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Posts from the ‘Bangkok’ Category

Un-American Activities: Sizzler Bangkok

I had recently been thinking how I never ever think about Sizzler. It's a non-entity in the casual dining universe of New York City suburbs. The chain's prominence in Thailand really threw me for a loop. At prime dinner times, groups were actually crowded around the entrances waiting for seats. Maybe this merited a visit?

Bangkok sizzler facade

Of course it did. We hit the end of a lunch rush, lots of office groups and predominantly Thai, if you must know. No Malibu Chicken, the caloric charmer of my youth. The lure appeared to be the salad bar (which I didn't realize until later was all-you-could-eat). Iced tea so sweet it makes its southern relative taste like a health tonic, was also unlimited.

Bangkok sizzler salad bar

The salad bar wasn’t wildly different than an American one, but there were certainly differences like the pumpkin cashew salad and spicy pork. I don’t imagine we have tom yum soup in our buffets either.

Bangkok sizzler salad

The blue cheese, however, was nearly thick and unspreadable as refrigerated peanut butter.

Bangkok sizzler toast

Portions were very un-American, completely reasonable yet petite. The Texas toast cut into halves was meant for two.

Bangkok sizzler steak

I was certain they'd bungle my medium-rare request, and the steak, which I only ordered out of duty wasn't bad. I was expecting the dull, blandness that you get from places like Outback Steakhouse. This little filet actually had flavor and a pleasant texture. I have no idea where the meat comes from. Obviously not Australia since imported beef from down under is a special weekend promotion. Bangkok, only, though.

Bangkok sizzler dessert

I was owed a dessert so I picked up the mauve fluff instead of the brown fluff. It just tasted like artificial raspberry-flavored (oops, it’s supposed to blueberry—see? It’s impossible to tell) whipped cream.

Sizzler * CP Tower, 313 Silom Rd., 2nd Fl., Bangkok, Thailand

Suan Lum Night Bazaar

When I was planning my original not-to-be trip to Thailand for November 2008, I kept reading how the Suan Lum night bazaar was on the verge of closing and it could happen at any moment.  The sprawling, less dense and slightly less skin scalding (though no less humid) than Chatuchak night market in the center of Bangkok, lost its lease in 2007. Yet it was still there in 2008 even though I couldn’t get into Suvarnabhumi, and it was still there in March 2010 when I finally did make it to Bangkok.

Suan lum night bazaar food court

I wasn’t there to bargain or shop (James bought a “Prada” wallet) though I did spy some very cool shoes. I really liked those colorful oxford flats. However, I gave up on trying to buy clothing and shoes in SE Asia long ago (I had my eye out for Fat Story, supposedly at Suan Lum, at the very least for a photo op). It’s not worth the humiliation—if you’re larger than an American size 8 in either shoe or dress I suggest you find other pursuits in Thailand.

Suan lum night bazaar stage

Like eating. Suan Lum has a food court/beer garden with an enormous amount of seating and a large stage with a video monitor to showcase the er, entertainment. James said it all, “I’ve never heard so much bad singing in public.” True, no shame from Filipino cover bands at hotel lounges, the blind with microphones shuffling through tourist markets or the highly choreographed, costumed dance routines of the bands performing tone deaf Thai pop at Suan Lum. It hurts less when you can’t understand the words.

Suan lum som tam stall

But it’s all good fun. The food, I suspect is pricier than what you could get off the street and toned down a notch for foreigners, but is still quite tasty and hardly a rip off. Plus, there’s lots of beer and those outdoor misters you encounter all over Thailand and Malaysia that don’t even come close to approximating air conditioning but you’re thankful for anyway. You will never be able to stop sweating completely, maybe even if you lived there for a decade. I don’t think we spent more than $10 in newsprint stapled together tickets, which you buy from one booth and get your remainder refunded at another window upon leaving.

