Darlings, I'm so sorry I've been such a slacker. I started rehearsal for a new show two days after our return from Thailand, and my students also have a show at the end of the month plus a host of other things so, in short, I need a Xanax.
Bangkok means "City of Angels." And what angels they are. I haven't seen as much of the world as I'd like to, but of the parts I *have* seen, I've never met friendlier people. Thailand is also called the "land of smiles." Pretty accurate. FYI, the Thai call Bangkok Krung Thep (not Bangkok) and that's shorthand for a name that takes about 5 full minutes to say in it's entirety (Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit). I'll stick with Bangkok.
Here's where being a restaurant whore pays off. When you make friends with your servers, you have friends when they move back to their home countries. This was the case with Fai, who was a waiter at our local Thai spot when we first came to SF. He moved back to Bangkok, stayed in touch and helped us immensely when we arrived in Thailand. I'll have more to report on him when I get to the street food.
Anyway, here's the first of what I've about Bangkok. I figured I'd start with the place with the most buzz: Bed Supperclub
. And being the whore that I am, I felt it only appropriate.
Every thing I read and heard about the Bangkok dining scene mentioned Bed Supperclub. So we had to go.
Bed Supperclub is located over by Sukhumvit, at the end of Soi 11. If you're looking for the dining scene in Bangkok, Sukhumvit is where it's at.
So we got off the Skytrain and walked and walked and walked seeing nothing that looked like Bed Supperclub. Then all of a sudden, past some crappy hotels, a man walking a baby elephant and some shrubbery, there it was. This huge, white pod with a large staircase. This had to be it.
As you walk up the staircase, you're greeted by six Thai men in black and white t-shirts bearing the word "BOUNCER." They ask for your name and the hostess leads you to the door of the restaurant where a doorman slides it open to let you into the spacecraft. I mean restaurant.
The interior goes like this: two floors. On each floor both walls are lined with a long bed (like a Cal King to the tenth power). Each bed is covered in white sheets and has pillows against the "headboard." The beds are basically like really comfy extended banquettes. At the foot of the bed were little tables for your food and drink. Jon and I found ourselves wondering what happened when someone spilled their red wine on the sheets. It didn't look like a situation they'd be able to remedy easily.
In the middle of the first floor (where we sat), there is a DJ cage made of scaffolding and surrounded by lit up traffic cones. This is the kind of place that would be HUGE in NYC, Vegas, LA. But on the night we were there, it didn't even fill up (granted it was a Monday). It's also the kind of place that is a total turn off to us in any of those aforementioned cities. I just spend the entire meal feeling like I'm not cool enough to be there. But Bed Supperclub was simply fun. The staff is great and friendly, sitting on beds with your fellow diners isn't nearly as uncomfortable when you're all from different countries and no one is trying to be noticed. It was great.
We had a few cocktails with ginger and kaffir lime and other Thai yummmies.
Now for the food. Despite the fact that the restaurant looks like it was made for George Jetson on acid, the food is excellent. All too often restaurants sacrifice the quality of the food for the scene, but not here. Chef Dan Ivarie puts together some slammin' combinations in spite of the weirdness surrounding him (I'll get to that later). The meal is a three course prix fixe affair with choices for each course. What we chose was as follows.
For starters, I had a fennel, watermelon and rocket salad with lemon truffle vinaigrette. Watermelon is fucking phenomenal in Thailand. They grow it north of Bangkok near Ayutthaya and it is unbelievable. The watermelon here tastes like a mealy wedge of crap compared to theirs. Besides that, the combination of the fruit with the lemon-truffle vinaigrette was incredible. I described it at the time as revelatory as I would never have thought of that combination of ingredients, and if I had I never would have thought that it would taste good. It does.
Jon had a tuna and octopus carpaccio
with sesame vinaigrette, roasted rice and chick pea salsa. Again, delicious. Jon anointed the octopus as "the best he'd ever tasted" (I reminded him of Italy and he waffled but stuck with his story) and my fork made it's way over to his plate several times during the course. It was here that we struggled with how you eat your food at Bed. Do you sit back and eat it from your lap? Sit up and eat it in your lap? Sit up and try to balance your dish on the teeny tiny table? We tried all three and none was particularly comfortable. Didn't really matter because the food is fucking awesome.
Next came our entrees. Jon got the pan fried crab cake
on yellow lentil pumpkin puree with wilted greens and whipped basil corn milk. I had pepper-vanilla sea scallops with beet root risotto and balsamic glazed onions. Jon's crab cake was about as big as his head (Newsflash: his head is so big that he cannot find hats that fit him. Really.). The chef also managed to cram about three entire crabs into this crab cake. Here's where my
proclamation comes in: I declared this the best crab cake *I'd* ever tasted. It had been coated in cornmeal before the pan frying and the crab was as sweet and tender as you pretend to be when you're making the moves on that sweet little farm girl visiting from Iowa.
