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Evil Penevil

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Everything posted by Evil Penevil

  1. Volare on Soi Bukhao (Soi 15)

    Volare, a popular Italian restaurant, reopened at the beginning of November after a two-month closure for a major overhaul. It now features an enclosed bar and a totally redone outside dining area. It's located at the corner of Soi Bukhao and Soi 15, directly east of The Avenue Shopping Plaza and about 200 hundred meters south of LK Metro. Visually, the results are pretty impressive. And this is a pic of the bar from Volare's Facebook page: A fish tank has been built into the floor leading into the bar. The mural on one of the walls is eye-catching. A detailed view: The two nights I ate at Volare this week, it had quite a few customers; about 25 on the first night and 15 on the second. The first night I ate between 9.30 p.m. and 10.00 p.m. and the second between 23.30 p.m. and midnight. I was a bit surprised that so many were dining so late. The customers were a mix of plain vanilla farang with TG companions or male farang in groups as well as Russian and Asian tourists. That bodes well for Volare. To succeed in Pattaya's crowded restaurant segment, a restaurant has to attract customers of different nationalities. A Holiday Inn Express is due to open nearby in 2018 and it should provide Volare with a stream of potential customers. The new trendy but casual decor should also help. The brick pizza oven has been rebuilt at one end of the restaurant. I'm running into Internet hassles again, so I'll save the food reviews for the second installment. Here's a teaser: Tortellini pomodoro - Paccheri al pomodoro, basilico e ricotta - Pizza with prosciutto ham for takeaway - Evil
  2. Volare on Soi Bukhao (Soi 15)

    I have positive and negative observations about Volare. I'll mention the positive first. The Volare is an inviting and attractive restaurant in which to have a meal. The staff is friendly and attentive. The menu is extensive and includes some Italian dishes not frequently seen in Pattaya. It also features some Thai standards and international dishes like hamburgers. Prices for the Italian dishes (salads, appetizers, pasta, pizza, etc) are reasonable for what you get. Some of the non-Italian meat dishes, like steak and lamb chops, get into the 600- to 800-baht range, but I don't go to an Italian restaurant for such dishes. It's currently open 24/7 and offers an English breakfast at 130 baht, but again, Volare wouldn't be a natural choice for me for any sort of breakfast. Of the three dishes I have had at Volare, the first suffered from a miss in the kitchen, while the other two were excellent. On my first post-renovation visit, I ordered tortellini pomodoro (tortellini in a tomato sauce). Tortellini is a filled, ring-shaped pasta also called navel, i.e. belly-button, pasta thanks to its appearance and the legendary story of its origin. According to popular tradition, tortellini was the result of an Italian innkeeper peeping through a keyhole at a female guest. He only caught a glimpse of her navel, but it turned him on so much that instead of whacking off, he ran to the kitchen and invented tortellini. The filling most often used in tortellini is finely ground pork that's a bit bland by intention to highlight the broth or sauce with which it's served. The tomato-and-mince-meat sauce that covered the tortellini was fresh and vibrant, no complaints on my part. However, a couple of the pieces of tortellini were hard and dry on the outside. That's a sign they had been cooked in advance but hadn't been covered properly, so that they dried on top. It was a silly mistake, as tortellini only takes about 10 minutes to cook in boiling water. it certainly detracted from the meal, but not enough to deter me from returning for a second try. If all the pieces of tortellini had been freshly cooked, it would have been a great meal. I ordered the paccheri al pomodoro, basilico e ricotta (paccheri with tomato, basil and ricotta cheese) on my second visit. Paccheri is a very large tubular pasta, sort of what macaroni would look like if it could suffer from giantism. Paccheri occupies a special place in Italian culinary history. In a groundbreaking cookbook from 1839, a recipe for paccheri al pomodoro is one of the first published Italian recipes to call for a tomato sauce on pasta. Today we consider tomato-based sauces to be synonymous with Italian cuisine, but they are actually a relatively recent addition, dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. The tomato was introduced to Italy in the mid-1500s from Mexico via Spain. However, it took another 250 years for the tomato to catch on as a widely used ingredient in Italian kitchens. Paccheri dishes aren't often encountered outside Italy, so I was eager to try Volare's version. This time, the dish didn't let me down. Both the sauce and ricotta cheese were excellent and the collapsed tubes of paccheri supported the flavors well. This time, everything clicked in terms of flavor and seasoning. Good job, Volare! Every main dish at Volare comes with three pieces of nondescript commercial white bread and a tiny bowl of parmesan cheese. The bread is nice touch as it can be used to sop up the extra sauce, but I wish Volare had used better bread.There's also a pepper mill on each table. That night I decided to try one of Volare's pizzas. I chose prosciutto (dry-cured ham) as the topping. It's not a traditional pizza topping in Italy, nor is it customary in the U.S., but I love prosciutto and thought it would taste great on pizza. I was right. The pizza was 13 inches (33 centimeters) in diameter, which would put it between medium and large on the U.S. size scale. It had a thin Neopolitan crust and I would have preferred a bit more char on the bottom of the crust, but that may be a NYC thing. The sauce and cheese hadn't been laid too thickly so the taste of the prosciutto was overwhelmed. It was a good pizza and I wouldn't hesitate to order pizza again from Volare. And now it's time to mention something less favorable. The 10% service charge and the 7% VAT were tacked onto the prices shown on the menu. The paccheri (210 baht), Coke Zero (95 baht) and takeaway pizza (285 baht) added up to 590 baht. However, when I called chek bin, the total price I had to pay was 690 baht because the menu prices weren't net. I couldn't see it specified anywhere on the menu that the prices listed didn't include service and VAT, although it might be there somewhere in very small print. Naughty, naughty, Volare. The other less-than-favorable point is the cost of beverages at Volare. A Coke Zero is 111 baht with service charge and VAT. A SML is 140 baht on the menu, which would be 164 baht. Those are hefty prices. To summarize: Volare looks very fine after its makeover, the ambiance is good and the service friendly. The food is good and some dishes aren't on any other restaurant menu I've seen in Pattaya. However, a miss in execution pulls my overall opinion down, as does the failure to include service and VAT in the menu prices. Bottom line: I'll probably go back, but I'm not in a hurry. Pizza for takeaway might get more frequent business. Evil
  3. Dave's Cantina on Soi Regional Land