Suan lum seafood som tam

I really took a shining to som tam this vacation. I don’t think I’ve eat so much papaya salad in a two-week period. This seafood-laded version could’ve been spicer, though I might not have realized how demure it was if we hadn’t just been pummeled by what I’d expected to be a run-of-the-mill street version in a go-go bar corner of Hua Hin.

Suan lum grilled pork

The same stand also had fried pork neck with a chile dipping sauce. So simple and fatty, perfect drinking food.

Suan lum pad thai

I didn’t eat any pad thai in Thailand. It was probably good. I was just shying away from the obvious American choice. I do wonder if that’s an American thing or a if pad thai is the most popular dish everywhere outside Thailand.

Suan lum oyster omelet

Oyster omelet was a random choice. It’s not my favorite dish; even good versions are kind of greasy, filling and starchy. I bought a bottle of Heinz chili sauce, also called sriracha but slightly sweeter and more orange than the popular Huy Fong brand (yes, Vietnamese-American) condiment in the states.  Maybe I’ll attempt this eggy dish at home.

Suan lum staek house

I’m not even sure what they were selling at Staek House.

Suan lum french fries

There was no question what they were slinging at French Fries.

Suan Lum Night Bazaar * Corner of Wireless and Rama IV Rds., * Bangkok, Thailand

Gai Yang Boran

Dismayed by the no-explanation gate down at Chote Chitr, Bangkok’s most un-secret hole-in-the-wall (apparently, they do not open until 6pm despite dinner and lunch being touted in most reference sources) and first-day-in-the-tropics heat-shocked, plan B lunch became Gai Yang Boran, a rare air conditioned restaurant in the Saochingcha district. Import Foods’ handy map and guide proved very useful (as did James’ Blackberry—traveling is so different with online maps and GPS. My smartphone did not work internationally and I shouldn’t have even bothered bringing it as it got stolen out of my luggage. Three phoneless weeks later and I’m still quite angry about this and too frugal to buy a replacement).

I didn’t realize gai yang and som tum were so popular in Bangkok. The common Northeastern twosome (sticky rice rounding out a perfect trinity) were everywhere on the street, food courts and non-touristy yet comfortable bilingual menu restaurants like this place.

Gai yang boran chicken

Of course we ordered the grilled chicken. Supposedly, the chickens are farm-raised and the sweet chile sauce is made in-house. Thai chickens are scrawnier and more flavorful than our typical grocery store birds. Notice the plain rice in the background—I didn’t think to specify sticky rice when ordering.
Gai yang boran catfish

A salty, hot, catfish salad with lots of roasted rice powder. I was imagining that fluffy fried style but this was more pulverized.

Gai yang boran larb

Pork larb was springy, wonderful and punishing.

This was where we were introduced to the concept of “Can you eat spicy food?” This is typically what you’ll be asked if the staff speaks a little English  (when they didn’t, they often held up a chile pepper instead to see if you shake your head yes or no). Not do like it but can you physically handle it as if the ability to eat hot food were an inborn trait. I’m sure there are more sophisticated full sentence ways to explain yes, I can eat it, but I stuck with “chawp pet,” which roughly translates to I like spicy. It seemed to work even if I felt like I was using caveman speak.

Gai Yang Boran * 474-476 Thanon Tanao, Bangkok, Thailand



I think we overdid it on the upscale restaurants in Bangkok. I got sucked in
because I'm so poor in NYC that the prospect of being able to eat at lots of
expensive places got me excited. Celadon and Blue Elephant were the two I
seemed to hear the most about, so we went for it.

The setting was very pretty. Salas, as they call them, above lotus
ponds. Of course we went for the air conditioning, but as it was the coolest
night in S.E. Asia (though still in the 80s) and the air conditioning was
actually freezing (I never though I'd hear myself say that about Bangkok) we
could've done the open-air seating. But we were hate-the-heat-and-humidity
tourists like everyone else in the room. What separated us from the rest of
the room, however, was our desire for authentic and hot, hot food.

