Sunday, May 12, 2019

Gokfayuen 菊花園 (Bangkok, THAILAND) ★★★☆☆

Nobody has said it publicly yet but I could see from everyone's eyes that they are sick of Thai food after our recent run of the local cuisine right about now. Tonight, a change is pretty much a foregone conclusion; the million-dollar question is what (cuisine).

While I was still searching for answers, Jelloman took charge and requested Chinese food. Well, that would make all our elderly pretty happy at least for one night.

Located on the seventh floor of Helix Emquartier, Gokfayuen (菊花園) (Literally means "Chrysanthemum Garden) is a Hong Kong style wonton noodle place where we would be having dinner tonight.

Wonton noodle soup - With my relatively low expectation coming in, I thought this was pretty decent. The stringy noodles were nice and al dente. Even the wontons weren't bad. Only a little heavy-handed with the shrimp roes.

Stirred-noodles with chicken - Slightly more successful than the wonton noodles. The tender chicken fillets and ginger worked reasonably well together; and I have never been much of a fan for noodle soup to begin with.

Bottled milk tea - While the noodles tasted fine and authentic, it was their bottled milk tea that failed to obtain a passing score. I like the way Jelloman described it, "It tasted like soy milk"! That's exactly what it tasted like.

With that, our final supper in Bangkok is in the books. Hopefully, we will come back again next year when the temperature isn't in the high 30s. 

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: ฿฿
Address: Shop Q7A-11, 7/F Helix Emquartier, 1357 Sukhumvit 35 Alley, Bangkok, Thailand
Closest BTS Station: Phrom Phong
Tel: +66 (0) 2003-6316

Audrey Café des Fleur at Emquartier (Bangkok, THAILAND) ★★☆☆☆

Audrey Café is an all-day casual dining café that offers Thai-European fare at different locations in Bangkok, more or less in the mold of Greyhound Café. Both cafes have very similar style of comfort food (think soup, salad, pasta with a Thai twist) and even the collection of desserts look very similar (mostly crepe cakes).

I have only had dessert at Audrey Café (at Central Embassy) before and I remembered they had a very good Thai milk tea crepe cake and a so-so milo one. That was 4 years ago and I think it's time for me to get re-acquainted with what they have to offer now.

Like Dazzling Cafe from Taiwan, Audrey also has their entire staff dressed in traditional French maid outfit. That was pretty cute.

This branch of Audrey at Emquartier called Audrey Café des Fleur looks a lot "younger" than the one at Central Embassy. They've added some lush green garden feel to make it more homey and down to earth.

Of course, they know exactly what they are famous for - their crepe cakes including flavors like Thai milk tea, milo and coconut.

The coconut flavor with rainbow colors is a limited-time-only special edition to celebrate their 7th anniversary.

Didn't know they also offer these cute-looking cupcakes too. But I'm not a fan...

Thai milk tea crepe cake - Somehow this tasted nothing like we had 4 years ago.

I still recalled its texture being very light and pillowy like those from Lady M but the layers of these crepes were really thick and most importantly, it was really bland.

Without the Thai milk tea ganache, I probably could never tell it's supposed to be flavored with Thai milk tea. Very disappointing!

Unicorn coconut crepe cake - The crepes again didn't have the perfect paper-thin thickness so I knew we were in trouble.

I thought the different colors means different flavors but honestly I just couldn't tell. Very one-dimensional, that's how I would put it (They need to try my favorite rainbow crepe cake from Billy Angel Cake in Seoul and learn something from there).

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: ฿฿฿
Address: Shop Q8A-2, 8/F Helix Emquartier, 1357 Sukhumvit 35 Alley, Bangkok, Thailand
Closest BTS Station: Phrom Phong
Tel: +66 (0) 2003-6244

Café Leitz by Pacamara (Bangkok, THAILAND) ★★★☆☆

The Durian Festival was running wild at Emquartier this weekend but I was looking for a quick bite rather than a buffet of fresh fruits. After checking out a number of places (harrod's and Pierre Hermé) without success, I decided to turn my attention to Café Leitz by Pacamara on the mezzanine floor of Helix Emquartier.

This is a collaboration between the Pacamara coffee empire and Leica, the luxurious German camera manufacturer and the result is this sleek and modern bakery café and coffee shop.

I didn't have time to sit down for a sip of coffee. I only managed to carve out enough time for a crispy croissant and there are some interesting ones right here. Apart from the more common flavors like almond, chocolate, sausage and, ham and cheese, they also serve up some artisanal croissants such as Thai tea charcoal and Ispahan (Both at 120 Baht).

