The Khao San area isn't the first place you would think of when it comes to fine dining. It usually conjures up nightmares of eating oily roadside pad thai that will probably lead to IBS. However, despite being known as a budget destination for tourists and locals looking for a crazy time, Khao San also has some places that offer something above street standard.
The recently opened Chez Bruno is one such venue attempting to bring a classy ambience to the same street that has probably seen some of Bangkok's drunkest revellers stumble through it (if only that road could talk, oh the stories we would hear). A two-storey house built by an aristocratic family about a century ago has been converted into this fusion restaurant, and it breathes refined air into Khao San's budget-conscious atmosphere.
Sitting in the well-preserved house may make you feel like you've gone back to a bygone era when people travelled by boats, trams and rickshaws. That is, until you see a backpacker with dreadlocks walk by and shatter the illusion.
Egyptian artefacts make up the decor in the private dining room, along with a velvety vintage sofa in another room, which is a nice respite from the multitude of Red Bull T-shirts in the streets outside.
While the ambience of Chez Bruno is very impressive, unfortunately the food has both high and low points. Chez Bruno's take on French onion soup (B150) doesn't work for me. The two bread slices topped with melted cheese get soggy fast since it's served already swimming in the so-so soup, like day-old krathongs that have lost their buoyancy.
Mussel pomodoro (B250) fares much better with juicy and plump New Zealand mussels lathered in aromatic tomato sauce. The garlic bread is crunchy and firm but absorbs the delicious sauce like a sponge.
Another dish done right is Olio bacon (B220), which offers al dente spaghetti with the delightful scent of olive oil, truffle oil and heat from chilli and pepper. The crispy bacon and enoki mushroom are served in generous portions; however, if these ingredients were chopped up more finely, it would be easier to eat with the spaghetti in one bite, instead of having to fork them up individually.
BELOW:French onion soup
Served with potato wedges and a simple salad, Duck confit (B750) is crisp without being dry. The skin of duck leg is deliciously crunchy while the strong-flavoured meat is complemented by the sweet and sour taste of juniper berry sauce.
Like the forgery services on offer along Khao San, Chocolate cake & vanilla ice cream (B180) looks all kinds of right on the outside but deep down isn't a genuine article. With this dessert, you would expect the cake to have a firm exterior with the chocolate lava inside ready to ooze out when you cut into it. What you get instead is more of a mushy mess that leaves nothing to be excited about.
While there are hits and misses with the food at Chez Bruno, the ambience is definitely the winner if you're tired of being surrounded by rowdy bucket-drinking partiers. However, part of Khao San's unique charm is you always know what to expect; it's not like anybody would ever consider proposing to their significant other there, or don their fancy designer duds when visiting. Thus, it seems unlikely that Bangkokians would go all the way to Khao San just to dine at Chez Bruno, but it could be a viable option for tourists staying in the area who are sick of (and from) all the oily pad thai on the street.
LEFT:Mussel pomodoro & ABOVE:Chocolate cake & vanilla ice cream
Chez Bruno Restaurant & Wine Bar
201 Khao San-Ram Buttri Road
About the author
- Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter