Saturday, October 31, 2009

Café Chilli, Siam, Bangkok

Café Chilli is situated in a more relaxing location past the hectic food hall on the ground floor of the Siam Paragon shopping complex. 

This place serves Northeastern Thai cuisine (which neighbouring Loas) tends to be hot and spicy, with sticky rice being the preferred staple.  The Northeastern Thais also prefer their meat grilled and their curries without coconut milk.

Today I wanted a substantial lunch and having walked past this place with piggy-eyed curiosity, I decided to venture in and sample what this place had to offer.

The décor is dark wood with plush red and cream soft furnishing.  There is a mezzanine area and a few tables in their outside (but also still being inside the shopping complex) terrace area.  Huge matching dark brown lamp shades hang from the ceiling.  It's Eastern modernity with a touch of pure Western class.

I sat by the window which had a good view to the other tables.  I'm afraid to say, that I really am one of those nosey 'I like to see what everyone else is eating' sort of a gal. 

As soon as I sat down, a menu was quickly presented to me to peruse through.  Everything sounded so wonderful and the few pictures that there were, made the food look doubly enticing.

There was a delicious list of appetizers, from which I chose the 'Steamed Pork Larb Dumplings' (160 Bht) and from the A La Carte section, I chose the 'Steamed rice topped with chicken with chilli and basil' (170 Bht).  I asked for the latter to be mildly spicy as these days, I cannot take my food too spicy.  There were also soups, salads (som-tam) and lots of yummy sounding grilled meats and curries to choose from.  Had I had come with another person, I definitely would have ordered the Thai style grilled chicken...

Nevertheless, I was happy with my choices and my pot of hot jasmine tea came to soothe my weary feet.  Presented in a white china tea pot with a transparent cup and saucer, it was rather charming.

My steamed pork larb dumplings soon followed and looked mouthwateringly good (at least I thought so).  To briefly explain, Larb is a type of Loas meat salad.  These dumplings were wonton wrappers filled with minced pork, chopped water chestnuts, finely chopped chilli and coriander.  Not only did they look good, they tasted very good too. 

The chilli dipping sauce was a little too spicy for me, so I just stuck with dipping them into the soy sauce.  I didn't think I would finish all six, but when I left the last one just sitting there, I tried to look away.  But temptation got the better of me and I grabbed my fork to gobble it up.

Having taken a little break after my delicous appetizer, my steamed rice topped with chicken, chilli and basil arrived.  It came with a complimentary fish sauce with sliced red chilli dipping sauce.  This is one of my favourite dish, but looking back, perhaps I should have chosen a more typical dish from the Northeast. 

Anyhow, the chicken was minced, but not too finely so which is how it should be in my opinion.  I proceeded to mix the dish up together so that the rice got covered with the delicious chicken.  If you have been to Thailand, you may notice that a lot of Thais tend to mix their rice/noodle/salad dishes up before eating.  This is to ensure that all the flavours and textures are mixed in together to create a beautiful fusion. 

Seeing as the chicken had enough salt for me, I only needed to a touch of the chilli fish sauce.  What I liked about this dish was that they were generous with the basil leaves as some places can be a little stingy with their basil. 

All in all I enjoyed my lunch.  I was too full for dessert.  But the lady sitting on the table right opposite me had the coconut ice cream with four condiments.  I wasn't entirely sure what they all were, but they included peanuts, tapioca looking jellies and a couple of other sweet looking things.  What a perfect way to end a meal... I was really too stuffed.

The staff were super friendly in this place and very attentive.  Before I even had a chance to top up my tea myself, there was always somebody on hand to do it for me.  

I'll admit that I can probably get the steamed rice with chicken in chilli and basil in the busy food hall for less than a third of the price here.  But I really enjoyed having my lunch in a relaxed environment without the hustle and bustle of trolleys, loud clattering and trying to look for an empty table amongst the sea of hungry people.

I'm a sucker for comfortable surroundings and so I like this place for just that.  I really enjoyed my appetizer, but I don't think the chicken with chilli and basil was anything amazing.  It was what it was.  I would however like to come back again to try some more of the grilled meat dishes.  And next time, I will bring a local! 

Café Chilli
Ground Floor, Siam Paragon Shopping Complex, 991 Rama 1 Road, Bangkok 10330
Tel: +66 (0)2 610 9877-8
Nearest BTS: Siam

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