Saturday, January 05, 2008

A lazy Saturday afternoon at Greyhound.

After the rush of the Christmas holiday and the crush of our first week back at work, Bordeaux and I decided to spend our weekend relaxing. We chose to eat at a branch of the popular Greyhound Cafe, located in the J Avenue shopping centre on Thong Lor. Though we had been to another Greyhound location for coffee, we had never eaten anything more than dessert. I had long been curious about the food, but worried that the food at Greyhound might be lacking; the cafe resting simply on its hip image. Thankfully I was wrong, and the combination of flavorful food and hip atmosphere made this meal one of the nicest I've had out in Bangkok.

Like the branches in the Central Chitlom and the Emporium department stores, the atmosphere at Greyhound Thong Lo is hip and modern, with a black and white color palette that's warmed with wood tables and tweed chairs. The furniture is mod, and the decor minimal: a few posters on the bare wall, and a blackboard wall scrawled with the menu's highlights. The branch on Thong Lo is set apart, however, for offering outdoor seating: a row of tables that wrap around the cafe's windows in a leafy, shaded courtyard. Misters cooled the city's heat, and geckos explored the patio to the sound of distant birdsong. The result was an atmosphere that seems a reflection of Bangkok's dual sides: both urban and tropical. The menu is similarly multi-sided, most items a mix of Thai, East Asian, and Western inspiration. Among the diverse items on the menu were homemade pate, Italian mussel and clam soup, nam prik plaa (an Isaan dip of chili and fish), beef salad with chili sauce, and salmon sashimi. After deliberating, we each managed to choose.

Bordeaux ordered the complicated noodle, a take on fresh Vietnamese springolls. Sheets of sticky, fatty noodles were piled neatly next to a dish of ground pork filling. The springrolls could be wrapped with lettuce to change the texture, or seasoned with the addition of a garlic chili sauce and sprigs of fresh cilantro for an added bite. The freshness of the noodles and the seasonings worked well to off-set the richness of the ground pork, and with the crispness of the lettuce, created a clean, refreshing, tasty meal.

I had been craving seafood every since leaving the beach last week, so I chose the spicy Thai-style spaghetti with seafood. The shrimp were fat and juicy, the squid smooth, the clams well flavored. The pasta was deliciously oily, and mixed through with mushrooms and tomatoes, and enhanced with basil leaves, strips of red chili, and strands of fiery, fresh peppercorn. It was a perfect combination of flavors, both distinctly Thai, and yet comfortingly familiar.

We were feeling sated after the meal, but paged through the dessert menu out of curiosity. Like the rest of Greyhound's offerings, the desserts represented a mix of local and Western flavors. There were brownies, cheesecake, and and crepes, but also black jelly, and lod chod singapore. We gave in, but opted for the lightest option, the tub tim krob: pink water chestnuts on an coconut sorbet. It was the perfect choice to complete the meal. The water chestnuts had a crisp texture that contrasted with the slippery strands of fresh coconut. The sorbet, more an icy coconut slush, was subtly sweet and nicely cooling. It was a refreshing, exotic finish to a delicious afternoon out.

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