More for less

Erstwhile fine dining venue adopts a more playful, budget-friendly approach without stinting on quality

When restaurants want to inject a new lease of life, they usually raise prices as they refurbish their venues believing this will boost business. That seems to make sense.

The dining area is set in two zones: the high-ceiling bistro-style air-con chamber and the large open-air patio offering chic resort lounging.

But the restaurant industry is like other industries in which expansion doesn't necessarily mean improvement, while the soaring menu prices are little more than formidable digits to customers. For some savvy restaurateurs, however, upgrading practically means downsizing.

Amontre Playroom & Brasserie is an impressive illustration of such a revolutionary approach.

The US scallops with Australian beef blanket and French foie gras sauce.

Amontre was launched in 2008 as a chic fine dining establishment catering mainly to the financial quarter's high-ranking executives with haute fusion fare (priced 220 baht to 1,000 baht per dish). The initial stage of the business went well, resulting in the opening of its sister eatery, All Six to Twelve bar, at the end of 2011, which quickly became the city's hot spot for eating, hobnobbing and Instagramming. That was before the more sober Amontre started to age and fade from the radar.

Last November the eatery underwent a facelift. Now with a younger, cuter and more playful look, Amontre is dubbed a "playroom-cum-brasserie", boasting a new menu that's surprisingly budget-friendly yet whose quality hasn't been compromised.

The restaurant's cuisine reflects its convivial visible concept. Dishes are simple, approachable and, most importantly, highly enjoyable, graced with distinctive culinary touches. They are listed in categories including bar snacks, salads, sandwiches & burgers, soups, pasta, rice & noodles and desserts, with prices ranging from 90-640 baht.

The burger moo ping is ideal for those craving the zest of a local street treat.

As a bar (the mezzanine foyer is set to resemble a sports bar with beer taps, table soccer and TV projector), it offers a selection of 30 international beers as well as an impressive variety of signature cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.

Green Day, made with melon liqueur and rum (280 baht); Playroom, a beer-like cocktail with a sweet honey tang (300 baht); and Raspberry Daisy, a blend of raspberry liqueur and vodka (280 baht).

Here, it's never a crime to depend solely on the bar snacks when it comes to filling one's stomach.

From the extensive list of generously portioned snack items, we were first impressed with Parma Moz Crisp (220 baht), featuring crispy flour tortilla sheets stuffed with salty Parma ham from Serrano, mild and milky fresh mozzarella and mustardy rocket leaves.

Equally pleasant were lamb tacos, presenting corn tortilla with Bolognese-like lamb ragout salsa (180 baht); Matacana, a Latin- and Indian-inspired delicacy featuring fried butter pastry filled with prawn and capsicum sauce and served with fresh cucumber relish (120 baht); and salmon cup, presenting smoked salmon frothed with spiced tartare mayo in puff pastry cups (140 baht).

The not-to-be-missed rigatoni carbonara with Thai fermented pork sausage.

A more substantial and sophisticated option truly worth ordering from the snack list is Dressed-up Scallop (380 baht). The dish offered three jumbo US scallops blanketed in thin slices of Australian beef sirloin to be enjoyed with muddy-looking foie gras sauce. Though I'd never have much faith in such an outlandish matrimony of ingredients, I found this combination really pleasing to the palate.

The juicy beef flavour from the slightly cooked sirloin intermingled wonderfully with the naturally sweet shellfish as the thick sauce, made with red wine, goose liver and herbs, complemented the couple splendidly.

For those craving some street-side zest, I recommend burger moo ping (180 baht). It's Thai-style grilled pork enjoyed on a mini burger bun with fresh tomatoes, shallots, spring onion, sawtooth coriander and mint. The succulent pork, house-marinated and flame-grilled, was so flavourful that it needed no help from the tasty jaew sauce, which was offered on the side.

Of course, the swanky moo ping burger isn't the only burger on offer here. If you're in the mood for the real hefty deal, go for Le Deluxe Burger (260 baht), featuring a homemade beef patty, foie gras slab, Swiss raclette cheese and strawberry accompanied by rocket salad. My favourite main entree of the evening was rigatoni carbonara with naem (165 baht). At first, I couldn't imagine how naem, or Thai fermented pork sausage, could go well with a creamy Western recipe. Yet, rich in taste and consistency, the dish made with al dente tube pasta, sour sausage, cream, eggs and chillies, proved a subtle concoction of various pungent flavours.

Another pasta dish worth having is spaghetti tom yum goong (260 baht). This all-time best-seller featured the Italian noodles sauteed in a piquant tom yum sauce, made with finely chopped lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal and chillies, to accompany a large grilled tiger prawn.

Fans of fried rice cannot miss Amontre's gourmet fried rice with foie gras (160 baht). Served beneath an "Italian-Thai" khai jiew omelette, the dish presented tiny cubes of seared goose liver wok-tossed with rice, morsels of pickled plum and a choice of beef or pork, to yield an extraordinary and addictive mouthfeel.

Amontre is a fair haven for those with a sweet tooth. From a dozen decent options, the Rich Brownie (145 baht), exhibiting small brownie cubes, slices of banana, dollops of cream and chocolate sauce, proved luscious.

The macho upstairs bar with beerinspired decor.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter