us right up.cimg4598-320.jpg

Lazy Start to Laos

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Oh, those French. I can just imagine the life of leisure in which those colonialists must have drifted while in Vientiane. It’s warm in the day, but pleasantly cool in the evenings, the Mekong drifts slowly by the city and there is no chance of running out of French food.

CIMG4378-320.jpgWhile we did step out to do a small amount of touristing while in the city – most notably the monument known as the “Vertical Runway” because it was built using concrete donated by the US for building an airport runway – our main focus was truly on the food. There are just too many places to eat, too many cuisines to sample, too many balconies on which to relax and too many cafes in which to chill. We did our best to eat as much as humanly possible while there and were joined by Doug and Amy whom we met a couple months ago in India; it is brilliant to have friends once again.

CIMG4393-320.jpgThe top two meals have to go to the the cafe where we ate breakfast three days in a row, and the DaoFa Bistro on one of the main streets in town. The breakfast place served some world-class, buttery, croissants and espresso. After days and days of Vietnamese pho to start the day, to have a little French in the morning made me melt. This place also set us up with a take-away lunch for our bus ride up to Vang Vieng and that meal earns the gold medal in the Lunch on a Bus category: fresh green salad (salad!!) with peppery vinaigrette and fresh, whole baguettes – one with chicken and wild mushrooms and one with real roasted beef, potatoes and grainy mustard. The heretofore gold medal holder was Pringles and oranges so this new champion will surely not be beat.

CIMG4396-320.jpgDaoFa hit dead centre of our weak spot: wine. We had to create a meal between lunch and dinner just so that we could enjoy a little carafe at a sidewalk table. I got a ham and cheese crepe, which was no slouch, but Marc won with the smoked-duck salad with walnuts and prunes. Smoked duck! Prunes! I can’t believe we left Vientiane without going back but there were just too many places and not enough stomach.