And I'm afraid that's also what created the most amusement during our
meal. An older gentleman at a table of bossy Middle Eastern gentlemen in the
back of the room, started wheezing and choking and making a huge scene. A
younger man started yelling for water. The older guy had tears running down
his face. I was like is he having a seizure or something? As it turned out
the food was just too spicy. This was completely baffling, and only made me
wonder what he must have ordered. Even more so, when we asked the waitress
about the guy and the food, us commenting that it wasn't really very hot.
She agreed, saying "it's not really Thai food, it's for tourists."

We tried a tasting menu that I think was seven courses, though I can
only seem to recall six, and even those are hazy. We started with pie tee
cups filled with something I can't even remember, followed by a large,
filling serving of tom gai ka. The mains came together: greens with
scallops, penang pork curry, and steamed prawns with herbs. The meal was
finished with one of those icy, black rice, jelly and coconut milk desserts.
We specifically wanted to try the penang curry because we'd made the exact
same dish earlier in the day during our cooking class. There's was certainly
more refined, though I don't think ours was any less tasty.

I enjoyed the experience (I also like in S.E. Asia how there's no
emphasis on wine whatsoever. They don't even ask if you want a drink. I
mean, I like wine, but I always feel pressured when dining in higher price
range restaurants) but I wasn't bowled over. Later, I thought we might've
been better off ordering from the menu because I've heard good things about
particular dishes. But now I know about hotel restaurants and will be able
to resist their appeal the next time I'm in Bangkok, whenever that may be.

Celadon * 13/3
South Sathorn Rd., Bangkok, Thailand

Hua Lamphong Food Station


It was this dining experience that made it abundantly clear that despite
what people will tell you, language barriers can be a major stumbling block
in Bangkok. Or maybe it was cultural differences, I'm not sure. Despite
raves about this place, the experience was intimidating and mildly
exasperating. Thailand was tough because I think we overdid it on high end
cuisine geared towards foreigners and I hate to be that kind of tourist, but
being on our own with little guidance and command of the language, pointing
and smiling only gets you so far. We did street food, but the typical
makeshift street side dining was sort of out of bounds. Not that Hua
Lamphong was that sort of restaurant.

I knew getting there would be a little tricky, I didn't even bother
trying with taxis, already having experienced garbled, getting lost traumas.
With a restaurant sharing the same name as the train station, nowhere
nearby, it would just be asking for trouble. Instead we skytrained it,
knowing full well, it would be a meandering trek to the restaurant. How
winding and confusing in the pitch black, we didn't know. There weren't any
streetlights, or sidewalks (duh, that should've been a given by this point
in the trip) and lots of blind corners. I was scared to death we were going
to get run over head-on by either barreling car or motorbike. I was a little
alarmed when we finally found the place (no thanks to directions or maps I'd
read, it was totally on raw instinct) and discovered it was an open-air,
non-air conditioned affair. Our little journey had me dripping buckets. To
their credit, the fans did make it adequately breezy.

The concept of letting someone leisurely peruse a menu or having a
little breathing room while filling out the credit card slip have yet to be
adopted in Thailand. I think they are trying to provide good service, but
it's almost overboard service. I don't know if it was because we were there
in off season, but often we were one of the only customers and the waitstaff
to patron ratio is like eight to one. The menu Hua Lamphong Food Station is
quite large, and I couldn't even tell you about 1/10 of it because we
weren't allowed to glance at it for more than about 60 seconds. Perhaps the
idea is that they suggest items for you, but I like doing things on my own.
We rapidly picked out som tam, gai yang, a frog dish and something else that
I can't recall. We did not get the frog dish, but received a mixed mushroom
entre instead (it was surprisingly tasty for how simple it looked).
Everything we asked for was met with a blank faced stare. All the dishes
we'd mention seemed to be ignored, instead other items were called out to
us. I'm not sure if the waiter didn't like our choices or didn't understand
our mangled Thai. The biggest mistake James made was pointing at his watch
and trying to indicate that we needed more time. To me, watch-pointing would
seem universally to indicate hurry.