    You might be disappointed on the guacamole side. I don't think Dave has it on the menu because of the problems in getting good avocados in Pattaya. Evil
  4. Dave's Cantina on Soi Regional Land

    Dave's Cantina opened eight months ago and has created quite a stir among Pattaya residents and visitors who enjoy Mexico-inspired food. It is ranked on TripAdvisor in 21st place among 901 Pattaya restaurants, which is a significant accomplishment for such a new place. I wrote this review in April, but have updated it. Dave's is still the top choice in Pattaya for those who want U.S. style Mexican food. I'll join the chorus of those singing praise for Dave's Cantina: it serves the best Mexican-style food currently available in any restaurant in Pattaya. I said Mexican-style because it's difficult to pin an all-encompassing label on the items served at Dave's. The menu is a mix of modern Mexican, California Mexican and Tex Mex standards, sprinkled liberally with Dave's own ideas and recipes, then whipped to a peak by meticulous preparation. Dave knows contemporary Mexican cooking and has put a lot of thought into the Cantina's menu. But it doesn't really matter how you categorize the food at Dave's; it's the taste that counts. Dave's gets full marks on that score. Dave's Cantina has only been open a couple of months and the menu is still relatively limited. That's a good idea, as it's much better to offer 10 great dishes than 20 mediocre ones. So far he has tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos and chimichangas on offer, plus two kinds of soup (chile con carne y frijoles and tortilla) and dessert (apple chimichanga with ice cream and deep-fried ice cream). Pico de gallo (aka salsa fresca) and freshly dried tortilla chips are on the menu as a starter, while red rice, refried beans and pinto beans are the sides The tortilla soup is something of Dave's signature dish. Tortilla soup in it's original version is a clear chicken broth flavored with epazote, a Mexican herb, and topped with strips of fried tortilla. The soup served at Dave's is much thicker and filling, with a spicy kick. It has plenty of flavor and not just heat. It's better than a lot of the tortilla soup you find in North America. If you're going to taste one dish on Dave's menu, tortilla soup would be it. A cup is great as a starter and a full bowl would be meal in itself. I followed up with two soft corn tortillas filled with shredded pork, pico de gallo and cilantro. Again, there was plenty of flavor and just enough heat to keep it interesting. For those who want more burn, there are several types of chili sauce on the table. The sides were red (Mexican) rice and refried beans In and of themselves, they are pretty unassuming sides, available on combo plates in thousands of Mexican restaurants across the U.S. They function in part to function as belly-fillers, in part to balance the spiciness of the main dishes. They tend to be very bland, but not at Dave's. A lack of heat in the sides doesn't mean a lack of flavor and the rice and beans add real accents to the meal. This goes back to Dave's passion for finding the right flavor profile. then using the best ingredients available and preparing them properly. That's what elevates his food above the majority of Mexican-style restaurants you find outside Mexico. I rounded out my meal with a dessert that is as Mexican as an apple chimichanga. A rich apple filling, heavy on the cinnamon, was wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep-fried. It came with two scoops of ice cream. It was delicious and the flour tortilla is a great "container" for a fruit pie filling. The dessert is actually Dave's own invention and I say, "well done!" Total damage for the meal was about 500 baht, including a Coke Zero, which is a bargain for the quantity and quality of the food. I also ordered two burritos- one beef, one pork- for takeaway so I wouldn't have to brave the Songkran water-tossing for lunch the following day. I chose the 8" burritos for 150 baht because they warm up well in a microwave. Very tasty and strong on flavor but light on heat, exactly as I like them. I didn't take pics of the day-after burritos and have lifted the two pics above from Dave's Cantina's Facebook page. I like the decoration at Dave's, simplicity itself but colorful and attractive. I didn't have occasion to sample the bar, but it looked well stocked. I'm very pleased there weren't any sombreros, guitars or Day-of-the-Dead masks on the walls. The air conditioning works very well and there' are outdoor tables if that's your preference. This pic is from the Facebook page of Dave's Cantina. Dave's Cantina punches above its weight when comes to the food and in just two months has gone to the top of the list of Mexican-style restaurants in Pattaya. I just hope its location on Soi Regional Land won't prove too much of a hinder in attracting customers. The restaurant s not hard to find, but a pain in the butt to get to if you don't have your own wheels. Of course, it's just a short haul by moto from Tuk Com, but otherwise, customers face a long walk or taking a taxi to get to Dave's. Bottom line: Dave's is an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys the type of Mexican food found in restaurants outside Mexico. It's hours are 1.00 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. Evil Some more pics from Dave's FB page, just to give you a better idea of the types of dishes that are served.
  5. Under 300 Baht ... And Good!

    The hours at Taco Taco Tex Mex have shifted a couple of times, but here's what its FB page now says: 3 p.m. to midnight. Evil
  6. Under 300 Baht ... And Good!

