Friday, January 23, 2009
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK
Dinner and drinks at one of Bangkok's trendy joints are not exactly how one would celebrate a 10-year old lass's birthday. But then this vibrant city's no stick-in-the-mud sort so that cool evening saw a party of us at Wine Bridge Plus, a popular party hotspot right in the heart of the city that attract's Bangkok's young, hip and moneyed crowd like moths to flame.
We sat out by the patio as a stream of gleaming, flashy cars slid past into the compound, all disgorging beautifully coiffured and decked up couples who headed straight into the cosy confines of the bar, club cum restaurant.
A chat with the owner reveals that the outlet opened some 13 years ago just upstairs from its present premise. Business has been so good over the years that Wine Bridge Plus now occupies the space of four shoplots and the best seats in the house are undoubtedly those at the sidewalk. There is always a live band from 9 pm to 12.30 am while amateur singers croon their fave tunes as early as from 6 pm onwards.
Our host admits that the venture started out as a place for entertaining their own friends but over the years, its popularity has soared strictly by word-of-mouth. He laughingly tells us that it has also become known as a happy hunting ground for girls who are out to land themselves a rich husband. In reality, Wine Bridge Plus is more of an exclusive club for the Thai upper crust as many of the young and well-heeled patrons move in more or less the same circle.
"Many of them are actually our friends' children who are out to have a good time. We keep an eye on them when they're here and even help them stay out of trouble," he said. His own daughter who is in her 20s conceptualised the food and drinks so the menu choices here understandably reflect her youthful, cross-border outlook.
Appetisers to whet the appetite include Herbal Fish Patties with Salted Egg Yolk (150Bhat), Pizza Ham & Cheese Spring Rolls with Tomato Salsa (190B), Atlantic Scallop Carpaccio with Ponzu Dressing & Ebi Roe (180B) and Caesar Salad in Cheese Basket (180B).
The sweet, juicy scallops were particularly outstanding, perked up by the tart albeit slightly briny dressing. The tiny globules of prawn roe lent added crunch while a sprinkling of chopped red onion and spring onion zested things up.
Cheese has always been a great weakness of our birthday girl so it didn't surprise us when she kept snucking away bits and pieces of the cheese basket that held the salad of diced apples and what-nots. Another favourite was of course the spring rolls that were filled with more cheese.
But nothing pleases her more than the Baked Spinach in Bechamel Sauce with Cheese Au Gratin (140B). She practically devoured the whole portion by herself and continued to remind me to replicate the same dish for her long after we got home. I think I just hit on the magic formula to get her to eat more greens!
One of the best-selling items that defined Wine Bridge Plus is probably the Japanese Nabe with Red Wine (160B per bowl;550B per pot). You have a choice of beef or pork, sliced paper-thin for dipping into the red wine broth. Other ingredients for the hot pot include carrot, enoki mushroom, asparagus, cabbage, black mushroom, leek, onion, choy sum, beancurd, baby corn and glass noodles.
According to Nichapa (the boss's daughter), the recipe came from her mom's friend who used to work at Santori (the Japanese brewer).
"The broth is bonito-based and red wine is added to it only towards the end. That's why you'd get a delicate brininess from the fish plus the sweetness of grapes once the alcohol from the wine has evaporated."
The tender meat is savoured with Japanese ponzu sauce concocted from sesame and peanut butter. Sukiyaki and shaba-shabu it seem have grown in popularity among the Thais lately so this house speciality has been a mainstay as long as Wine Bridge Plus has been in business. You'd need to have at least 2 persons for a whole pot to be prepared though.
We also recalled partaking a delectable Prawn Spaghetti with Spicy Basil Pesto (170B). Adorned with crispy bacon bits, the pasta was slurpiliciously fiery to tantalise the tastebuds but not enough to numb it to susbequent dishes.
Our lavish feast rounded up with Banana Fritters with Caramel Sauce (80B) which saw honey-sweet bananas covered in crisp, light batter and drizzled with luscious caramel. Of course there was the ubiquitous birthday cake - made from Haagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream no less!
We don't know who went home happiest that night - us for that memorable meal or the little one who had her fill of cheese and chocolate!
WINE BRIDGE PLUS
99/15 - 16 Lansuan Balcony Road
Lansuan Soi 6-7 Langsuan Road
Lumpini Bangkok 10330
Tel: 0 2251 7767