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The wisdom of Wine 33

Boonrawd's wine bistro works because it has loads of leisurely charm



It was no surprise that success came quickly to Boonrawd Brewery's microbrewery Est.33, but the maker of Singha beer certainly turned heads by opening Wine 33. Clearly wine bars are gaining popularity in Bangkok, as much for their intimate appeal as for the lack of a dress code.

The perception that wine bars appeal only to highbrows has changed. The ones we have today are more casual and comfortable, with wide-ranging prices, and guests don't have to worry if they know little about wine.

Wine 33 has just celebrated its first anniversary next door to Est.33 at the Crystal Design Centre. It shares the same industrial-decor detail, with an iron framework reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower. Enclosed in glass and fronted by a fountain, the 120-square-metre bistro can accommodate 70 tipplers inside and 60 more outdoors.

The theme is travel in a bygone era, so the decor items include old clocks and radios, vintage books, maps and photo frames, safety boxes and wooden cabinets. The wine cellar looks like an old-fashioned elevator.

Artificial but realistic plants hanging from the ceiling lend a natural touch and soften the factory forbearance. The main bar is made of cement but is stylised to resemble the wing of an antique aeroplane.

The chairs come in a mix of vintage styles, both originals and reproductions. They include classic French Tolix steel chairs from the 1930s and the aluminium and the amazingly light Emeco navy chair, which was designed in the mid 1940s for US warships. There are also some wooden school chairs made in the 1960s in Germany.

As to the wine, there are some 100 labels from around the globe to choose among, divided into three categories - good, better and best, with the guideline being how much you want to spend. "Good" is a better-than-good

option, with prices running from Bt1,000 to Bt2,000 per bottle. "Better" is better than that at Bt2,000 to Bt3,000, and "best" lives up to its hyperbole - that stuff can reach Bt43,000.

Get a glass of any of them for Bt250 or Bt300.

The plebeian in your crowd of friends can have one of the copper beers brewed next door at Est.33. It's a blend of pearl hops and red malt from Germany and Thai-germinated brown rice. A glass, about a third of a litre, costs Bt120. Soft drinks and cocktails are also available.

Wine 33 gets its food from Le Vendome, the fine-dining French restaurant on Sukhumvit Road. The chefs there created "more casual" versions of their most popular dishes to match the wine bistro's affordable appeal to Everyman.

The Caesar Salad (Bt280) is fresh and crispy and the Cajun Shrimp (Bt190) has its swimmers sauteed with tomato and peppers in a fiery home-made sauce.

The Pan-seared Tuna with pepper and salad (Bt320) is delectable and great value for the money. The Roasted Yellowtail Kingfish (Bt420) is first pan-seared with olive oil before roasting and sits atop mashed potatoes.

Black-ink Seafood Spaghetti with a heavy chilli kick and Mud Crab Capellini are Bt380 each. Then there's Australian 200-gram rib-eye steak with pepper sauce (Bt1,300) and oven-roasted Kurobuta pork loin (Bt420) that comes wrapped in smoked bacon on a bed of braised red onions and lentils.

Definitely save room for dessert, specifically the Warm Banana Pudding (Bt190), in which the caramelised banana meets chocolate ganache and vanilla sauce.

RAISE A GLASS

Wine 33 is at the Crystal Design Centre on Ekamai-Ram Indra Road and is open daily from 6pm to midnight. Call (02) 102 2232-33.


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