Eurocompensating in BKK: France

Hey everyone, happy Sunday to you. I’m Seven—part-time writer here at BKKNites and Patpong monger, here with the next installment of posts covering some restaurants in town where you can get a taste of the motherland—depending on where your mother’s from. This week, we’re looking at places where you can stuff your face with French cuisine, and let’s start once again with the disclaimer that I made no effort to hit the dozen or more French restaurants in Bangkok. Last week, I made a half-hearted go at dining in a few English/Irish places that I don’t normally frequent, and the result was a watered-down article that didn’t do justice to any of them. So from now on I’m just going to cover the places I know, and maybe try one new location just for the hell of it. Otherwise what am I but a piss-weak imitation of a Timeout blogger? Thankfully, there are three French restaurants within a 6-minute walk from my apartment: Bistro Convent and Indigo on Soi Convent, and French Kiss and Le Bouchon in Patpong. Here we go…

Bistro Convent is so named because it’s on Soi Convent, a few hundred meters from Indigo. The overall motif is understated elegance. They have an outdoor patio and a small, unpretentious dining area inside. Pro tip: When the menu is a piece of paper stuck to a clipboard, always unclip it and turn it over. There might be a whole other list of dishes on the back side. I ordered the onion soup and duck confit before realizing that I’d missed 50% of the menu, then hurriedly asked for a cheese and meat plate as well. There were only two wines by the glass: house red and house white. Both were Italian, which is a weird choice for a French restaurant, but then there were also lots of pasta dishes on the menu so maybe there’s a bit of an identity crisis going on there. The white was a Chard—old world style that paired well with both the cheese and the soup. The red: a primitivo. Not a good match for the duck, but it was too late to switch to the beef cheek, so I made peace with my mistake. And it was splendid. The nose smelled like walking into a cigar humidor—lots of cedar and tobacco, along with some blackberry. Then, flavors of vanilla, cocoa, plum, dark cherries, and spice.

The cheese and meat board was phenomenal: chorizo, salami, Parma ham, Gruyere, soft Gorgonzola, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Eating the cheese was like a scavenger hunt, as it was hidden among a pile of rocket, tomatoes, gherkins, green olives, apple slices, and walnuts. It came with fresh, warm bread and was a treat from start to finish. Then it was on to the onion soup—rich, sweet, savory, tangy, cheesy, and oniony. Just terrific. The duck confit was a revelation. Beautiful presentation and scrumptious to boot. The balance between crispy skin and tender meat was sublime. Moist but not oily, every bite a delight. No service charge or tax—just VAT. Three courses and two glasses of wine for 2,000 baht. Seven approves with gusto.

Indigo is a lovely place. There’s a large outdoor patio that inspires an air of romance, even in a lone customer such as myself. I opted to sit inside, though. The bar and dining room are decorated in old-fashioned colonial style, and feels a bit like stepping onto a movie set. I could see Sean Connery and the rest of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen lounging comfortably in this establishment.

I didn’t call ahead, but luckily there was a single small table that was as yet not reserved, and I plopped down at it. As I was being led to my seat, the bartended asked me something in Thai, and I did what I always do when a Thai person says something I don’t understand. I nodded. The waiter brought me the menu, and as I perused it, a lady grabbed a bottle of wine out of a nearby ice bucket and poured me a glass. “What’s this?” I asked. What I really wanted to ask was, Why are you pouring me wine I didn’t ask for?

“Sancerre,” was her reply. On the menu it was listed at 395b per glass. The cheek of that! Although I will say, it was delicious. Light, crisp, and very French.

On an unrelated note: the cloth napkin they provided was as soft as a baby’s behind.

The menu had a build-your-own cheese platter, so I asked the waiter to choose four cheeses that would pair with the Sancerre. He returned with Munster, Brie, Roquefort, and Beaufort. All were excellent, however the stink of the Munster attracted a fly that didn’t give me a moment’s peace throughout the meal.

As I devoured the cheeses, the waiter returned periodically to refill my wine glass. I privately hoped that each refill would not constitute additional charges on my bill. I then ordered the Beef Bourguignon with a glass of Graves, which was outstanding. A deep, velvety, earthy nose with notes of chocolate and leather, and flavors of anise, blackberry, plum, and lilac. Perfection.

As for the beef—I know it’s cliché to say it melts in your mouth. This chunky treat melted on the fork. The mushrooms and burgundy sauce made a medley of magic on the plate. Overall, the whole experience was bliss. They even had a cigar humidor with a stack of stogies that mirrored the selection at Sessions—the cigar shop in Silom Complex. And since the menu changes weekly, I’ll definitely be back.

I’ve been to French Kiss many times, mainly because it’s on Patpong Soi 1 and since I’m there every night, it’s hard to walk by and ignore the enticing aromas wafting out of that joint on a nightly basis. I have two go-to dishes in this hip little joint: the charcuterie platter and the steak. For a meat-n-cheese plate, it’s one of the best—at least in my neighborhood. They even serve up a nice chunk of foie gras alongside cured meats and an eclectic set of cheeses. Their by-the-glass wine choices are always smart and on point. Whenever I eat here, I have flashbacks to dining in Le Chat Noir on Blvd de Clichy in Paris. And in spite of a nagging desire to branch out and try new menu items, I end up getting the steak every time. How they can manage to cook up a hunk of beef so perfectly in such a small kitchen is beyond me, but they do. Dining in French Kiss is a modern French experience in Bangkok and a real treat this many thousands of miles from France.

Speaking of, the quintessential French experience in BKK is undoubtedly Le Bouchon. Only a few meters from French Kiss, it’s not so much a modern rendition of French cuisine as it is a classic, old-fashioned experience. Stepping into Bouchon is like taking a time machine to Paris’ past. Everyone I know who eats there says the same thing: ‘it tastes like you’re in France’—which is I suppose the best compliment a person could pay.

There are two menus in Bouchon—a list of tried-and-true dishes that never changes, and a constantly rotating one with intriguing and inspiring limited-time items. There are a few specialties that every visitor should try: namely the foie gras and the steak tar-tar. Both are hand-made with tender loving care by Serg—head chef and owner—whose magic touch makes him seem more sorcerer than chef. He learned his craft as a youngster, and through a lifetime of commitment, has preserved those skills create food akin to edible museum pieces, shining a light on the incomparable perfection of classic French cooking. Nothing I say here could do justice to this incredible restaurant. It has to be experienced to be understood. Here’s a small list of my fave dishes: Chevre ravioli, duck a l’orange, duck confit, chevre spring rolls, beef cheek, osso buco, and of course the foie gras and tar-tar. And on a final note, Bouchon is an especially wonderful place to visit during the holidays. From Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, they offer a special menu with such succulent delights as lobster thermidor, roast pigeon in port sauce, and eggs cocotte with truffle. But you don’t have to wait till December to indulge in the epicurean delights of Bouchon, or French Kiss or Indigo. Their current menus are just as enticing and spectacular today. In fact, I’ve made myself so hungry by writing this that I’m going to have to stop now and head straight to Bouchon for their set lunch. Check in next week, when we’ll Eurocompensate for Spain, and if you want to see a pictorial companion to this post, with photos of dishes from all four restaurants plus a quick Patpong update, you can check out my blog: http://patpongnightlife.com/2021/03/28/eurocompensating-france-pictorial-companion-plus-patpong-update/

Between now and next week, keep your beer cold, your food choices bold, and here’s to this amazing city in this awesome country where we expats can have the best of all worlds. Cheers.

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