Bangkok Post reviews
They'll always have Paris
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: May 10, 2013 at 8:11 am
Bakery-cum-cafe pulls in urbane punters with casual French fare served in a chic setting
The four-month-old establishment looks and smells more like a brasserie than bakery cafe.
Evidently, Calin La Boulangerie and Cafe is one of Bangkok's most popular eateries du jour. Since it opened in January, this attractive bakery-cum-cafe that looks and smells more like a brasserie than a pastry shop has happily pulled in urbane punters with casual French fare served in a chic setting a la Parisian sidewalk cafe.
From the lovely interior to its swanky tableware and serving equipment, choice ingredients and even the restaurant's playful name (Calin is French for "carry", which translates into Thai as "Oom" _ the owner's name), everything here has been hand-picked to reflect the proprietor's meticulous attention and sense of refinement.
However, while one may say that this 60-seater is a perfect paradise of both culinary and visual bliss, in this food writer's opinion, sometimes when the focus is on style, genuine gastronomic appreciation may sadly be subdued by over-expectation.
Our party of three had a nice lunch here recently and the food was truly enjoyable _ no argument. But judging from Calin's phenomenal popularity and social media fame, we expected the cuisine to be much more than simply enjoyable.
The best-selling duck confit with potato mousse and glazed vegetables.
Of the eight most recommended dishes we sampled, two were remarkable, four were delightful (one of them was on a par with what I cook at home), while the rest were basically mediocre.
We arrived the restaurant shortly before 11am just to avoid the crowd. The menu featured an impressive selection of brasserie classics, the likes of all-day breakfast items, sandwiches, appetisers, main courses and specials of the season.
And as we were waiting for our orders of Cafe Richard Coffee (130 baht per cup), I overheard someone at a nearby table praising the croissants and suddenly realised what I couldn't afford to miss.
Calin's homemade croissant can be ordered by the piece (65 baht) or as a part of a baked assortment basket (250 baht), which presents brioche, plain croissants, chocolate croissants and baguette slices _ all baked in house. The breads were served with small pearls of French gourmet butter and enjoyed with the boulangerie's house-concocted jam. The balsamic strawberry jam and orange-cinnamon jam really deserved two thumbs up.
Our late breakfast continued with the popular mushroom soup (240 baht), better known among regulars as Mario soup thanks to its resemblance to the Nintendo character. Arriving in a bowl topped with thin puff pastry, the tasty, not-too-creamy soup lightly perfumed with truffle was perfectly enjoyed with the buttery bread top.
From a selection of seasonal options written on the blackboard, we found utmost gratification in the white asparagus with smoked salmon and parmesan crumble (320 baht).
White asparagus with smoked salmon and parmesan crumble.
Five tubby twigs of the crunchy and naturally sweet veggie were complemented by succulent slices of exceptionally tasty smoked salmon (claimed to be from Queen Elizabeth's favourite brand), rich Hollandaise sauce (this divine egg yolk-butter emulsion is used in quite a few dishes here), crunchy green fava beans, peppery rocket leaves and crumbly parmesan garnish.
Highly impressive was the pan-fried foie gras with caramelised apple and balsamic-blackberry reduction (590 baht). Two slabs of goose liver, with crisp skin tightly encasing the silky smooth centre, came leavened with the delicious sauce reduction _ a blend of sweet fruit zest and a pleasantly bitter tang _ on a bed of firm and translucent apple wedges accompanied by arugula leaves for a refreshing mustardy finish.
Fans of rich and cheesy fare will find tastebud joy with the croque-monsieur (240 baht). This grilled sandwich, a classic staple of Gallic cafes, featured Canadian ham between slices of toast liberally smeared with secret-recipe Emmental cheese sauce. Calin's best-selling main course is duck confit (420 baht). Served with scrumptiously gummy potato mousse and glazed vegetables, the fried duck leg boasted very firm and chewy meat that possessed almost no hint of the typical saltiness, which is good for those concerned about sodium intake.
The bakery-cafe offers half-a-dozen dessert options such as coffee creme brulee, chocolate souffle and gooseberry mille-feulle. The signature croissant pudding (140 baht) was a simple yet delectable adaptation of classic bread pudding that presented no soggy stale bread in the vanilla custard mixture, but a flakily crispy croissant topping instead.
Over our 90-minute visit, the restaurant was gleefully flocked by local families, expatriates, fashionistas and "trend-catchers". Service by a team of 10 staff was brisk, although, due to the hectic business the day before, the kitchen ran out of some popular ingredients (sadly, we missed the chance to try monkfish pie and seasonal special razor clams with garlic and chilli). Reservations are recommended at all times.
Pan-fried foie gras with caramelised apple and blackberry reduction.
Mushroom soup with pastry topping.