My scallops were the big gamble. Would they be sucky and metallic? Or tasty and sweet? I cried tears of joy my friends. I don't know where they get their scallops (heaven?) but they did not disappoint. I'm usually not a fan of vanilla in my savory dishes, but this was beautifully executed.
Jon and I were both more enamored with the other person's accompaniments than our own. No matter how full I was, I couldn't stop eating his lentil/pumpkin puree and he was still talking about my beet risotto as we trudged through the Grand Palace dripping sweat the next day. Shut your damn mouth, boy, it's too hot to talk! The balsamic onions that he got with his crab cake reminded us both of the ones that the Slow Club uses (which is also where we ate our last SF meal before boarding the plane -- we figured comfort food was the way to go).
Our server couldn't have been nicer if we had begged him to be. He cleared our plates and allowed us ample time to chill/digest/absorb the weirdness before dessert.
Dessert. I had blueberries
in calamansi honey with dubonnet sorbet and a pine nut cookie. The cookie was more like a tuile. Fine by me. The blueberries were shockingly fresh and had perfect ripeness. No mealy nastiness. Calamansi is a citrus fruit which some describe as a lemon, some a lime. No matter. It gave the honey, and blueberries a complex flavor that I adored. I kept the combo in my mouth so long that I began to feel like I was french kissing my food, decided that it was inappropriate to be doing so (I do try to maintain some veil of decorum when out), and swallowed like any good whore would do. As for the dubonnet sorbet. Hmmm...it was interesting, no doubt. Not my cup of tea. I've never been a fan of alcohol in my dessert. Alcohol in the glass,dessert on the plate/in the bowl, please. Dubonnet is pretty bitter, is flavored with herbs and quinine and well, here you go, Jon -- have at it. I was taking malaria pills anyway, so I didn't need no stinking quinine.
Jon made fun of me for ordering this dessert as my usual reaction to a bowl of fruit on a dessert menu is "What the hell is this Alice Waters bullshit?" Alice is amazing, but I ain't paying no $7 for a bowl of fruit I can get for $2.50 at the farmers market. Nonetheless, I ordered the blueberries and loved them.
Jon had Mango crepes with white chocolate cream, banana ice cream and pistachio praline. I didn't try these because a) I don't looooove mango and b) they were gone before I had a chance. Jon sucked them all down, looked at me with a goofy smile and confided that even though he was full, he wanted to see if he could get some more.
During the meal, I wondered aloud where the massage therapists were to massage our feet. Jon was dubious because of health codes and things. Yeah, they don't really have those "health codes" in Thailand so sure enough, out came two Thai folks with the words MASSAGE printed on their shirts. For 100 Baht, they'd give you a 15 minute massage. That's about $2.50. Bargain for us, rip off for Thailand (You can get a 2 hour full body massage for around $7-$8). So while Jon had his shoulders rubbed, I checked out the bathrooms.
For the bathrooms, you need to leave your pod and cross over to the bar pod that becomes a nightclub. Then you go down some weird stairs into a funkified bathroom that's all white. The stalls are lined up in a unisex fashion, a la The Slanted Door. By the time I made the three mile trek back to our table and gave the doorman the secret handshake, Jon was just about done with his massage.
So then I got one. I had no sooner turned my back on the room to start receiving my bliss before weird music started up and I became aware of people moving behind me.ME:
What's going on?JON:
Some sort of weird performance art that involves measuring people's shoes.
Two women, one with a tape measure, the other with a hole punch, were measuring various objects and molesting any possessions they could get their hands on. The folks in the kitchen just shook their heads. Our lovely ladies then launched into interpretive dance which involved, at various intervals, writhing on the floor and falling on each other
. I miss all the good stuff.
We took that as our cue to leave, but on our way out thanked the Chef, who was very gracious. When asked if it was hard to cook in such a surreal environment, he replied that he just tries to ignore it most of the time and focus on his food. Right on, dude.
Our entire bill including two three course meals, three cocktails, 10% service charge, tax and performance art came to about $86 US. It was the most expensive meal we ate in Thailand. A hell of a bargain, in my opinion. Especially when you consider that all that price will buy me is some chicken and a glass of wine at Zuni.
We made a conscious effort to eat as much Thai food as possible while in Thailand, but also felt a duty to try out the buzz worthy spots. In fact, Fai encouraged this saying even the Thai don't eat Thai food all the time. Bed Supperclub was a worthwhile deviation from our authentic* experience.
If you get to Bangkok, spend some time in Bed. Whorin's never been so much fun.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld*I'm white, so no matter how authentic I try to be, I'm still white. "When in Rome" doesn't quite work when your skin is a big flashing sign that says "This is not my country."