    I recently read elsewhere that if you pay under 300 baht for a Western meal in Pattaya, you get garbage. I consider that statement both unfair and uninformed. There are dozens of restaurants, probably several hundred, where you can enjoy good Western food under 300 baht. But rather than get involved in a meaningless exchange of opinions, I'm going to put my money, my camera and most importantly, my mouth, where my mouth is. I'll give examples of restaurants where it is possible to have a good Western meal for under 300 baht. I hope others will contribute their suggestions, with or without photos. There are far more restaurants in Pattaya than I'll ever have the opportunity to visit and I'm sure many of them offer good options under 300 baht. In central Pattaya, many, many farang-oriented restaurants offer daily specials under 200 baht and virtually all but the most expensive fine-dining places will have a main course on the menu for less than 300 baht. One tip: if any restaurant mentioned in this thread piques your curiosity, do a board search for it and you'll most likely come up with a lot more information But first, a couple of points of order. Since I'm responding to a statement about Western food, that would by definition exclude Thai, Indian and other Asian food. This thread isn't about where you can fill your belly for the least amount of money, but specifically about where you can get good Western food under 300 baht. Also, it doesn't have to be the best food you've ever eaten, especially in comparison to what is available in the West. It should be good, as opposed to mediocre or bad, but not necessarily a peak culinary experience. The biggest test for me is, will I go back and order the same dish again? If I do, then the meal has been good. And the standard disclaimer: if you want to eat cheaply and well, you're best off sticking to Thai food. No doubt about it, you get the most bang for your buck by eating Thai food. However, very few farang visitors or resident ex-pats want to eat Thai food at each and every meal, so most are willing to spend a bit extra for farang food. I'll start off with some options on LK Metro, with the Rockhouse first up. It recently restarted its food service and the most expensive item on the menu goes for 250 baht. For the most part, it's traditional British pub-style food, although there are a few Thai dishes on the menu. I decided to try the lamb shepherd's pie at 250 baht. It came with peas or beans and either mashed potatoes or chips and gravy. Unfortunately, my "full-plate" pics didn't turn out well, but the close-ups of the shepherd's pie were OK. It was a good-sized portion. The meat mixture had a good lamb flavor and was well seasoned, while the mash potato topping had been cooked to a golden brown. I'll be back to try other dishes from the Rockhouse menu. The first time round, the food served at the RH had been very good. It was British comfort food as it should be done. And it appears the RH is off to a good start this time, too. Another option on LK Metro is the Wok N Rok take-away stand in front of the Office A Go Go. It serves the same U.K.-style Chinese food as in the former Wok N Rok Restaurant on Soi Bukhao. The kiosk is open from 6 p.m. until "late." And before anyone objects, I consider the food it serves to be Western because U.K.-style Chinese is quite different to the food you'd get in a restaurant in China. It has an extensive menu, with most of Chinese-style favorites Westerners will recognize from their neighborhood take-aways back home. There are a few Indian dishes on the menu as well. The dishes range in price from 149 back to under 250 baht for some of the two-dish specials. I've lifted a few of the pics from the Wok N Rok thread to give an idea of what's on offer. If you enjoy U.K.-style Chinese food, the Wok N Rok does it better than any restaurant in Pattaya. Late Thursday night (actually very early Friday morning) I stopped for my weekly pasta fix at the spaghetti stand on the corner of Soi Diana and Soi Bukhao. The stand was doing a landslide business, although most customers were eating in the bar behind the stand. I counted ten plates that went out before the girl got to my takeaway order. Perhaps a bar crawl had decided spaghetti was needed to soak up the booze. This is what my spaghetti Bolognese looked like after I got it home. Nothing fancy about it, but a good-sized portion and good taste for 105 baht. It's better spaghetti than you get in some restaurants. More suggestions will come in the next post. Evil
  7. Under 300 Baht ... And Good!

    I've had several meals at Spaghetti Bistro, a rcently opened small restaurant on Soi 15 behind The Avenue Shopping Plaza. As its name indicates, pasta is its mainstay and it offers a surprisingly large choice for a small restaurant. All the standard pasta dishes on the menu can be done with spaghetti, penne or tagliatelle and there's an option to "design your own" plate of pasta in terms of sauce and ingredients. It also serves other Western dishes (steak, pork chops, chicken, tuna, salmon, salads, appetizers, sandwiches and desserts) and a few Thai dishes. It does have some interesting items on the menu that I am looking forward to trying the. "Oriental Merguez & Harissa" pasta as well as the "Camembert on Toast." The menu clearly has some French and international touches to it. It's mainly Italian, but not strictly so. There are four tables and some bar counter seats under the roof, plus a couple of small tables outside. It has a ceiling-mounted flat-screen TV and free WiFi. I tried the "Triple Cheesy (Parmesan, Emmental, blue cheese) with penne for 220 baht. It was a decent portion with excellent flavor. The chef got the mixture of cheeses just right. The penne was cooked as it should be, al dente. A problem with a lot of the pasta in Pattaya is that it is overcooked. Another day I had the old standard from my school lunches, spaghetti and meatballs, for 185 baht. The Spaghetti Bistrot version added diced fresh tomato. Again, a good portion with great flavor in the sauce and meatballs. Spaghetti Bistrot offers a daily special, such as the "Surf N Turf" announced in the pic below that I took from the restaurant's Facebook page. I've also seen Chicken Parmesan as a special for 240 baht. It also offers bottled beers, wine and spirits. One interesting feature is that it offers both take-away and delivery. It's also open from 9.00 a.m. to 3.00 a.m., which are ambitious hours. The menu is extensive and rather sophisticated for a small restaurant. I no idea who owns it, but I've only ever seen Thais working there. The chef must have had a strong background in preparing European farang food. The only American items on the menu are the "Chicken Wings New Orleans" and the Chicken Parm, which was first made by Italian immigrants to the U.S. I certainly hope Spaghetti Bistrot succeeds, but I worry about its location. Soi 15 between 2nd Road and Soi Bukhao has very little foot traffic. Perhaps there are enough farang who live or stay in the immediate area to attract a solid customer base; otherwise it may struggle. The prices are reasonable for the quality of the food, but many enclosed restaurants with air conditioning offer similar dishes in the same price range. I wish them the best and I'm keeping. Second visit- This is what I had for supper: The menu calls it "Oriental merguez & harissa." Merguez is a spicy lamb sausage of North African origin. Harissa is a paste made from chillies and various spices. It's common in Moroccan cooking. That a sophisticated dish for a small outdoor eatery in Pattaya. I had it with tagliatelle and it cost 185 baht. I liked it very much. I enjoy merguez and it's not often you see it on menus in Pattaya. I like the "open kitchen" model. Yesterday a Russian woman was giving the cook a lot of suggestions about preparing her meal. Evil
  8. Under 300 Baht ... And Good!

