Gianni’s Ristorante Bangkok

Nowadays, good authentic cuisines are becoming increasingly accessible in countries other than its country of origin. While you’re obviously able to find great Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong and China, you can also find great Cantonese restaurants in Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York amongst many, many other cities. One of my most memorable Japanese dining experience (other than in Tsukiji 築地) was in Toronto – believe it or not – at Hiro Sushi on King’s Street, of all places. (I wonder if its still around. Speaking of Tdot, is Susur Lee still around too? Ahh, the reversed menu!).

Anyway, in Thailand, there are a lot of good Italian restaurants and a handful of great ones. We asked a local (Thanks Duang!) and the top 2 picks were: Gianni’s Ristorante and Il Ristorante Zanotti.

We were going to visit Zanotti but couldn’t get a table until 9:30PM, so we opted for Gianni’s instead. As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise because our local friend told us (I’m throwing all these “local” bombs around … because they are the voice of authority and I shall not be questioned :D) that Zanotti varies in consistency, while Gianni is the more consistent of the 2.

Bread Basket from Gianni's

Bread Basket from Gianni's

The bread basket was not bad, but would’ve been better if it was hotter. It was only mildly warm, but good selection nonetheless.

Complimentary Pate on Toasted Thin Bread

Complimentary Pate on Toasted Thin Bread

This was a complimentary foie gras pâté starter. Again, the toasted bread would’ve been better if it was a little more crunchy; a sign that it was probably sitting outside a little longer than it should’ve (or it was prepared too early in advance). But the pâté was very flavourful, perhaps a little saltier than I expected.

The seafood mains ... reasonable, no?

The seafood mains ... reasonable, no?

Genuine Parma Ham Sliced on Honey-Dew Melon

Genuine Parma Ham Sliced on Cantaloupe

This dish is generally pretty good in about 80% of the Italian restaurants I go to, because it really doesn’t require much. What it boils down to is whether the parma ham and cantaloupe is fresh or not, and how thinly shaved the ham is so you can wrap it around the melon before you cut it into pieces. This is definitely a pass.

Hokkaido Scallops Served 3 Different Ways

Hokkaido Scallops Served 3 Different Ways

From left to right:

1. Hokkaido Scallop with Avocado Puree: Rather than using butter, which generally goes extremely well with scallops (think teppanyaki), avocado was used to mimick that same texture and “body” (a bit of wine speak here). Unfortunately though, it doesn’t quite have that same “butteriness” to it than if butter was really used. As clichéd as it may sound: butter really has no substitute.

2. Hokkaido Scallop wrapped in Fried Squid Ink: This was a little teaser to what I was going to have as my main (see below). The fried squid ink was a little crunchy and has a strong calamari flavour to it, but it doesn’t fuse with the scallop as well as the other 2 did. I think that might’ve been because

3. Hokkaido Scallop with Truffle Sauce: This one I thought was the highlight of the dish. The generous amount of thick black truffle sauce was more than enough even when I selfishly took a spoonful of that and smeared it onto my half-scallop. There was still quite a bit left after this scallop was gone so I used the remaining of that sauce for the avocado scallop.

Overall, this was a symphony of flavours, which is a great start to the meal. It can also be quite filling too (those Hokkaido scallops are massive!) so I highly recommend sharing this appetizer with someone.

Lobster Bisque with a Dash of Coriander

Lobster Bisque with a Dash of Coriander

This was alright. I’ve had better lobster bisque and I think mainly because it was way too creamy and not enough lobster flavour to it, not to mention I like soup piping hot and this was only mildly warm. I feel like for lobster bisques, if its not “balanced” then it would be safer if it was leaning a little towards more lobster flavour than cream.

Some One-eyed Fish ... I forgot the name!

Some One-eyed Fish ... I forgot the name!

“A” for presentation. A “B+” for taste, although I didn’t order this but I did try a bit. The one-eye fish (apparently a delicacy in Thailand … can anyone verify?) was cooked until the fillet was golden brown on the outside and cooked just enough on the inside. It was very fresh, but I didn’t get much of the sauce so I can’t tell you what it was like together. Maybe YOU can tell me after you’ve visited.

Not-your-usual Spaghetti Bolognese

Not-your-usual Spaghetti Bolognese

The friend who order this had requested an extra big portion of the spaghetti bolognese and it was pretty darn big, although it doesn’t quite look that way in the photo. I tried to ask him to put his hand there as comparison … let’s just say he has pretty big hands.

I didn’t try it, so I can’t really comment on it, but from what I hear … its was pretty solid.

