Thursday, 8 October 2015

Err Rustic Thai, Bangkok, Thailand (Alissa and Don Eat Asia)

When planning for our trip to Bangkok and Hong Kong, Bo.Lan was one of the restaurants high on our list of places to check out. Unfortunately, the poor Aussie Dollar vs Hong Kong's pegged currency meant our time in Hong Kong was set to be much more expensive than we had initially planned, so cuts had to be made to our initially more extravagant plans for both countries. Bo.Lan was one of the restaurants that was unfortunately cut, however we were alerted to the existence of Err - a new 'urban rustic' Thai restaurant from chefs Bo and Dylan of Bo.Lan. Excited by the chance of trying their food (albeit in a more casual setting), Alissa an I quickly added it as a last minute addition to our itinerary.

Located in a quiet laneway a short walk from either Wat Pho or the Flower Market, Err looks like the kind of old school eatery once common to South East Asia, but once inside the restaurant, Alissa and I were greeted by a kaleidoscopic vision of Postmodern Asian kitsch, complete with cushions printed with Pad Thai and slices of Roast Pork juxtaposed against the fairly traditional tables and seats. This place is really cool and visually striking, and immediately defines itself as a restaurant that does not take itself too seriously.

Having come to the restaurant for lunch, we were apparently not able to be served alcohol at the time. Thankfully, the restaurant had a mocktail list, humourously referring to it as a nostalgic throwback to an earlier police rule era. Alissa and I went with the Triple Splash and Where's the Alcohol (or something similar) respectively. Both were good, bright and refreshing, with the Triple Splash in particular having a nice kick due to the use of chilli.

Perhaps due to the somewhat strong accent of the waitress serving us, we did not quite understand what was happening when a gum ball machine was brought to our table for us to try our luck with. After putting a 1 Baht coin in the slot, and opening the plastic gum ball that came out, we read a piece of paper cryptically reading 'Flower Market Garden No. 1'. Our waitress said something we didn't quite get, and walked away.
'I don't know what just happened', I said to Alissa.
'Yeah, I'm not sure either.'

As it turns out Flower Market Garden No. 1 is a cocktail, and was our prize for playing the game of chance. Given that they couldn't serve alcohol at the time, the drink was made as a mocktail, and was nice and refreshing due to its Pink Guava and Mint flavour.

Our first dish to arrive was Nang Kai Tort - Chicken 'Movie' with home-made See-ra-cha Sauce. This was basically a nice, crispy and salty basket of Chicken Skin - and was as delicious as that sounds. The house made See-ra-cha was not quite as smokey and as thick as the classic Sriracha, but had a really good, fresh punch to it. This made for a good start to the meal, being a great bar snack or amuse bouche style dish that whetted our appetite.

We next sampled the Sai Krok Issan - Issan Style Pork Sausage cured with organic gaba rice. This was really delicious, having a great, funky sourness and nice course texture that was superior to the version we tried earlier in the week at Som Tum Nua. The Err version had what tasted like a more complex mix of herbs and spices than what we had at Som Tum Nua, and was nice with the fresh crunch of the Cabbage.

Our waitress recommended the Pad Pak Bung - Stir-fried Morning Glory with Shrimp Paste, and was a very good recommendation on her part. Better known to me as Kangkong, the Morning Glory was really delicious, with its nice spinach-like flavour stir-fried with good, stinky fermented shrimp paste giving it a massive punch of umami, with dried shrimps on top adding even more stinky deliciousness. Often this kind of stir-fried vegetable dish can be a bit one note and lean to heavily on saltiness when its cooked with just Oyster Sauce, however this was very well balanced - and just as 'meaty' a dish as the actual meat dishes we selected.

After reading the description 'Braised southern style Pork Belly and Ribs with Pepper & Toddy Palm Sugar', Alissa and I knew we had to order the Moo Hong. Both cuts of pork were nicely braised for a lovely melt in your mouth texture, with the braising liquid tasting like a Masterstock with pepper and a mild vinegariness accompanied by the sweetness of the Toddy Palm Sugar. The fried Shallots on top were nice and crispy and added pungency and texture. This dish was so good that Alissa decided to make a piece of the pork her last bite before dessert.

Alissa had been dying to try a Green Curry while we were in Thailand so we just had to order the Geng Kiew Wan Gai Bann - Green Curry of chicken on the bone with all the best bits. The best bits of chicken were not what most people would probably consider the best bits, with a lot of odd secondary (and some might even say tertiary) cuts, including chicken feet and giblets. We actually really liked this charmingly street creative decision, particularly enjoying getting pieces of liver and the gelatinous goodness of the feet, along with pea eggplants cooked while still have a slight vegetable crunch. The Green Curry itself was very delicious and complex, with whole leaves of Kaffir Lime and chunks of Chilli throughout this rustic but very fine curry.

Thai Toffees were served as an after dinner treat. These toffees that had a slightly unusual flavour we could not quite put our fingers on, but were enjoyable nevertheless.

Wanting to try a dessert beyond a candy, we decided to order the Coconut Ice Cream. The ice cream was really well made, with a smooth texture and nice coconut flavour. Peanuts and candied and/or dried Fruits flecked throughout gave its even more texture and interest. This was a very tasty if somewhat simple end to the meal that was executed very well.

The Verdict: Exceptional
As Alissa and I left Err, we both agreed that it was the best and most fun Thai meal we had had in Bangkok to that point, and was it only eclipsed by our dinner at Nahm that same evening. We loved the quality of the food - the pedigree of chefs Bo and Dylan can definitely be felt, even if its distinctly street, rustic and casual. The fact it was so fun - with random touches like the Gum Ball Machine and the irreverent references throughout their website to everything from paying off cops and other lighthearted jokes - made it very appealing, and was a great way to differentiate the restaurant from the more fine dining level Thai restaurants such a Bo.Lan. Being fairly new, the restaurant was not particularly busy during our visit, but I can imagine this really being one of the places to be once people work out what this place is about. 

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