    And a new installment: Taco Taco Tex Mex is a food stall that sells tacos, burritos and margaritas in the Soi Bukhao Night Market (see map below). As you face the Night Market on Soi Bukhao, Taco Taco is in the front row of stalls, second from the left. It has a small folding table and a few plastic stools in front for anyone who wants to eat on site, but most of the business is takeaway. Your choice is limited to different types of tacos and burritos, all cooked to order. It's basically homestyle Tex Mex done by a cook who knows what she's doing in terms of flavor. There are plenty of hot sauces available to add as much heat as you want. She makes everything with just a little bit of bite. Taco Taco has four types of burritos: bean, pork, chicken and beef. They range in price from 80 baht for a bean burrito to 105 baht for the beef burrito in the pic below. The Taco Taco burritos are the large, U.S. variety, stuffed with a meat, potato and cheese mixture. I don't want to get too specific about the burrito style (Mission, California, San Diego, etc.) as that would require a long and complicated discussion. Suffice it to say the burritos I had from Taco Taco tasted great and were quite filling. The tacos can be ordered with either soft wheat tortillas or hard-shell corn tortillas and filled with pork, chicken or beef mixtures. They are based on small tortillas, three or four inches in diameter. That's the size of the original tacos sold as street food both in Mexico and in Mexican neighborhoods in the U.S. The larger U-shaped hard-shell pre-fried corn tortillas were invented in the 1940s by Mexican restauranteurs in the U.S. to speed up preparation in commercial kitchens. The hard-shell tacos were popularized in the 1950s mainly through the franchising operations of Glenn Bell, founder of taco bell. Shredded lettuce, sour cream and guacamole on hard-shell tacos is more Taco Bell than Mexican. The Taco Taco version is closer to the Mexican no-fuss type, but the yellow cheese topping makes it squarely Tex Mex. The tacos are small, so you'll need several if you are hungry. The food in the pics- a beef burrito, two soft pork tacos and two pork tortilla) cost 250 baht. Taco Taco Tex Mex is a great option for a takeaway meal or late-night snack. I simply love the beef burritos and could eat one every day. Of course, if you want a sit-down Mexican meal with more sophisticated flavors and a much wider choice of dishes, then visit Dave's Cantina (review) on Soi Regional Land. A pic and a special from Dave's: Evil For those not familiar with the Soi Bukhao area, here's a map. The Night Market is almost on a straight line due east of Central Festival Mall. The Night Market is a few hundred meters north of LK Metro. Jolly's and The Great American Sandwich Company are close to it.
  9. Marquee Bar's 100-Baht Sunday Roast

    AM The Marquee Bar & Cafe is well-known for its 100-baht Sunday roast dinners. It had long been on my list of places to try; I just hadn't gotten around to it until yesterday. I believe 100 baht is the lowest price for a Sunday roast in central Pattaya. It's a popular bar located on the corner of Soi Bukhao and the subsoi that runs past the New Plaza bars to Second Road. I've included a map at the end of this review for anyone not familiar with the area, I ordered the Sunday dinner with roast beef and was pleasantly surprised by the meal I got considering the price. It was a good plate of food and definitely value for money. It certainly isn't the best or biggest Sunday roast you can get in Pattaya, but those dinners will cost you three to five times as much. If you have a big appetite, then an all-you-can-eat buffet is the way to go. But if you're happy with a modest portion, the Marquee's Sunday roast is an excellent option. The plate I got looked very much like the picture in the ad. Three slices of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, four small roast potatoes and some boiled veggies (a small spoonful of garden peas, a piece of carrot, two broccoli spears, a piece of sweet corn and a slice of boiled cabbage. Amazingly, the veggies weren't overcooked. Since the plate came doused in gravy, I propped up the slices of meat with a roast potato so they would show up better in the photo. The beef was of the packaged and pre-cooked variety and had been sliced very thin, but that's to be expected when the meal costs 100 baht. The gravy had a good flavor and consistency, but it probably came from a package. I wish it had been served on the side, not poured on the plate. The Yorkshire pudding looks overdone in the pic, but that is actually misleading. Only an extremely thin top layer had been burned, the rest hadn't. A more serious fault was the interior: [ Here what I think happened: the Yorkshire pudding had been cooked properly from the beginning but had cooled and then been reheated, hence the overdone top surface and collapsed interior. Still, it wasn't too bad and I've had far worse in Pattaya. I also believe I paid for violating one of my own rules about Sunday roasts as well as buffets: get there as early as possible. I had dinner at the Marquee Bar around 7 p.m. If I had been there earlier- I think they start serving at noon- I'm sure the Yorkshire pudding would have been fine. I really appreciated the corn on the cob, even though it's not part of a traditional British Sunday roast. Nice touch! Bottom line: I didn't have high expectations when I sat down at the Marquee. I was doubtful that a small restaurant could put together a Sunday roast worth eating for 100 baht. I was wrong; the meal wasn't just edible, it was pretty good. Next time I'll go earlier and order the chicken. I'll also ask that the gravy be served on the side. The Marquee does a special on fish and chips as well. A couple of side notes. One of the serving girls began hamming for the camera, but I just smiled and didn't snap her picture. After a minute or two, a man seating close to my table asked me to take a picture of the girl. Why, I don't know. I've pixelated theor faces as I also don't know if they'd want the pic posted on a punter board. The Marquee's Sunday roast is quite popular. Almost all the tables were taken, but with one diner each. Across the street, Nida Food & Drink had a lot of customers as well. Evil The map:
  10. Marquee Bar's 100-Baht Sunday Roast

