28 June 2006

Henry J Bean's, Pattaya, Thailand

Name: Henry J Beans
City: Pattaya, Thailand
Address: Amari Hotel, North Beach Road

Website: http://www.amari.com/airport/henrybean.asp

Cuisine: Western, steaks, ribs

Critique: Unfortunately, the very worst thing about this restaurant is that it is NOT open for lunch! It doesn't open until 5 pm. The next worst thing is that due to some weird loop-hole, they allow smoking inside the restaurant, contrary to all other restaurants in Thailand. Now, those are the worse things; here are the best things: The food is great. The wait-staff is friendly, their is a good variety of items on the menu. They include soft drinks on their Happy Hour. They have a live band that starts at at 7 or 7:30.

The restaurant is kid friendly and has a decent children's menu. The chronic complaint that my children (and wife) always seemed to have was that it was "too cold". I can think of a lot worse complaints!

They have a good selection of steaks and a respectable Mexican fare. My family has enjoyed the fajitas. My kids also enjoy their nachos. Their dessert menu is nothing to sneeze at either. The cheese cake is very good.

They have an old fashioned juke box which can be a lot of fun for large groups. Just be sure to bring an abundant supply of "one baht" coins. They have a great selection of golden oldies from the 50's all the way up through the 80's. Anyone can find a favorite if they spend a minute to look.

I think my favorite thing about the restaurant, besides the quality of food, is the way the waiters all shout "FA HEE TAAH, FA HEE TAAH" when they bring out the fajitas. It is shouted in a distinctly Thai accent and quite enjoyable.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the fajitas without reservation. I have enjoyed their steaks. The ribs are very good, although not as good as Tony Roma's. I would also recommend families to arrive early to beat the "party crowd". I was astonished to see a rather lewd and vulgar decoration at Halloween time last year. Remember, this restaurant is in the heart of Gomorra and often the clientele show that fact.

Rating: 4 Fries

26 June 2006

Miguel's, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: Miguel's Fresh-Mex
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: Chaiya Pum Road on the East side of the moat.

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Mexican-ish

Critique: This open air cantina serves the best Mexican food in Chiang Mai, which really isn't saying much. However, on the three or four dining occasions I have had, I was pleased with the food. For an establishment of this caliber in SE Asia, they have a large menu variety. I guess the first thing they have done right is their refried beans. They don't have the funny after-taste that you can get from other so-called Mexican dishes in Chiang Mai.

The restaurant isn't good for a big group as there are only 6 or 8 tables with a few bar stools. It can get crowded at ex-pat lunch time, but is not bad at noon. Parking is difficult, but possible. It is right on the road, so there is lots of noise and exhaust fumes. Being open-air, it can get very hot, as well.

I wouldn't exactly call the place "kid friendly" as they don't have kid's menus. The prices are decent enough, especially since the quality of the food is good. I found the seating a bit uncomfortable, but no big deal.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the Burrito Ranchero and the Three Amigos. Of course, if you are hankering for refried beans, this is the place to get them in Chiang Mai. My kids liked the tacos. (I don't like tacos ANYWHERE) I was also extremely happy with their beef and bean chimichanga. I haven't seen anything close to good chimichangas anywhere else in Asia (so far).

Rating: 3 Fries

25 June 2006

The Flying Pan, Hong Kong

Name: The Flying Pan
City: Hong Kong
Address: G/F 9 Old Bailey Street, Central, Hong Kong Island OR
3/F 81-85 Lockhart Road, Wanchai

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Western, breakfast

Critique: Breakfast 24 hours a day. What a concept! And a good breakfast it is. I ate there the other day for lunch with my friend Alan. I can't wait to take my wife and kids there. It was stupendous!

It has the feel of an old diner, but everything is new and shiny. You get a pot of coffee when you order coffee, and they will refill it at no charge (as often as you like, I suppose). The portions are generous and most meals come with two side orders and a glass of juice. It would be a perfect place for brunch or a late lunch. The Wanchai branch was fairly full by the time we left at 1:30 pm.

The food quality was good, but the bacon tasted more like ham. The grits were good and there was enough that you don't need to make both side dishes grits! Alan's waffle looked a bit over done, but that, of course, can vary by cook. They provide maple and blueberry syrups.

Alan mentioned that they do have high chairs for kids and the waitresses don't seem to keep distracting the kids while they eat, which can often happen with little ones in HK.

They have a discount/membership card available, but you have to eat there 16 times before you get a free meal. It didn't seem that good of a deal to me, but I'm not sure that I really understood what it was all about.

Comments/Recommendations: I look forward to going to the Flying Pan again, real soon. I really want to take my wife there for brunch. I had the eggs benedict last time and I would recommend it to you. I am going to try an omelet next time, too.