Of course, the Thai tea charcoal croissant immediately caught my eyes considering how much of a Thai milk tea fan I am.

I thought this barely passed as a croissant (the cross section test wasn't bad). It's not flaky enough and there wasn't much Thai milk tea flavors in there other than the little bit of Thai milk tea flavored ganache oozing out from the middle. But that didn't come out until the very end.

I was a little surprised with the variety of non-coffee drinks offered here. Too bad we had to leave for dinner soon.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: ฿฿฿
Address:  Shop QMA-6, M/F, Helix EmQuartier, 12 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Closest BTS Station: Phrom Phong
Tel: +66 (0) 2003-6068

Ben's Cookies (Bangkok, THAILAND) ★★★☆☆

After trying out different flavors of Ben's cookies in Singapore (April) and Seoul (March) this year, I think I am hooked to their soft and gooey cookies that have made them one of the most popular cookies out of UK.

Luckily, there's a branch of Ben's Cookies at Siam Paragon so I can ease my craving a bit during this trip.

I'm counting on these two flavors to brighten up my day.

Macadamia Nut and White Chocolate - A must at Ben's Cookies because of the deadly combination of macadamia and white chocolate. Very addictive as always.

Matcha and White chocolate Macadamia - I didn't see this flavor either in Seoul or Singapore.

This was more or less the same thing as the Macadamia Nut and White Chocolate cookie but it's been infused with matcha. Interesting how the flavors (of matcha and white chocolate) came out and matched each other perfectly. I didn't think I had this combo before.

I'm surprised they actually have a branch at the Don Mueang International Airport. Too bad we won't be communing through that airport for our flights back to Hong Kong.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: ฿฿฿
Address: Siam Paragon, Floor G, 991/1 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand
Closest BTS Station: Siam
Tel: +66 (0) 2610-7539

Espresso at Intercontinental Bangkok (Bangkok, THAILAND) ★★☆☆☆

I don’t usually go for buffets during a trip because Hong Kong has arguably the best lunch and dinner buffets in the world. Why go anywhere else for it? But the moms are big-time buffet lovers (and we have 4 moms on our roster) and it’s Mother’s Day today, so I thought they should get what they want, at least for a day!

One of the things I noticed about the Sunday brunches in Bangkok is that, they ain’t cheap. I remembered them as some of the real bargains (Madison was my fav back then) but not anymore. After comparing a few top choices around, I decided to go with a middle of the line selection - Espresso at Intercontinental Hotel.

I recalled staying here about 15 years ago. Yeah, it has seen better days and sooner or later, they’ll find a way to tear this baby down and rebuild it from scratch.

Espresso is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On Sunday, they offer their Sunday brunch at 2,200 Baht. It’s international cuisine with a mix of Thai, Chinese and Italian dishes and free flow of juices and soft drinks.

This place is huge! They need to somehow fill it up again...

A live band.....

The seafood bar is probably the best place to start off the buffet, with different kinds of oysters, Alaskan crabs, spiny lobsters and more.

I got myself some spiny lobsters, tiger prawns and crab. Not bad.

Each guest also got half of a lobster. For that price, I thought lobsters should’ve been part of the seafood bar!

Apart from their reasonably good seafood bar, I thought the pan-seared foie gras was pretty good as well. These were served with a balsamic vinegar sauce and mango purée.

Other than those, I’m afraid it started to go downhill.

The grill station was boring.

Didn’t try the Sunday roasts coz the roasted beef looked a little dry and rubbery.

Our little nugget had the pasta which was cooked on the spot with mushroom and tomato sauce. Decent.

For a Sunday brunch of this caliber (and in Bangkok where they’re famous for their abundance of great fruits), the fruit section had to be considered a major disappointment. I thought the breakfast at our hotel offered more selection than this!

The dessert bar offered small bite-sized sweets as well as slices of cakes. It’s much better than their fruit section, that’s for sure.

I had a couple of slices of this coffee cream cake. Not bad.

One of the pleasant surprises of this meal was actually the all-you-can-eat mango sticky rice. They offered three types of sticky rice, original, purple glutinous rice and one flavored with pandan.

As I said right off the get-go, soft drinks and juices were included but there’s an upgrade available for those who wanted free flow of champagne and wine.

After all the taxes and surcharges, the bill amounted to about 3,000 Baht per head. That’s a lot of money considering the selection and quality of food that we were getting. I guess I would much prefer to spend it in Hong Kong where the price is more or less the same but I know I will get premium food quality with exemplary cooking techniques. But this is Mother’s day and since all the moms wanted buffet, I was happy to comply. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. I hope this group of moms enjoyed this meal. Now, I just had to settle this bill before heading to CentralWorld again to burn the dying hours of the trip.