    The Sunday roast at the Marquee could have several purposes, all of which function in the bar's favor. It could be a hook for new customers; a "reward" for steady customers; and even have niche appeal to those who only want a modest portion of food because of stomach problems or limiting calorie intake. However, such special offers sometimes backfire if they only attract people who buy the special and nothing else, then only visit the bar when the special is available. It becomes extra work for the bar but no extra revenue. Evil
  11. Marquee Bar's 100-Baht Sunday Roast

    Me three. I think my dubiosity along those lines was the main reason I waited so long to try it. But they seem to be pulling it off. They've run the Sunday roast special for nearly 1.5 years and it's quite popular. I've seen it suggested that the special could be a loss leader, a means of attracting customers to the bar. With its scooter and Mod theme, the Marquee was already a busy bar with a loyal customer base. I guess the Sunday roast special could be an attempt to broaden its customer appeal. My bottle of SML cost 65 baht, which isn't at all expensive. Evil
  12. Posted Yesterday, 09:48 AM The Gumbo House Cajun Seafood Restaurant & Bar is a small restaurant towards the south end of Jomtien Beach Road. I'll post a map at the end of the review. It's been open since May and is operated by an American man from Louisiana and his Thai wife. According to the Gumbo House Website: "We're from Louisiana and we brought our love of Louisiana's Cajun food and our Cajun recipes with us to Thailand. We're also Thai, so, we serve Thai food for those of us who can't go a day without our famous local delicacies." As the name proclaims, it is focused on Cajun cuisine and seafood, but also has an extensive menu of Thai dishes. It's open from 11.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. I'm not going into too much background in this review, but Cajun is a regional style of cooking that originated among French settlers called Acadians who had been kicked out of Canada in the mid-1700s. For at least 150 years they lived an isolated existence in Louisiana's swamps and bayous, eking out a living under tough circumstances. They spoke a dialect of French and kept very much to themselves, developing their own cuisine, music and folkways. Except for some parishes (counties) in Louisiana, Cajun cooking was largely unknown in the U.S. before the 1980s. I'll give more background in a separate post. The Gumbo House does seem a good place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sun go down. From the GH Website: The cocktails at GH aren't expensive. I noticed the list feature the Hurricane, a sweet, fruity cocktail that's almost become a symbol for New Orleans but is seldom served elsewhere. It consists of equal portions of light rum, dark rum and passion fruit syrup, plus orange juice and a splash of lime for extra flavor. In the Big Easy, it's often served in special glasses shaped like hurricane lamps. However, New Orleans city law allows the consumption of alcohol in public and for drinks to be carried from bars, but not in glasses. Many Hurricane cocktails are therefore sold in plastic cups, especially during Mardi Gras. I had lunch Tuesday with a friend at the Gumbo House. We were both eager to see what such a rarity as a Cajun restaurant in Pattaya would have to offer. There's a two-fold problem with Cajun cooking: 1) much of what is called Cajun cooking really isn't, and 2) "authentic" doesn't necessarily mean "delicious" or even "good." Plenty of authentic regional dishes in all cuisines taste horrible to outsiders. So to cut to the chase: Was the cuisine at Gumbo House authentic? Yes, it was. Was it good? Well, I won't be rushing back to try it again. I wanted to like the Gumbo House, I really did, as it's always a positive thing to support small, family-run businesses that try something new. I would rather be writing a rave review, but I can't. The best that can be said about the food we had is that it was average. It didn't taste bad; it just didn't taste much at all. And there were a couple of misses in the service that didn't make things better. Here's an excerpt from the Gumbo House menu: The appetizers are smaller servings of main courses- and that's a good idea when it comes to an unfamiliar cuisine like Cajun. The diner can try more of it that way. My friend ordered the chicken and sausage gumbo as his starter and I chose the seafood gumbo. He went for the shrimp étouffée as his main and I asked for the jambalaya. Gumbo and jambalaya are the two dishes most closely associated with Cajun cooking and étouffée would come a close third. After a few minutes, the young waiter came back to say the jambalaya was "finished." That's unlikely, since we there at 1.30 p.m. and the restaurant had opened at 11.00 a.m. It probably would have been more accurate to say it hadn't finished cooking, or even that it hadn't started cooking. Anyway, I ordered the étouffée instead. Gumbo is a thick soup and Cajun gumbo should be close to the consistency of a stew. It was. A Cajun gumbo has a base of roux, a flour and oil mixture that cooked together and gives the gumbo its dark brown color. It's also supposed to impart a nutty flavor, but I couldn't detect that. I could taste the shrimp, some shreds of crab, a bit of heat and not much else. In a sense, that's how a Cajun gumbo is supposed to be, so it was authentic. MM said his gumbo had plenty of chicken and sausage. He let me taste a piece of the sausage and it was some sort of German smoked sausage and not the proper andouille. I don't really hold that against them. Where the hell are you going find andouille sausage and tasso ham in Thailand? But it's also true that German sausage can't add the right flavor. It's a bit of a Catch-22 moment. The overall rating on the gumbo: OK, but not better. The bread that came with the gumbo wasn't French but sliced bread from 7-11. Sacré bleu! The other odd thing was that after a rather long wait, both the gumbo and étouffée came at the same time. Gumbo is the type of dish that should be made ahead of time and left to sit overnight so the flavors meld. One would think they'd bring out the bowls of reheated gumbo while making the étouffée, but that didn't happen. As a result, the étouffée went cold and congealed while we were eating the gumbo. Étouffée means "smothered" in French and "smothering" is a cooking technique typical of Cajun cuisine. Meat and/or vegetables are cooked with a small amount of liquid over low heat until ready. It's similar to braising but with less liquid. The sauce tends to be a bit bland as it's not supposed to overwhelm the main ingredient, usually crayfish or shrimp. Again, I'd say the etouffée was OK but not better. Add the misses with service to the lackluster food and you get a rather disappointing dining experience. I may try it again if I can hitch a ride with someone, but I'll call first to make sure jambalaya is being served that day. The whole about Cajun cooking doesn't make a lot of sense without more background, but I'll save that for a separate post. Evil A map for those who want to try Gumbo House. The baht buses usually end at Soi Chaiyaphruek, so you have to hike a bit to the restaurant. If you have your own wheels, parking is easy.
  13. The Gumbo House Cajun Restaurant in Jomtien

