Serving green realness
Despite the despicable air quality we all long for green open spaces to hang out. A longing, which has been heard by new cafes, bars and dining spaces. In a concrete jungle where every square metre is a baht sign, it is rare to find such spaces.
However, there are those who are ready to forsake a hefty bank balance to cater to the crowd. Enter H_Dining on Sukhumvit 38. Owned by the same people as Hands and Heart coffee roasters -- Makhawan Kijyakanont, Monwalee Weerakulphuwaphat and Fuangfu Jirathitivanich -- the café and restaurant is in a house, whose garden area has been left untouched and is now occupied by Thai-style picnic tables, which is also shared with Dick Hotdog and Yard Bar. The garden is shaded by plenty of trees and is breezy with the help of garden fans.
The interiors of H_Dining is very minimalist and very Scandinavian-inspired. On the ground floor, wooden tables and chairs surround the coffee bar, which also doubles up as the bar. Upstairs are three dining rooms, including a private one.
Chef Kanta "Toiting" Siddidharm did a three-month internship in Copenhagen, Denmark and most of her menu draws inspiration from there. "But I have mixed that with Asian flavours as Scandinavian flavours are too cheesy," she adds.
The menu is a mix of small plates, sharing platters, healthy bits and all-day breakfast dishes. Why all-day breakfast, you ask? "Breakfast generally doesn't need to be eaten only in the morning. One may crave scrambled eggs and sausages for lunch or dinner, so with the all-day dining concept it puts all this kind of food forward," says the chef.
Cheese & wine.
Crispy pork rice.
From top left: Danish cold soup, Burrata cheese and tomato, and Pork sandwich and kimchi.
The Pork sandwich and kimchi (B260) is pork cooked bulgogi-style, referring to Korean barbecued meats. Shredded pork is served on half a brioche, accompanied by housemade kimchi, which is fermented for four or five days. The kimchi is quite potent, in a nice way, for less than a week's fermentation. If you're in the mood for something more substantial, try the Thai ragu Parmigiano pasta (B380). "I don't like to cook beef, especially steak, as I am not good at it. So I cook a beef stew and then shred it into the sauce. The herbs lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal, etc," says chef Toiting of her dish.
For the hipsters, there is Avocado on toast (B220), which comes with Greek yoghurt, mixed herbs and beetroot powder. For the health-conscious, there is Granola, yoghurt and seasonal fruits (B180), with everything being housemade, save for the fruit (naturlich), accompanied by candied bell pepper.
What is much needed on a hot day is the Danish cold soup (B160), which is buttermilk, vanilla cookies and seasonal fruit. The buttermilk is made in-house with the yoghurt being infused with vanilla, lemon juice and cardamom. Since starfruit is in season, expect to see stars in your soup. The dish has powdered beetroot sprinkled on it, making it very IG worthy. It is pretty close to the original Danish dish. Pun intended.
H_Dining has a separate Snack menu, which are small bits. Recommended is the Burrata cheese and tomato (B280), which is chef Toiting's favourite on the menu. This dish was inspired by a trip to the jungles of Chiang Mai. "In the jungle, I was given a tomato-based nam phrik, which was delicious. It immediately made me think of the Caprese salad and I was inspired to put the kapi [fermented shrimp paste] in a Caprese salad," she says. Does this unique combo work? Yes it does, but only because the kapi has a subtle taste to it. The creamy burrata goes well with the spicy tomato shrimp paste and fresh cherry tomatoes from Chiang Mai.
Dinner has its own menu, too, serving the likes of H Caesar's salad (B240). Lettuce, pickled cucumber, boiled egg, Parmigiano, fried gourami and sourdough croutons complete chef Toiting's interpretation of the traditional Italian salad. "I use gourami instead of anchovies and bacon. That is the same with our mixed salad, which has beetroot," she says.
My favourite of the dinner menu is the Roasted eggplant with chilli sauce (B160). Almost everything in this dish is made in-house, with 90% of H_Dining's produce coming from Chiang Mai. The chilli sauce is housemade and is a blend of the long red chillies or phrik jinda, the beloved phrik kee noo or bird's eye chilli, sugar and miso. I love roasted aubergines and did like the addition of burnt organic cow's milk, which took me back to the times when my mum used to make ghee. "I was once boiling milk to make cheese, but forgot about it and what remained was burnt milk. But it tasted good so I put it together with the eggplant, because I like eggplant and it is served with housemade Siracha," says the chef, who used to previously work at the Michelin-starred 80/20.