Rating: 4 Fries

Bruno's, Pattaya, Thailand

Name: Bruno's
City: Pattaya, Thailand
Address: 306/63 Chateau Dale Plaza, Thappraya Road, Pattaya,

Website: http://www.brunos-pattaya.com/ (Includes a full menu with prices.)

Cuisine: Western, European, Steaks, Seafood

Critique: This is one of the fanciest places I have ever eaten. Outrageous prices by Thai standards; exceptional prices by US and HK standards. The steaks are the stars and they "shine bright". The quality of beef is exceptional and exceedingly tender. Chef Freddi oversees his staff in a top notch way. I have never had a bad meal there and I have eaten there a dozen or so times.

The desserts can be a little "high brow". What I mean by that is that they look good, but have a little too much liqueur for my preferences. (Just make sure you use a spoon!) Most of the desserts are very, very good.

Presentation is important to Chef Freddi and the meals are presented with flair. Each dish, from the complementary hors d'oeuvres, to the complementary palate cleansing sorbet, to the dessert demonstration at the end of the meal, is a sight (and taste) to behold.

The waiters are extremely attentive. My daughter accidentally dropped her butter knife and we were just going to "let it go", but the waiter in the next room noticed, and brought one within 10 seconds. When the main dish is presented at the table, something uncommon in Thailand happens; everyone gets their meal at the same time. If you have a party of 8, then 4 or 5 waiters will bring the plates, covered in a silver lid. At once, they will all uncover the plates to expose the awaited flavors. It is the small touches like that which make Bruno's special.

The downside is that it is in Pattaya. Seldom that I have been in there where there weren't older men with lady (or lady-boy) companions. That really distracts from the family atmosphere and consequently is the single reason that it doesn't earn 5 fries. If it was the same restaurant in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, it would have earned the coveted rating.

Comments/Recommendations: I highly recommend this restaurant. If you can overlook the other patrons, it is an incredible dining experience. The wait staff are incredible; the food is even better. I recommend the French onion soup, the Caesar salad, the pan fried snow fish, any of the imported beef steaks, and the apple fritters a la mode. My wife really enjoys the chocolate mousse and my kids like the grilled pork chop. Also, if you go on a week night, it is necessary to make reservations, otherwise you may not have a table.

Rating: 4 Fries

23 June 2006

Jackie's Cuisine, Yantai, China

Name: Jackie's Cuisine
City: Yantai, China
Address: 中华人民共和国山东省烟台市芝罘区福环山路付14号-3号 264000
Bus No.7, 23 or 52 to Jiao Yu Xue Yuan Or tell cab driver to "Jie Ke Xi Can"

Website: http://www.jackies.com.cn/index.asp

Cuisine: Western

Critique: An "oasis of happiness in the northeast" is how I describe Jackie's. They describe themselves as "Loud food and spicy music". Jackie's is a delightful place filled with very good food in an unexpected place. Yantai doesn't have that much in the way of western food, but they are light years ahead of many cities in China since Jackie came to town.

The decor and menu is reminiscent of Hard Rock, and I understand the Jackie used the be the manager of the Shanghai HRC. They have music videos on big screens and pop and music art throught the restaurant.

The food is just plain good. They have a great choice of Mexican fare, along with burgers, and other American foods. Seems like they also had a good selection of Italian meals.

They also do desserts right.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the giant nachos and the chicken parmesean. Also, any of the desserts will do the trick.

Rating: 4 Fries

China Palace Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: China Palace Restaurant,
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: Sheraton Hotel, 318/1 Chiang Mai-Lampoon Road

Website: http://www.sheraton-chiangmai.com/

Cuisine: Cantonese

Critique: This is a great place to eat! For three years, the staff of the China Palace pampered my family. Their keen attention to our needs and preferences always guaranteed us an excellent dining experience. They also always seemed to treat us even more special when we brought guests.

The Cantonese cuisine is the best Chinese food in Chiang Mai. They have a decent dim sum for lunch daily, but they really shine on their traditional Cantonese fare. They are exceptionally family friendly and always doted on my children. Early on, before my children began to appreciate Cantonese food, they even brough the makings of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my younger daughter. And, they only charged 80 baht ($2) which wasn't bad considering PB&J's are NOT on the menu.

The atmosphere is very nice, although they tend to play the same cd over and over for their background music. I think that is really my only complaint about the restaurant is the music, and then, it isn't really all that bad.

The staff have gone overboard to take care of my family. The food is delicious and is always fresh and hot. The prices are cheap compared to comparable restaurants in the US or HK. The ambiance is delightful.