    Discussions and reviews about Cajun food tend to get complicated because much of what is called "Cajun" really isn't. Cajun cuisine was hardly known outside of Louisiana until the 1980's when it was made famous by celebrity chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. However, what they served up in their restaurants and on their TV shows wasn't traditional Cajun food but a fusion between Creole and Cajun styles plus plenty of their own original touches. For example, blackening is a cooking technique associated with Cajun cuisine thanks to Prudhomme and his "blackened redfish," a dish which became a national craze 40 years ago. Thing is, blackening is a technique Prudhomme invented and which had no basis whatsoever in Cajun cooking. It was- and is- a delicious way of preparing fish and other proteins, but it sure wasn't Cajun. Authentic Cajun food was heavy and bland. To make it more appealing and acceptable to a broader public, the New Orleans' celebrity chefs "kicked things up a notch." They added a lot of bold flavors and spices. Other, lesser-known chefs took things even farther. Cajun food is often regarded today as fiery hot along the lines of some Mexican, Indian and Szechuan dishes, but that isn't true historically. That's purely a modern twist. And I haven't even gotten into the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine! Evil
  14. Hawker Chan is a recently opened Chinese roast meat (siu mei) restaurant on Beach Road at the front of the Royal Garden Plaza. It's part of an international chain spun off from Singapore's Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, a small food stall in a Chinatown hawker center (open-air food court) that won a Michelin star in 2016. Although it bills itself as "The world first hawker to be awarded one Michelin star," Liao Fan HKSSCRN was actually one of two Singapore food stalls to get the prestigious culinary award in July of last year. It propelled the stall's chef and owner, Chan Hong Meng, to overnight fame. He formed a partnership with a Singapore investment company to capitalize on his instant celebrity. The result is the Hawker Chan chain, which now has three branches in Singapore as well as in Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Branches will soon open in Australia and the Philippines. Chan has said he wants to follow KFC's example and establish branches all over the world. That's certainly an ambitious if unrealistic goal, but it does raise the intriguing possibility we might soon be hearing hilarious stories of humiliated Pattaya punters carrying around buckets of Hawker Chan. (If you get that quip, you're a true punter-board veteran). However, Hawker Chan doesn't have the same romantic ring to it as KFC. The rapid rise of Hawker Chan is a fascinating street-food-to-riches story, even when you scrape away the hype over the Michelin star. It's also testimony to the power and influence of the Michelin Guide. I'll include more of the background at the end of this review. The interior is spacious, well-lit and spotlessly clean. There's nothing particularly Chinese about Hawker Chan's decor; it could be any modern quick-service chain restaurant. including KFC. You make your selection from the menu at the front counter, pay, then wait for your number to be called and pick up your order from the counter. It's the same model McDonalds pioneered and is now used in fast-food restaurants all over the world. The menu itself is simple. Diners have a choice of chef Chan's signature soya sauce chicken or three types of pork: char siew (BBQ pork belly); spare ribs; or crispy roast. The meats can be combined with rice, noodles or hor fun (a type of rice noodle and an appropriate name in Pattaya). The menu sports three non-meat dishes: two vegetable and a tofu dish. You can also order whole or half chickens and pork by the gram or kilo for takeaway or in-house dining by groups. It's the same menu as in Hawker Chan's restaurants elsewhere. The menu in the pic below is from the Web site of the Terminal 21 branch in Bangkok, although prices for the single plate dishes tend to be about seven to 15 baht higher in Pattaya. The dishes are inexpensive and you can have two dishes and a beverage for under 300 baht. Of course, similar food is available from food stalls, street carts and hole-in-the-wall restaurants all over Pattaya at half or one-third the price, but you won't be eating it in air-conditioned comfort at a prime Beach Road location. And now to the important question: How's the food at the Pattaya branch of Hawker Chan? Overall, it's average, with the soya sauce chicken and roast pork above average. For those familiar with the U.S. academic grading scale, I'd give Hawker Chan Pattaya a C+. There's no factor to any of it and nothing at all to make me think it deserves a Michelin star. It tastes the same as roast meats in thousands of Chinese restaurants and I've had better in China, Hong Kong, Bangkok and even New York City's Chinatown. I've never eaten at the Liao Fan HKSSCRN in Singapore, so I can't make a direct comparison to the Pattaya offering. According to Singapore newspaper and food blog reports, the dishes at Hawker Chan branches in both Singapore and abroad are inferior in flavor to what you get at the Chinatown hawker center food stall. I first tried Hawker Chan's most famous dish, soya sauce chicken rice at 95 baht. The chicken was moist and tender with a silky texture and glossy skin. Like Col. Saunders with his 11 secret herbs and spices for his Original Recipe KFC, chef Chan also has a secret recipe for the marinade in which the chicken is soaked overnight. It's known to contain Chinese angelica root, cloves, coriander seed, and star anise. I didn't notice much taste enhancement from the marinade except perhaps on the skin. The size of the chicken portion was sufficient but not large. Keep in mind the Chinese preference regarding chicken is skin on and bone in, then chopped with a cleaver into pieces convenient for eating with chopsticks. You're left with pieces of bone to spit out, which isn't appealing to some Western diners. A large portion of rice came with the chicken. It was topped with a soy mixture that tasted generic to me. At the counter, you can take small dishes of thick, sweet soy sauce, ordinary soy sauce and chili sauce, which was quite mild and a bit sweet. It went well with the salty chicken. The rice seemed a bit wet to me, as though it had been thoroughly boiled but then allowed to sit in the cooker or pot and the steam had condensed. This review is getting long so I'll divide it into two parts. Evil
  15. Under 300 Baht ... And Good!