Though there is a dinner menu, there may are specials that are featured. Like the Chinese New Year dish that is now a special, due to popular demand. Crispy pork rice (B280) is stir fried nam liab-style with green olives instead of black, olive oil and Sichuan chilli oil, and topped with crispy pork and housemade oyster sauce. The dish is finished off with curly kale, brown butter and crispy shallots. It is accompanied with a vinegar-based chilli sauce that is the same as the one served with khao ka moo or stewed pork leg. The oyster sauce is made with pork stock, fried oysters, garlic and shallots and blended with coriander root and reduced.
If you have space for just one dessert, go for the Cheese & wine (260). Inspired by the chef's love for pairing wine and cheese, she makes a red wine reduction and a Parmesan ice cream. This is topped with shredded pickled red cabbage and raw honey from Chiang Mai. Yum!
For the H blend parfait (B240), chef Toiting uses the Thai coffee from Hands and Heart "that cannot be served but can be used to cook with". The coffee and ice cream base is infused for 24 hours and served with almond praline, coffee cake and a wheat waffle. The organic wheat flour is from Chiang Mai. The fruit in the crème brûlée (B180) changes according to season; currently it's mulberry. The Ice cream sandwich (B180) is inspired by street vendors. At H_Dining, it is made with dulce de leche, smoked with Thai candles, topped with pumpkin seeds and served in a puff pastry.
H_Dining does fresh pressed juices, smoothies and cocktails. The extensive wine list is unconventional and natural, with each bottle handpicked by Naturalista Wines.
Keeping in line with their concept, H_Dining makes sure their suppliers are sustainable and have the planet's benefit at heart. No plastic bottles or straws here! All the trees came with the property and all new structure has been built around them. A few of the trees are more than 100 years old!
The letter "h" comes from their origin, their first coffee shop on Sukhumvit 38, called Hands & Heart Coffee. The owners perceive that "h" stands for heart, hands, happiness, home and so on.
The kitchen has a separate bakery, where everything is made in small batches and fresh daily. A choice of pastries and bread is available for sale each day, like sourdough, doughnuts, potato pesto buns, banana bread, to name a few.
The coffee is sourced from northern Thailand and is roasted in-house.
The red sploshes on the menu are recommended items.
Do feel free to bring your pets when dining here, as the space is "very very very pet-friendly".
VALUE & VERDICT
H_Dining has managed to create a green outdoor and indoor space, which is more like a community, especially with the inclusion of Dick and Yard Bar. Though the menu may not come with a wow factor, with the natural wines, speciality coffee, hearty food, scrumptious hotdogs and craft beer on offer, it has something for everyone and is probably the most-affordable hangout in the Thong Lor area. And the best part of it all, only add 7% VAT is added to your bill.
The crafty named stall of sorts in H_Dining is owned by Pakawan Tirapairoj and serves up hotdogs. With the "Your Hotdog Friend" tagline, it serves a choice of six. Though it loses points for nothing being made in-house. I tried the Big dick boy (B240), which comes with two thin pork sausages, bacon, Dick original sauce, mozzarella, lime aioli, Dijon mustard and French fries. In this case, size matters and I would have preferred one thick dick instead of two thin ones. The dick tasted pretty average and didn't stand out. Shower not a grower, clearly.
Big dick boy with the Thai dick and housemade lemonade.
Since I've never had Thai dick (B175) I had to try this. The sausage is the northern sai oua, slathered with Thai dick sauce, pickles, pork crackling and topped with a fried egg. I ain't missing out on much it seems, except spice as I preferred if the Thai dick had a bit more spunk. Though the fried egg was a tad difficult to fit into my mouth (and I've got a big one) along with the sausage, bun and condiments. This required plenty of tissue as the sauce dripped down the side of my mouth. #Protip: Make sure you have plenty. There are plenty of dicks to suit all tastes and mouths; the Yummy munchie dick (B175), the Viet dick dog (B220) or the Cheesy dick (B150). In case that doesn't satisfy your needs, the housemade Lemonade (B75) will definitely satiate your thirst.
Who doesn't love daytime drinking? You, you and you! Though Yard Bar is pretty cool even during the evenings. The bar may be tiny, but it is packed with specially selected craft beers, that won't burn a hole in your wallet (B140-B320), and cocktails (B260-B360). The bar has a day and night feel, which changes depending on when you're visiting.
Co-owner Sammy Roolant says that one of the things missing in Bangkok is a beer garden in a nice outdoor setting and Yard Bar fills that need (it does have an air-conditioned space for those who can't handle the heat). The focus is on top-end beers and spirits. Try the signature Roasted negroni (B360), which is a rum-based negroni with a dash of espresso from Hands and Heart and Lindt chocolate. All drinks are 50ml pours and the G&T's use only premium tonics. Need more? To go with the outdoor vibe, they also serve pina coladas. Don't leave without a shot of whiskey that has been made from beer and aged in bourbon and sherry casks.