Squid Ink Linguine at Gianni's in BKK

Squid Ink Linguine at Gianni's in BKK

The best damn squid ink linguine I’ve ever had (I’ve only had it on one other occasion). Al dente was a given, nor would I expect anything less. It wasn’t dry like the last time I had it at I-don’t-remember-where. Is it creamy? Yes and no, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they used a bit of cream here, but anything thrown into this dish automatically gets diluted a little (i.e. less creamy) and gets dyed black. Its got very heavy seafood and calamari flavours and was actually a little spicy as well, although I can’t quite tell where the peppers were. I really couldn’t tell what’s what until I put the stuff in my mouth and work out what the texture was. I found about 6-7 pieces of calarmari, which I thought was neither little or generous. Overall, this was a great exotic dish and it really tasted a bit like ink (for those of your going “Oh right, like you’ve tasted ink before …”, I really have, although not intentionally. If you want to know, its Parker brand. Black.) … but in a good way.

Warning: After eating this dish, your tongue, gum and lips will turn completely black so this is definitely not the dish you want to get if you’re on a first date 🙂 And that’s not all that turns black. Think ahead.

Is it worth recommending to people? With a full-house (about 50-60 covers?) and good mix of Thai, foreign and 3+ tables of Honkie patrons (I’d like to think that a presence of Honkers is usually a sign of a good find) dining there , I believe the answer is a definite yes.

Bill for 7.5 people (the 0.5 was a spaghetti bolognese to-go for a friend travelling from Pattaya who missed the dinner) was 9,300 Baht. About US$ 37 per head? Definitely not bad at all … but we didn’t have wine.

Siu Yeh Rating: 8.5/10

Gianni Ristorante
34/1 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road
Bangkok 10330
Tel: 0 2252 1619, 0 2652 2922
Fax: 0 2652 2584
Email: gianni@loxinfo.coth
Website: www dot giannibkk dot com

Thai Massage in Bangkok (or Pattaya)

So if you’re thinking of getting a Thai massage in Bangkok or Pattaya, look no further than Health Land Spa & Massage. I used to think that because a lot of Chinese tour goes there, that it must be a rip off for tourists and that there must be better ones out there … but as far as Traditional Thai Massage (only) is concerned, even locals, and I’ve consulted more than a couple, go there as well. 450 Baht for 2 hours (but your masseuse would expect about a 100 Baht as tips) is a pretty good deal.

While we were there, we stayed at the Conrad and there’s this massage place that was within walking distance (about 2-3 mins by foot) called Ruam Rudee Health Massage that’s also worth a visit. 350 Baht for 1 hours, 500 Baht for 2. I would tip the masseuse, but on both occasions, they just disappeared … ? At Health Land, they pretty much just stand in your way for a tip.

Anyway, I hear in Pattaya, there are some Traditional Thai Massage that is as cheap as a couple dollars (USD) per hour. Vince, care to shed some light?

Health Land Sathorn
120 North Sathorn Road
Silom, Bangrak
Bangkok 10500
Tel: (662) 637 8883
Fax: (662) 634 5353
Website: www dot healthlandspa dot com
(There are a total of 5 locations at the time of this entry)

Ruam Rudee Health Massage
20/17-19 Soi RuamRudee Sukhumvit Road
Lumphini Pratumwa, Bangkok 10330
Tel: 02 252 9651
Fax: 0-2202-3171
Website: www dot ruamrudeehealthmassage dot com

Erawan Tea Room

You know how there’s always a restaurant that you have to go everytime you revisit the same cities? Its different for everyone. For me in Shanghai, it’d be Jia Jia Tang Bao and / or Xiao Yang Sheng Jian. In LA, it’s In-N-Out Burger or Pink’s Hotdogs. In Bangkok, it’s definitely Erawan Tea Room.

Why? Because they serve hotel-quality Thai food, in a hotel-quality environment, with hotel-quality service, but at Tsui Wah prices (per dish). Oh, all those mentions of “hotel” – that’s because the restaurant is managed by Erawan Grand Hyatt.

Erawan Tea Room by Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

Erawan Tea Room by Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

The bill for 4 grown men, ~10 dish plus drinks came out to be about 3,300 Bhat (or US$25 per head) and we were stuffed. Sure, you can find decent Thai food for cheaper prices and 800 Baht per head isn’t exactly cheap in Bee Kay Kay, but everything is relative and let’s put it into perspective – sometimes you just want a nice, quiet and easy meal away from the Bangkok heat and pollution, but you don’t want to get shafted by going to restaurants like Blue Elephant.

(By the way, if you really want upscale Thai cuisine in Bangkok, go to Naj. Prices are a little cheaper than Blue Elephant, but at least locals go there, and that alone speaks volume. Blue Elephant’s for clueless tourists too lazy to do a bit of research and too stuck-up to interrogate their hotel concierge. Sorry!)

Back to Erawan Tea Room.

