bo.lan (an amnesty photopost)

This post has been sitting in my drafts pile since April. So I’m giving up and just providing photos, because it’s too hard to recall it all.

Bo.lan is a Thai restaurant in Bangkok run by two chefs who used to work at Nahm under David Thompson in London. More details on their website. When I visited in late March, Mr N and I had the Bo.lan Balance menu, which was six (I think?) courses of amazing contemporary Thai food.

Sip in the city

A rather innocuous looking cafe/restaurant at the top (seedy) end of Thanon Suriyawong, opposite the alleyway where the ‘boy shows’ take place. The menu offers both Thai and Western dishes, like a fettucini carbonara.

Not the sort of place you’d expect to find Pad Thai greatness, but let me just repeat what it said in the menu: Pad Thai with soft-shell crab, wrapped in Thai omelette. For the record: win, win, WIN.

Zen Japanese Restaurant

Siam Discovery Centre, Bangkok

On our last day in Bangkok, we just had enough time to hit the Siam malls. A big night out the night before meant we were both a little seedy, and as a result, the idea of shopping-centre chain restuarants was rather palatable. I’m being a little unfair here, because a) restaurants in shopping centres in Bangkok are generally not bad, and b) Japanese chain restaurants in Bangkok are also generally not bad. So anyway, we stopped in at Zen (because I couldn’t locate the Fuji chain restaurant in the chopping centre).

The funny thing about Zen was the staffing. There seemed to be a strange hierarchy of waitresses – the more senior waitresses dressed in kimonos ordering about the junior waitresses/bus girls who wore Zen polos and skirts. They all had a rather bored air of indifference, which was a tad annoying, but not too unexpected really, for teenage/college-aged girls to be working on a Sunday afternoon; there were no male waitstaff at all, funnily.

Anyway, we ordered the gyoza which were quite good, though the filling was a little bland. They also seemed to have been deep-fried, which was a good thing in this instance (fulfilling the requisite hang-over fried food quotient), but generally gyoza are better when they have been pan-fried.

I also ordered the sushi moriawase set, which seemed exceedingly fresh, and I had trouble finishing. It also came with some kim chi, a strange slaw, and miso. The miso was the best of the accompaniments. Oh, and the wasabi was fresh. Love fresh wasabi!

Mr N had some sort of donburi (pork with double-carb surprise of both noodle and rice!) that similarly came with the funny slaw. It wasn’t amazing, but it was passable for a seedy Sunday afternoon.

Banana Leaf

Basement level, Silom Complex, Silom Rd, Bangkok

One of the things about Bangkok that is a little hard to believe if you haven’t been there before is that there is good food to be found in shopping centres. I guess it’s that way in a lot of Asian metropolises, really. My friends took me to this place when we met up in Bangkok.

We had a few dishes to share, starting off with an oyster omelette and some stir-fried vegies. The omelette was alright, but really did need that sweet sauce which accompanied it. There seemed to be some concoction of cornflour mixed through the egg too, which left it teeling a little gluey. The actual oysters were good, though. I love a country where oysters aren’t considered a total luxury. The mixed vegetables were a bit boring, and far too oily.

We also had the Penang chicken curry, which was aromatic and spicy, but not overly so. It was what I would call a modest curry; it didn’t bowl you over, but was pleasantly satisfying.
The star of the show, however, was the twice-cooked pork hock. Roasted, and then braised, topped with chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots and chives, the flavour of this dish was rich and deep, without being overly salty. The accompanying green sauce (something vaguely raita-esque) wasn’t really necessary.

Pum Thai Cooking School

Patong, Phuket, Thailand.

We stopped in at this cooking school on the main road through Patong (the back road, not the beach drag) because we had an hour and a half to kill before the movie we were going to see, and needed to get dinner anyway. Seeing as they had express classes, where you cook two dishes in 45 minutes, it was pretty serendipitous.

I have to say up front, the express classes probably aren’t the best, especially if you want to learn more than a process. All of the prep work is done for you, which speeds things up, but takes away the learning opportunities – asking questions about ingredients and learning prep tricks is half the fun of a cooking class I think – and it wasn’t much more than a hands-on version of watching a cooking show. That being said, it was still fun.

Mr N (seen above) cooked a green chicken curry, which was tasty, but a little too sweet for my liking. I should stress here that it wasn’t his fault, as you’re pretty much coached through exactly how much of each ingredient to use, so the result is pretty uniform. The recipes are just need some refining. The pad Thai Mr N also made was OK, but surprisingly had no tamarind in it at all, and the egg was fried separately to the rest of the dish, and not incorporated into the noodles. Weird. Mr N was also quite sure that the green curry was the source of his gastrointestinal problems for the next couple of days, but we ate a lot of stuff on holiday, so it’s hard to be sure.

I made the tom yum goong, which was pretty uninspired – we just used a tom yum paste, and the prawns weren’t of great quality – to the point I didn’t even take a photo of it. I also made a pad see-ewe, which was not bad, but again, I followed the recipe, and it was a bit too sweet for me.

I think that the longer classes would be more educational, as one includes a market visit, so I’d presume you get to do all the prep yourself. I think next time I do a Thai cooking class, I’m definitely going to learn to make curry paste from scratch.