I had wanted to try Northern style Thai cooking so I was excited, but
the food almost started seemed inconsequential after the stressful ordering
and dining experience (there's always staff standing behind or next to you
watching all your moves). I will say the som tam (which was the Thai style,
not the Laotian rendition, which uses fermented fish sauce nam pla raa and
field crabs, which I only know from researching ahead of time–I didn't get
a chance to find it on the menu) was the spiciest, and quite possibly the
best I've ever had. I was mildly confused about how to eat the overflowing
plate of herbs that comes with assorted nam prik. Do you dip them and eat
them like crudites or mix them with the meal? I felt like a loser for
leaving so much herb behind. I also felt like a loser for being so lost,
like I was missing out on some ordering secret. It was a total white person
clientele and no one else seemed to be having problems, though from
eavesdropping I was able to deduce that each table appeared to have a
requisite Thai-speaking orderer that seemed to enjoy showing off to family
and friends. I'm not a fan of show boaters, but in this case a show off
companion might've been useful.

Hua Lamphong Food Station * 92/1 Sukhumvit 34,Bangkok,

Eat Me

MBK Center

Say what you will about the malling of America. But as a rule, foreign food
courts…well, rule. We totally got hooked on the sixth floor food court at
MBK, which seemed like the lowbrow mall in town. At least not as fancy as
the nearby Siam Center or Gaysorn Plaza. It's like a multi-storied, and most
importantly air-conditioned Chatuchak. The fun of the food court is that you
don't use cash (I'm not quite sure what the logic is, maybe something to do
with scamming money), you buy coupons at a little window, which can be
refunded if not used that day. And you really get a bang for your baht. We
bought 400 baht's worth (about $10) and couldn't even spend it all. Some
stalls use English, others don't, but you can get the gist from pictures and
from simple observation. James seemed hooked on ordering duck noodle soups
everywhere we went. I opted for red curry and Vietnamese spring rolls. I
could've eaten more, but the main floor of MBK has a section with tables of
homemade food for sale. It's crowded and nothing is in English, but you can
figure out about 75% of it. I was enamored by the crispy fried pork by the
pound (or would that be kilo?), served in plastic bags (they have a real
penchant for plastic bags–serving soda in baggies is bizarre) with
toothpicks, and vegetable dumplings in vivid purples and greens (beets and
scallion, I discovered). The demented Santa's Hamburgers chain is also
positioned nearby, but I never dared try the food.

MBK Center Food Court *
444 Phayathai Rd., Bangkok,Thailand

Blue Elephant

This was the best of the upscale Thai we tried. I've since decided we
should've eaten more "regular" food, but was enticed by the favorable
exchange rate (it's not every day that a poor New Yorker like me can afford
high end restaurants). It also seemed sort of odd to eat at a worldwide Thai
chain restaurant while actually in Thailand. But I was curious.

The dcor wasn't minimalist chic, but rather made use of lots of bamboo
and accoutrements, in a royal Thai vein. The menu wasn't completely
traditional, however. There's were a few fusion flairs scattered throughout.
We way over-ordered, which made me feel guilty to leave so much behind (I'm
usually the queen of doggie bags). We had mixed satays: chicken, pork, and
buffalo, for a starter. Then a side of pad Thai (the only time in Thailand I
ordered the ubiquitous dish) which barely got touched. I ordered a green
curry with black chicken that came with mini rotis. It was really very good,
perfectly spicy and filled with those tiny pea eggplants you can never find
in NYC. Being addicted to gai pad grapow (which he's dubbed E3 after its
listing at the Thai restaurant near his office), James had to try the lamb
chop kapraow with wild rice and fried basil, which looked pretty impressive
(I love those fried herbs). Grapow? Kapraow? I know, there's not
consistency, I'm just going with the individual restaurants' spellings.