    If you enjoy cheeseburgers, catch the GASCO special on Fridays. I really like that quote from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and while waiting for my burger, I amused myself by thinking up endings for, "On Pattaya Talk, there are two types of posters, my friend." However, I don't think at least one member (and the Mods) would appreciate it if I wrote them out, so I'll keep it as a private chuckle. The friendliness of the staff at GASCO deserves mention, since that's by no means a given these days in Pattaya. The manager gave me a warm welcome and the wait were also full of smiles. GASCO isn't exaclty serving medicine, but a spoonful of sweetness helps even good food go down. I also like the classic rock videos they play on the giant TV at a decent decibel level. NOT TOO LOUD! Just as I was finishing my meal, one of my all-time favorite songs came on, Centerfold by the J. Geils Band. I took that to be a very good omen for the evening to be. I wasn't wrong, but that's a story for another thread. [ I get a good feeling from GASCO and I sincerely hope it succeeds. It's a great addition to the Pattaya food scene. Evil
  16. Under 300 Baht ... And Good!

    I had one of the October specials at GASCO, the pizza steak hoagie. It was a sizeable sandwich, certainly enough for lunch or dinner. A generous amount of sliced steak had been fried with onions and sweet peppers, mixed with pizza sauce and topped with mozzarella and a bit of cheddar cheese. The hoagie roll was fresh and close in texture to the hoagie rolls from Amoroso's Baking Company in Philadelphia. The traditional hoagie roll is light and airy on the inside, but with a thin, firm crust. The bread soaks up the juices from the filling while the crust acts as a barrier against the juices leaking. With an abundance of mozzarella and sliced steak, I liked the pizza steak hoagie a lot. I just wish the cook had gone a bit heavier on the oregano so it had had more of a pizza flavor. Bottom line: I'll be back before the month is out to have another. I also want to try the tuna sub, but that's more of a takeaway sandwich. The Friday special, which had also been the August monthly special, is well worth trying. It was a barbecue bacon cheeseburger at 195 baht for the single burger or "go Texan" with the double at 345 baht. "O say can you see ..." And I was indeed looking at it in the twilight's last gleaming, although the well-lit interior of GASCO kind of negated that effect. I have to give the waitress credit for urging me to order the single and not the "go Texan" double. Apparently a lot of customers have trouble finishing the double because it is so filling. From what I have experienced at GASCO, the management has done its best to instill a spirit of customer service on the staff. It's service with a smile, but there's also real service behind the smile. The base of the special is a homemade six-ounce patty of 100% ground steak with no filler. The base rests on a bed of iceberg lettuce, tomato and onion and is topped with two slices of cheddar cheese, a generous strip of streaky bacon and a dollop of homemade spicy barbecue sauce. A fresh and lightly toasted sesame roll holds the whole thing together. I had a small portion of potato salad (45 baht) as my side dish. It all went together very well. In its price class, it's one of the better burgers I've had in Pattaya. The beef patty, the bacon strip and the other ingredients were quality stuff. That's what makes or breaks a burger. The sauce had a lot of flavor and was quite spicy. It was fine for me, but I wouldn't have wanted it any spicier. If you are sensitive to capsaicin heat, you might ask for the sauce to be served on the side so you can add as much or little as you choose. The potato salad was fresh; the potatoes weren't overly cooked and were lightly dressed, which is exactly how I like it. I don't like potato salad that is swimming in mayo. Evil
  17. Hawker Chan on Beach Road at Royal Garden Plaza

