Thai people have a way of expressing negatively charged words in nicer-sounding terms. For example, kathoey takes on a word that means the second kind of woman or a gender-crossing woman (or man?), while a soi dog is called a sunak if you want to appear pretentiously proper. The name for a type of reptile often seen dwelling in Lumpini Park and canals is considered so offensive some refer to it as tua ngern tua thong (silver-and-gold animal), even though no Thai in their right minds would ever hug one like it's made of treasure.
Along similar lines, the word "fusion food" has become the proverbial "F word" in the Bangkok dining scene. It verges so close to cliche that some restaurants try to distance themselves from it even though they blatantly serve dishes from cookbooks of multiple countries.
Hence, we've come across terms like "twisted flavours", "international flavours" and "East meets West". What's next? Border-crossing food? Culinary cross-pollution? Menu migration?
A recent addition to the fusion confusion in Bangkok is Clove, named from the ingredient garlic that appears in recipes of many countries. It too tries to distance itself from the F word by calling its fare "cosmopolitan" as it serves fusion and western food geared towards the taste of worldly city folks.
Mixed cold cuts
Clove is a two-storey house turned into a restaurant, standing where Sode Samo bar used to. There are different dining settings to choose from including al fresco in the front garden and a private room on the second floor of the main building. On the right of the pathway leading to the main building is a smaller but more colourful house that serves as a cocktail bar. The interior of the main building feels like a classy and shiny place for grown-ups to gather and have a dignified dinner and wine over bossa nova in the background.
Burst sausage pieces on a bed of rocket with balsamic dressing may look like a crime scene on a plate to the eyes but, fortunately, Italian sausage salad (B350; prices subject to tax and service charge) tastes great on the tongue. Smoky and juicy meat deliciously contrasts peppery leaves. The only crime the dish commits is that it's gone in less than 10 bites.
Another gone-too-soon delight is Norwegian salmon salad (B250). Drenched in a spicy Thai-style dressing, six small rolls of salmon with veggies inside produce a big and flavourful impression. A drop of shrimp roe on top works like icing on the cake.
Italian sausage salad
Another fusion dish without confusion is NZ beef salad (B270). The slices of meat don't drown in the spicy dressing while grapes add a sweet juice so you don't have to reach for a glass of water.
Mixed cold cuts (B590) shouldn't generate a mixed response. It's delightful all the way through. Salty sensations from four types of cold cuts on this platter can be paired with different condiments. For a strong match, combine with black or green olives. For a more balanced and refreshing combo, pair them with melon or cherry tomato.
Arrabiata seafood (B380) proves classic sauces are classic for a reason. Al dente spaghetti, mussels, clams, prawns and squids are well mixed with the aromatic sauce that also offers some heat.
Crepe Suzette (B340) is a let down at this kind of price. You'll get your good ol' crepe with orange sauce, vanilla ice cream, and cherry. It does what it's supposed to, giving you some play between hot and cold but there's no special effect whatsoever.
Head to the wine cellar at the entrance of the dining room for some grape juice from France, Italian, Chile and Thailand. Bottles start at B500. Corkage is B500. Try a cocktail wine for B250. Beers are B120-B190 by the glass.
While the dishes are good in my book, none of them are novel enough to really put me on the edge of my dining chair or broaden my eating horizon like, perhaps, "cosmopolitan food" is supposed to. There's nothing real to complain about except for the hefty pricing, which probably won't be a problem for globe-trotting cosmopolites.
However there is no need to mask fusion creations with a fancy-sounding word. Because fusion food done right by any other name would taste as good.G
NZ beef salad
About the author
- Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter