Bangkok Post reviews
Blaze of glory
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: February 1, 2013 at 8:18 am
Set inside a supercar showroom, this southern Thai restaurant goes full throttle for flavour
The eight-month-old restaurant set in a corner of a ritzy imported car showroom has built its popularity by word of mouth.
A fine restaurant that serves ahan pak tai, or southern fare, is distinctive enough. But a southern cuisine restaurant inside a supercar showroom is truly one of a kind.
Set on a raised, black marble platform in a rented corner of a ritzy imported car showroom, V Bar may be a drinking establishment by moniker and setting, but it boasts the bloodline of an authentic Thai restaurant.
Opened eight months ago, the 50-seater has never appeared on the media radar. Instead, V Bar has built its popularity by word of mouth. It's a relocated outlet of Bounce, a well-liked southern Thai and "jungle food" restaurant-cum-live music pub in a small soi off Ram Intra Road. With this new and much more convenient location, it has successfully drawn regulars and passers-by.
Deep-fried snapper with turmeric and crispy garlic.
Prepared by the same lady cook from Bounce, a native of Nakhon Si Thammarat, the cuisine of V Bar continues to boast its signature pungency.
First to arrive was gaeng lueang pla kaphong, or southern-style yellow curry with sea bass (220 baht). It's simply a fierier, tangier and more fragrant edition of the Central region's sour and sweet gaeng som, with fresh turmeric providing the soup's distinctive hue.
The super-pungent broth perfectly combined the saltiness of shrimp paste, the sourness of tamarind paste and lime juice and the spiciness of chillies and turmeric that were toned down deliciously with rice. Meanwhile, super crunchy, mildly sweet wedges of bamboo shoot and coconut shoot and fillets of sea bass added a delightful crunch to the affair, making it really worth burning your tongue for.
The dish that proved the best complement for the blazing gaeng lueang was deep-fried snapper with turmeric (370 baht). While continuing to celebrate the medicinal, perfumed spice, the crispy fish allowed our palates to take a breather from the ultra pepperiness. This type of dish is typically prepared with small, southern fish, particularly pla sai (sand whiting) and pla sai daeng (threadfin bream). But the cook decided to substitute them with a whole snapper to avoid the strong odour of those two species.
Rubbed with turmeric before being deep-fried with plenty of garlic, the snapper exhibited well-cooked firm meat, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and enjoyed with or without rice.
The stir-fried sataw (nitta beans) with shrimp paste and sea bass fillets.
The meal continued to boast the culinary charm of the South with sataw pad kapi with fish (195 baht). Featuring sataw (nitta beans) stir-fried with shrimp paste, sea bass fillets, onions and chillies, the dish nicely married the crisp crunch of the characteristically redolent sataw with sweet onion and delicate fish meat.
The restaurant's khua kling nuea, or southern-style spicy stir-fried minced beef and herbs (180 baht) has to be one of the tastiest in town.
Beef fans should spare some room for nuea toon nong lai, or spicy soup of marbled beef shanks (195 baht). This soup may not be of a southern lineage, nor as fiery hot, but it promises to equally delight fans of piquant food with its appetising sharp taste. With some marbling, jelly-like fat and springy tendon still intact, chunks of beef had been simmered for hours until they became soft but still yielded a pleasant chew. Diners who don't dig beef can have their soup prepared with young pork ribs.
For something just as tasty but not at all peppery, there are quite a few dishes worth ordering. First on the recommended list is goong kaew (180 baht), which is ideal as an appetiser.
Gaeng lueang pla kaphong , or southern-style yellow curry with fillets of sea bass.
It presented flavourful, snack-sized shrimp that had been marinated before being deep-fried until the exterior turned golden and crusty while the centre remained succulent.
Then try the fried cabbage with garlic and fish sauce (180 baht), in which the vegetable still retained its crunchiness. And don't miss kai toon (160 baht). The generous portion of mild-tasting egg custard offered a nice, soothing touch to the blazing meal.
A friend gave high points to the khao pad pla kem, or fried rice with salted fish (140 baht), which, for me, was quite ordinary compared to the other dishes we sampled.
Because the restaurant owner is a music buff, every night except for Sunday there's a three-piece band playing from 8pm onwards. Their repertoire ranges from jazz and rock to disco. A sweet performance by a solo pianist is scheduled on Sunday.
As its name suggests, though the restaurant is no runner-up when it comes to culinary esteem, and its cocktail menu is just a simple collection of classics and not much else, V Bar's dusky setting with low tables and velvet sofas may satisfy barflies more than ordinary diners. Service was efficient and the food came out quickly.