We were seriously walking distance from our hotel, but being Bankok in
the midst of a furious downpour, we opted for a cab. Also being Bangkok this
was a trauma because we were on the wrong side of the street and going right
(where our hotel was) would take going left for like a mile or so then
looping back. I felt like such the dirty American, as the maitre d' made one
of the staff go out in the rain and hail us a cab. We were given enormous
umbrellas to keep dry while the French, slightly sleazy (I didn't really
think he was sleazy, but he made some comment about how in Bangkok "you can
have anything" and James took that to mean sexual favors) maitre d' made
small talk with us, commenting on how he and James were dressed the same
(wearing a suit-kind of weird in Bangkok) and sort of tried bonding with us,
like one rich Westerner to another. I'm probably reading way more into the
little exchange we had, but I felt sort of spoiled with all the service and
attention we received in Thailand (it's supposed to be the land of smiles,

Blue Elephant * 233 South
Sathorn Rd., Bangkok,Thailand

Toh Plue

I know that a crispy catfish and mango salad was ordered and eaten, but the
rest of the meal is a bit vague because I started to feel faint after
sitting down. (It's like that urban myth where if a subway crushes you,
you'll stay alive until the car is moved off your body. As long as I was
boiling hot I was fine, but as soon as the air-conditioning hit me I started
wilting.) Chatuchak can really take a lot out of you. After a few solid
hours of crowds, bargaining and oppressive heat, you just need to sit down.
I wish I were better acclimated because I'm sure I missed out not trying any
of the non-English outdoor food stands. But I had to swallow my pride and go
into full tourist mode, eating at the indoor, air-conditioned restaurant in
the market where all the other white people had congregated, Nancy Chandler
maps in tow (I'd actually bought and brought one with me to Thailand, but
forgot to bring it along on this excursion).

Toh Plue * Chatuchak Market, Bangkok, Thailand

Prik Kee Noo

I really had no idea what to expect of Bangkok. I figured it would be hot,
dirty, crowded and trafficky since that's what everyone says. I'm a New
Yorker, I can deal with huddled masses, right? Well, no. The heat was beyond
oppressive, and it wasn't crowds so much as impossibly crowded sidewalks,
the night markets made it difficult to walk at a typical New York clip. Half
the time there weren't sidewalks or street lights and giant cracks and
puddles with frogs in them. You really had to be careful where you stepped
(how people wear heels is beyond me). I'm not used to leisurely paces. But
the biggest shocker, what I hadn't anticipated, was that the concept of
crosswalks and signals wouldn't exist in Bangkok. On top of being
hyper-vigilant as to not being run over by motorbikes and cars, you also
have to look opposite directions than accustomed to since they are left-side
drivers. Being a pedestrian is totally exhausting in Bangkok.

According to my Time Out guidebook there was a restaurant, Kao Gub
Kaeng, that stayed open late, and that seemed walking distance from the
hotel. This was going to be my dinner plan. Making it to Soi Convent was a
total trek despite being maybe ten blocks away. And once there, we
absolutely couldn't find the restaurant. The side streets were all dark and
leafy and we started fretting that maybe we'd get accosted or something. It
was totally desolate compared to Silom. Plus, I was starving. We threw in
the towel and ended up at a the lesser of nearby evils, Prik Kee Noo (I
wasn't ready to eat alfresco sans English menus, but McDonald's and the
Irish pubs dotting the area seemed so wrong).

The food was actually pretty good, though not markedly different from
what I'd expected (granted, my perceptions might be skewed since Sripraphai
in NYC is a pretty dead on quality Thai restaurant). I mean, this was my
first Thai meal in Thailand and I was ready for the real deal, none of this
half-assed American crap. We tried the popiah, a seafood salad, and basil
chicken, a.k.a. E3. Still, not acclimated to the tropics, I had a total
spazz out when I saw a lizard on the wall next to us. Lizards would continue
to haunt us during our stay in Thailand. On the way back to the hotel we
completely accidentally ended up on Patpong, which was an unplanned
unsettling adventure of its own.

Prik Kee Noo * 1/2 Sivadon Bldg., Convent Rd.,