Bangkok Post reviews
Little beast no burden
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: September 7, 2012 at 8:23 am
Excellent quality pub food makes Thong Lor gastro bar well worth a detour
It's a great thrill in a city overwhelmed by relentless openings of similar gastro bars to find really worthwhile food in the least expected place _ a gastro bar.
With a name that sounds, to a 40-something food writer, neither socially inviting nor culinarily promising, Little Beast, which opened a couple months ago in a bustling sub-soi off Thong Lor, proved during my visit on a particularly rainy weekday evening a gastronomic destination well worth getting soaked for.
The establishment's charcoal black exterior makes it look rather more like a pub than an eatery, and it occupies a corner unit of a nondescript shophouse on a back street that links sois 11 and 13. The dark brown interior with warm lighting, round dining tables, faux leather sofas and mixed tunes, offers a casual living-room feel to the 65-seater space.
Special plate of the day, ‘15-hour lamb shoulder’ with ginger carrot coulis, warm barley and mushroom salad.
Little Beast's food, a cosmopolitan selection of fancy pub bites and gourmet bistro dishes, is prepared upstairs in the chrome kitchen screened off from the second floor's dining chamber by an expansive tinted-glass window. The cooking atelier is directed by the young and highly talented chef Nan Bunyasaranand, a 2006 top-of-the-class graduate from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park who has trained under celebrity chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Thomas Keller in New York City.
The first treat to start off our dinner sounded like a stereotypical bistro appetiser. But a nice stack of tuna tartare (180 baht), prepared with deep-red, sashimi-grade fish proved a very scrumptious result of meticulous craft.
Cubed and not coarsely chopped, the raw, naturally flavoursome fish was seasoned skilfully and accompanied by crispy thin beetroot and lotus root chips, creamy ginger mayonnaise and soy caviar to offer a profound concoction of flavours and textures that's not to be missed.
Other evidence of the chef's attentive culinary approach was detected in her chicken liver mousse puff (180 baht) which was presented in six bite-sized pastries with a nice proportion of velvety liver filling that was truly addictive.
I couldn't afford to miss the foie gras terrine of the day (280 baht) simply because of its menu description, which hinted that the terrine is one of the chef's most treasured specialties. That day, the silky and mildly sweet delicacy with its sumptuous taste was lent a nice fruity touch by a small portion of beetroot and fig salad intermingling perfectly with fried toast.
A scrumptious result of meticulous craft, the tuna tartare with creamy ginger mayonnaise and soy caviar.
I don't know if there's any influence behind the next dish _ sugar snap peas and chicken skin salad with ginger vinaigrette (200 baht). For me, the salad, which displays nothing much more than a generous portion of boiled sugar snap diced and tossed with tiny morsels of paper-thin chicken skin, was a fascinating creation that cleverly reflects a modern culinary trend through the celebration of genuine, non-altered character of fresh seasonal ingredients.
Despite its plain appearance, the pleasant flavour it produced was of a real gourmet level.
Following the crunchy green salad was a dish listed on the menu as crispy egg, corned beef hash with spicy hollandaise sauce (220 baht). A cross between breakfast and bar food, the dish presented a wobbling brown-skinned egg _ half-boiled, then slightly fried _ on a bed of thick, creamy and tangy sauce accompanied by potato cubes sauteed with crispy morsels of corned beef, herbs and spices to give a peppery zest to the egg.
For more substantial courses, we bypassed mouthwatering options such as rigatoni with foie gras sauce, chicken stew with couscous, crispy pork belly with polenta, and pan-fried barracuda. Instead, as suggested by service staff, we settled on the best-seller _ pork-cheek penne with black truffle, mushroom and red wine cream sauce (350 baht). This no-nonsense dish featured the tube-shaped pasta with exceptionally tender pieces of pork in creamy truffle-infused sauce. It took us just a few blinks to finish off the dish and to understand why it is so popular.
We also sampled the special plate of the day _ "15-hour lamb shoulder" with ginger carrot coulis, warm barley and mushroom salad (1,150 baht).
In generous portions, the lamb shoulder, sous-vided and roasted, came neatly sliced and placed on a pool of sweet ginger coulis surrounded by barley and mushroom. The quality of the meat was beyond criticism. It was succulent and tender without any hint of foul odour, while the barley added in an al dente texture.
The restaurant has only a few choices of dessert, but every single one of them is worth ordering.
A male friend at our table voted for the not-too-heavy banana pudding with caramel rice crispies and banana brulee (150 baht). Another loved the passion fruit chocolate tart (150 baht), which I thought a bit eggy. While my favourite was the homemade ice cream sandwich (150 baht) _ its snickerdoodle cookies with salted caramel ice cream filling was my top choice of flavour.
As a bar, which is open until 1am, Little Beast has a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Service was efficient and enjoyable, complementing the culinary excellence.