Sunday, August 13, 2017

Essentially Thai

There's a long list of restaurants we would like to check out in Bangkok but with such a short stay this time we could only pick and choose a few. But I did specifically want to drop by bo.lan, one restaurant I kept hearing good things about from my foodie friends (well, most of them, though one called it boring). And we had a glimpse of the cooking of Dylan and Bo, the couple who owns the restaurant, at a pop-up dinner in Hong Kong last year already and loved what we have tried. So I emailed the restaurant well in advance to make sure we had a table for the only time-slot we were available - that is Sunday afternoon for lunch.

The restaurant was easily accessible by SkyTrain, only a few stops from where we were staying, and an easy stroll into the quiet soi next to the station. With the big street sign that said "bo.lan - Essentially Thai" in both English and Thai off the street leading to the restaurant through a narrow walkway, bo.lan was housed in a cottage-style building with dark wood theme, with a spacious dining area and the large window overlooking the garden pond and also let in ample sunlight during daytime. We were the first customers to arrive for their lunch service, and were seated by the window with the pleasant view.

While dinner options were all elaborate with multiple-course tasting menus to choose from, lunch - which was only available on weekends - was simple with either the "single plate" a la carte choices, or the prix fixe menu, with choices in each of the category - appetizer, curry, stir-fry, soup and dessert. We decided to go for the prix fixe menu, and with 2 choices in each of the category, we basically just swept the menu by splitting the choices.

We began with the amuse bouche of a mini shrimp salad with herbs served in a small plate – simple but nothing wrong with it. Then the rest of the dishes were brought in at the same time in a tray. We were a bit amazed at that at first but then they did come by to explain that’s the traditional way of serving and that there’s no particular order of how we should taste. And come to think of it, That’s just similar to how normal Japanese meal was often served.

In general I liked the dishes we have tried. Though they looked somewhat similar but each tasted subtly different, with different herbs and different cooking that went in. My salad of Kirby cucumber and grilled mackerel has good acidity with the cured fish giving it a good bite and the half-boiled egg was tasty too. I thought my clear soup from the land and sea of young coconut was okay – well to be honest I didn’t get a lot of land and sea and coconut, except the strong flavor of coriander. Nothing much to write home about unless you are one of those coriander fanatics.

The stir-fried herbal-fed chicken with coconut palm heart was probably the spiciest dish we had, but even that it’s not spicy to the point of us having to reach out for water immediately. And I thought the red curry of prawn was interesting – punchy with a strong hint of sweetness for balance. Two choices of rice were offered to go with the dishes – the white jasmine rice and the multi-grain one, both organically farmed and sourced directly by the restaurant. I normally was not a fan of multi-grain rice (a bit too rough for me) but I enjoyed this one so much that I asked for refills a few times. Choices of dessert included a local fruit platter or fruits with granita in scented syrup. The granita was served in a tiny shot-glass - while it tasted fine, I though the dish was a bit too simple to serve as a proper course (plus the portion too small).

Not exactly the "fine-dining Thai meal" as I originally expected, nor bo.lan is one of those restaurants that would enlighten you to a whole new way of thinking about Thai cuisine, but to me, it’s a laid-back, easy-going kind of a weekend lunch with comfortable ambiance and simple dishes prepared with good ingredients and solid execution. Though it's not our top meal this weekend, it's still a place I wouldn't mind coming back to next time.

When? July 16 2017
Where? bo.lan, 24 Soi Sukhumvit 53, Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Bangkok, Thailand
Menu Highlights? Red curry of prawn with local seasonal fruit

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