    All photos below are from the Internet. The man himself: Chan Hong Meng, aka Hawker Chan, is a 52-year-old chef, food-stall owner and partner in an international restaurant chain based on his Singapore Chinatown food stall. He began training as a chef at age 18 and has over 30 years experience in making his signature dish, Hong Kong soy sauce chicken and rice. He learned how to make it while training in Hong Kong during the 1980s. Over the years, he changed and perfected the original recipe. In 2009, he opened his own food stall and it quickly became popular. Long before he got the Michelin star. customers were queueing for his chicken and pork. Singapore has about 100 hawker centers (open-air food courts) and 6,000 food stalls, so that is quite an accomplishment in itself. It was a small operation, employing Chan and two assistants. It sold 150 chickens and 25 kilograms of pork a day six days a week. The stall's hours were 10.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m., but it often closed between 4.00 p.m. and 5.00 p.m. because it ran out of food to sell. Chan told the Singapore press he had wanted to open additional stalls or an enclosed restaurant to handle the excess demand, but couldn't find a partner. That changed overnight when he won the Michelin star. About 10 big companies approached him about a partnership. He chose Hersing Culinary, the food-and-beverage arm of Singapore's privately held Hersing investment group. Hersing had handled the expansion of other small Asian restaurants that won Michelin stars or otherwise became famous. It's believed that Chan sold his recipes to the company for at least two million Singapore dollars. Chan probably has only a small ownership stake in Hawker Chan but is likely to get a big salary as the chain's symbol and brand ambassador as well as advising on menu and food preparation matters. This is roughly what Harlan Sanders did when he sold Kentucky Fried Chicken because he felt overwhelmed by its rapid expansion. The main marketing point for Hawker Chan is the Michelin star. The restaurant chain not only calls itself "The world first hawker to be awarded one Michelin star," but also says it offers the world's cheapest Michelin-starred meal. That's a bit of smoke and mirrors as it's the Chinatown food stall, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soy Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, that got the Michelin star, not Hawker Chan. However, the first Hawker Chan branch to open in Singapore did get recognition in Michelin's 2017 Guide with a Bib Gourmand award as one of 38 local restaurants or food stalls offering "exceptionally good food at moderate prices." A plate of soy sauce chicken rice costs SGD2 (49 baht) at Liao Fan HKSSCRN and SGD3.80 (93 baht) at the Hawker Chan branch with the Bib Gourmand. That's close to the Pattaya price. No doubt that the Singapore Liao fan stall has the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world, but how much of that can be projected to Hawker Chan restaurants in other countries is very much a matter of discussion. There's also plenty of discussion on food sites and blogs about Michelin's generosity in awarding stars to establishments in Asia. Two lines of thought have emerged. One is that the Michelin Guides had previously favored French restaurants and formal dining. By awarding stars to food stalls and hole-in-the-wall places, Michelin has made its Guide more relevant to the local people by acknowledging diversity in food culture. A more cynical explanation would be that the Guide's purpose has always been since its inception in the early 1900's to help market Michelin tires. Michelin wants to expand its business in Asia and awarding stars to food stalls generates free publicity and brand recognition well beyond what any amount of paid advertising could achieve. Both are good answers and both are probably true to some degree. The Michelin company has a powerful asset in its guides and it's understandable its management would take full advantage of that asset. It's a fascinating story: a food-stall hawker who had worked 17-hour days is suddenly catapulted into the world of multi-million-dollar international franchising deals. Evil
  18. Hawker Chan on Beach Road at Royal Garden Plaza

    I went for the three-pork combination plate on my next visit. It cost 195 baht without rice, which was 20 baht extra and a can of Coke Zero 35 baht. As should be the case, the 7% VAT was baked into the menu price and no service charge was added. Like the chicken, the pork was succulent and tender. It was definitely Cantonese style. Forget Memphis or Texas. The spare ribs had been chopped into small pieces and were dry with little meat. The char siew had a sweet and salty taste from the marinade and glaze. The roast pork, my favorite among the three, had crispy fat, but not too much of it. If you're thinking of BBQ pork and spare ribs in terms of Middle America, you should go to Smokin' Joe's on Soi Lengkee. At Hawker Chan's, it's Middle Kingdom all the way. Sunday night I had the wonton soup and the soy sauce chicken with noodles. The wonton soup was good but unremarkable. It tasted the same as many bowls of wonton I've had in Chinese restaurants that don't ever dream about a star from their local newspaper, much less the Michelin Guide. At 130 baht, I thought it was overpriced for a bowl of generic broth, five filled wontons and a few greens. I then had the soy sauce chicken with noodles at 110 baht. The pieces of chicken seemed to have more white meat and fewer bones than last time round. No complaints there. The noodles, however, were dry and hard on top, as though they had not only been pre-cooked but pre-plated and left to stand under a heating lamp. The noodles were also stuck together, another sign they'd been standing under heat. This is hardly the type of dish that is likely to get a Michelin star. It tasted OK once I moistened the noodles with the sauce. I did have some hor fun later that night, but on Walking Street, not Beach Road. Hawker Chan is open from 11.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m., with last call at 10.30 p.m. On the first two occasions, I was there late, around 10 p.m., and I was the only customer. Sunday night I went at 7.30 p.m. and there were 10 other customers. Everywhere else where Hawker Chan has opened, there has been a big rush of customers. Not in Pattaya. The staff is friendly and polite, although there isn't much service involved. Everyone from the cleaning lady to the manager greeted and wai'ed me when I entered the restaurant and again when I left. Bottom line. The food at Hawker Chan is OK but nothing spectacular. I'll be back because it is a convenient location for me. I won't be expecting anything outstanding just because the food stall in Singapore won a Michelin star. Evil The background info on Hawker Chan will come in yet another post.