The setting is like a nice cozy living room with comfortable (large) chairs and sofa, dimmed but not dim lightings, wooden blinds … the ambiance is just really .chill. (for a lack of a better description). There’s a touch of homeliness to the restaurant as well, as they have giant shelves surrounding the entrance where you can purchase fresh cakes, biscuits, scones, jam, tea, Thai snacks and treats made by the restaurant and even Erawan Tea Room tableware (i.e. plates, bowls and utensils). While I don’t know anyone’s who’s bought any tableware from them, I just like the idea that you can take a piece of the restaurant with you back home – perhaps, an explanation of why I like going back so much; its just like home!

Erawan Tea Room Interior 1

Erawan Tea Room Interior 1

Erawan Tea Room Interior 2

Erawan Tea Room Interior 2

Erawan Tea Room Interior 3

Erawan Tea Room Interior 3

That same balance you find in its decor and ambiance transcends, quite easily it feels, to its extensive menu and dishes. I should probably also add that for most dishes on the menu, you can either choose “S” for small portions or “L” for large portion and the prices are neatly laid out. (Yeeees yes, its not rocket science to offer 2 portions, but most restaurants don’t lay the information out quite so clearly and when you have to ask about it, and inevitably when you have to ask about the prices, its becomes that much more tedious … and not cool).

The dishes here are terrific. While I can’t quite say it was the best I’ve ever had, its definitely up there in to top 5. (I think I’ve had some pretty decent Thai food in Shanghai. Lan Na Thai, Coconut Paradise, Simply Thai and Thai Gallery were all pretty good. OMG, Banana Leaf (Hong Kong Plaza) is really really bad, don’t go!)

Phuket Promotion at Erawan Tea Room

Phuket Promotion at Erawan Tea Room

Lime Soda - My Favorite Drink

Lime Soda - My Favorite Drink

A real properly-made lime soda makes my day.

"Spicy & Sour Prawn Soup with Lemongrass"

"Spicy & Sour Prawn Soup with Lemongrass"

Tom Yum Kung – definitely one of my favorite soup other than lobster bisque. This one’s got a good balance between hot and sour (actually I didn’t find it spicy at all, my a friend of mine couldn’t handle it so I had his as well) and was quite garlicky and lemongrassy. As an added bonus, there was a generous portion of fresh river shrimp (I counted 8). In most other places, they’ll give you about 4?

Fish Cake & Green Mango Salad

Fish Cake & Green Mango Salad

The green mango salad was pretty spicy, but the sourness to the dish is definitely an appetizer in the full sense of the word. The fish cake is … well, its a fish cake. I don’t think they vary that much between restaurants … I’ve never had extremely good or bad fish cakes before. (Prawn / shrimps cakes different).

My Favorite Phad Thai Anywhereeee

My Favorite Phad Thai Anywhereeee

The Phad Thai at Erawan Tea Room is probably one of my favorite. Its leaning a little towards the sweeter side,but the mix of a whole lot of other flavours help counter that sweetness quite effectively. Its got a bit of fresh bean sprouts, dried shrimps, leeks, egg, onions, garlic, peanut all mixed with the noodle, which was so fresh it was chewy (but not the rubbery kind of chewy). The thin layer of egg wrap helps contain the heat and as you break it open, all the said flavours oozes out … then everybody fights their way to get first dibs.

Chicken in Green Curry at Erawan Tea Room

Chicken in Green Curry at Erawan Tea Room

(See red curry below)

Stir-fried Kailan with Crispy Pork

Stir-fried Kailan with Crispy Pork

I remember this Kailan dish to be slightly better last time I visited the restaurant. It wasn’t bad, but I guess the veggies getting a little “old” and so it wasn’t as fresh as I remembered. Nonetheless, a good dish.

Roasted Duck in Red Curry

Roasted Duck in Red Curry

We asked for mild for both the green and red curry so neither of the curries were that spicy. Regardless, they just go so well with Thai rice. Both the chicken and the duck was cooked well enough so that it wasn’t dry at all.

Steamed Whole Sea Bass with Chili and Lime Sauce

Steamed Whole Sea Bass with Chili and Lime Sauce

The cook deboned the fish so all that was left was fresh sea bass that we can scope with our spoon and get a bit of the chili and lime sauce. Great dish for lazy people like me. The fish was pretty fresh too and my friend who doesn’t normally eat fish (the same dude who gave me his Tom Yum Kung) liked it alot. And for 360 Baht, this fish was a pretty good deal.

3300 Bhaaaaaat! ขอบคุณ

3300 Bhaaaaaat! ขอบคุณ

I love this place. Need I say more?

(SEVEN) – inside joke.

Siu Yeh Rating: 9.5/10

Note: Photos taken with BlackBerry Curve 8900

Erawan Tea Room
Erawan Bangkok
494 Ploenchit Road
Bangkok 10330
Tel: +662 250 7777
Website: www dot erawanbangkok dot com/tearoom.php