Afterthought: For anyone visiting from Hong Kong, think twice about having buffets and Sunday Brunch in Bangkok because you will likely regret it.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: ฿฿฿฿
Address: 2/F Intercontinental Hotel Bangkok, 973 Phloen Chit Road, Khwaeng Lumphini, Bangkok, Thailand
Closest BTS Station: Phloen Chit
Tel: +66 (0) 2656-0444

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Penthouse Bar and Grill (Bangkok, THAILAND) ★★★★☆

Mom's lunar birthday is coming up in 2 days (yes, she still looks at the lunar calendar for everything) which is exactly on our travel day (going to the airport at 8am that day!). Since our schedule will be jam packed in the last couple of days, I thought we should squeeze in her birthday dinner two days in advance.

With everyone out of gas towards the tail end of the trip and little nugget fallen sick, I was guessing that no one would like to sit through a 3-hour multi-course fine-dining meal tonight. But I thought we needed to do something special for the birthday girl and that's where Penthouse Bar and Grill at Park Hyatt Bangkok comes in.

Perched on the 34th and 35th floor of 5-star Park Hyatt Bangkok, Penthouse Bar and Grill is your typical American steakhouse with a sleek decor and spectacular city view. The award-winning rooftop bar on the top of the grill restaurant is a place to see and be seen, with live music and panoramic view of the city. Too bad little nugget wasn't feeling well so he's commanding a lot of attention throughout the night. So, I didn't end up with the chance to check out the rooftop bar myself (It's tough to be a good dad and a foodie at the same time, trust me!).

I can't say enough about the service being provided here at Penthouse. We were thoroughly entertained right from start to finish by a very attentive and professional service team showcasing what 5-star hospitality was all about. Our little nugget was even offered a free tour of the kitchen (I was told) and came back with a free ice-cream in his hand. That's really the best medicine for anyone who's fallen sick, child or adult.

Caesar salad (530 Baht) - After some nice homemade bread, our starters arrived one by one in rapid fire. The Caesar was, well very Caesar-like with crisp romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, crispy parma ham and croutons.

Oven roasted beetroot (460 Baht) - But I love our other salad a lot more. As a sucker for beetroot, this was just perfect. The oven-roasted beets were ripe, juicy and incredibly sweet.

I thought they did well by matching the sweetness with a little bit of bitterness (arugula), acidity (sour cream) and herby notes (fresh herbs) there.

Crab cakes (590 Baht) - The only dish that missed the cut tonight. This was actually quite decent considering the lack of lump crab meat there. The tarragon mustard, fennel and apple coleslaw couldn't really save the day.

Grilled calamari (790 Baht) - Some local calamari from the grill and served with garlic butter, parsley and lemon juice. Very simple but very yummy.

Tagliatelle with cream sauce and bacon (? Baht) - We asked the kitchen to prepare a simple pasta dish for the little one and they delivered! The tagliatelle was nice and al dente meshing well with the creamy butter sauce. Nice piece of cooking there and I love how they go all out entertaining diners' special request.

Grilled Hokkaido scallops (1,275 Baht) - More scallops for mom and she's a happy camper.

Not bad.

Prime corn-fed ribeye (1,550 Baht) - We don't have a meat lover on our side but that doesn't mean we should go to a steakhouse without ordering some charred beef. Like most times, I picked US prime beef over Australian ones and it looked like a pretty wise choice to me.

Succulent and juicy with lovely charred marks. Not only mom, I'm a happy camper too.

Sweet potato wedges (180 Baht) - These came with very thin batter. Yum~

BBQ Braised Wagyu beef short rib (950 Baht) - Very tender and juicy. And the BBQ sauce wasn't over the top like some of these traditional steakhouses. Love the refreshing notes from the coriander and kaffir lime too.

No one wanted dessert tonight but the restaurant surprised mom with a small birthday cake (bite-sized). That was really the highlight of the night right there. Of course, little nugget didn't shy away from giving grandma a big kiss.

Penthouse Bar and Grill reminded me of another luxurious American-style steakhouse we used to like when Jelloman and I were still dating, New York Grill in Tokyo. It is yet another Park Hyatt restaurant and yes, they seem to be very good with steakhouses.

Obviously, my kid isn't sick anymore after the ice-cream.

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: ฿฿฿
Address:  34th and 35th Floor Park Hyatt Bangkok Hotel, Central Embassy, 88 Wireless Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand
Closest BTS Station: Phloen Chit
Tel: +66 (0) 2011-7480