Comments/Recommendations: I highly recommend the sweet and sour pork, the roasted pork with honey, and their Thai style spring rolls. Their hot and sour sichuan soup tends to be much more hot than sour and sometimes it is simply too spicy for me. This restaurant, the staff and mangament have EARNED themselves:

Rating: 5 Fries

Sojo's, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: Sojo's
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: 169/4-5 Sridoncha Road Changklan A. Muang
(behind Phantip Plaza at the night bazaar)

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Western, Thai

Critique: This restaurant coffee house is a source of good "down home cookin". It is the only place I know of in Thailand with fried okra on the menu. They have great hamburgers, chicken fingers, and chicken fried rice. I personally think that their carrot cake is the best in town. I have often said that I thought they had the best hamburger in Asia. I will modify to say the best in Chiang Mai. They have a good breakfast menu available all day.

The prices are good to reasonable and they have a bottomless cup of coffee during lunch. They are extremely kid friendly and the waitresses/waiters do a good job in English. The children's menu is adequate and includes a (very good) cookie. I would say that I ate there on a semi-weekly basis for three years and only ever had a few complaints.

They are often crowded on a weekday at lunch and at "American dinner time". One plus is that they do not serve alcohol of any kind.

Upstairs is a coffee house and Wi/Fi source. They have numerous board games as well.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the Sojo burger with sauteed onions and bacon. They are a little skimpy on their french fries. I also recommend the carrot cake (see above). I am a little disappointed/aggravated that there is now a sign requesting you to tip. This is rather strange in a country where it is not culturally appropriate to tip. Go figure.

UPDATE: I just read on a blog where one expat family calls Sojo's "the Cracker Barrel of Chiang Mai". Well said.

Rating: 3 Fries

The Duke's, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: The Duke's
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: 49/4-5 Chiangmai-Lamphun Road (Near the Iron Footbridge)

Website: Unknown

Cuisine: Western

Critique: Farangs all over Chiang Mai cheered when this little jewel opened up on the east bank of the Ping. The menu is extensive with steaks, seafood, pizza, and sandwiches. Every Tuesday night is Mexican night and usually there are Mexican leftovers for Wednesday lunch.

The food is good. Period. The atmosphere is OK. It is a little dark, even in the daytime. It is pretty kid friendly though with a typical children's menu. It is fairly family friendly, especially for the early dinner seating. After 8 pm, the expat/tourist drinking crowd comes in and it can get a little noisy. The waitresses do a pretty good job at English, but don't expect to get your meals at the same time.

They have a very good desert bar. Chocolate cake, white chocolate cake, apple pie a la mode, cheesecake, and brownies fill the lighted counter in the back of the room. David is pretty picky about the coffee and does it right.

The prices are very good. Their "Big Daddy" steak is almost more than I can eat and will only set you back about 500 baht ($12.50)

Comments/Recommendations: I highly recommend the Cubano sandwich. It is a little taste of heaven on homemade sourdough (or something like it). I personally prefer the french fries to the onion rings, but only because they are a bit too spicy for my palate. The pizzas are an exceptional buy and good food. The apple pie is only good if it is a la mode. Be sure to ask them to warm it up. Many of my colleagues like their Route 66 hamburger. Basically, it is a HUGE double cheese burger. Again, almost too much to eat. They are open to changing your order to half fries/half onion rings. Or "Frings", as my friend Phil calls them.

Rating: 3 Fries

Five Fries

5 Fries - I don't just give these babies out; they have to be earned. Exceptional food, service, everything.

Four Fries

4 Fries - A nicer kind of place, maybe where you might go on a date. Perhaps a little more expensive, but worth it every now and then. Or, maybe just really good food, like the Rib Crib.

Three Fries

3 Fries - Good value, good food. Something like El Chico's. Somewhere you don't mind going more than once a week.

22 June 2006

Two Fries

2 Fries - On the order of Pizza Hut or Sonic: good taste, no frills.

One Fry

1 Fry: on the level of McDonalds or KFC. In the words of my mother, "It's filling." Nothing to write home about.

Finally Here!

Here are my critiques of restaurants I have visited throughout East Asia. This is meant for the "common traveler", not the big bucks, unlimited expense account ex-pat businessman. I will try to give an honest, accurate evaluation, enlightening you on the good, the bad, and the delicious! You must understand that this is a purely subjective rating system; I do it on the way I feel, and how the restaurant experience makes me feel.

I will readily admit that I like to eat; that has been a problem for most of my life. However, I do not live to eat; I just like it a whole bunch. :-)

Feel free to leave comments about any restaurant I have critiqued. Ask questions. My colleagues back in Chiang Mai will tell you that I never steered them wrong when it came to suggesting a restaurant. Those who have traveled with me know that I can sniff out a good place to eat in the most difficult of environs.