July 01, 2012 00:00 By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
When the 4 Garcons don't feel posh they eat at Joe's Table
The quartet of “boys” who found success with their downtown Bangkok restaurant 4 Garcons have opened another one on the outskirts called Joe’s Table. In place of classic French food, though, it serves “comfort food” from West and East.
Evidently Joe is head chef and co-owner Rujapong Sukhabote’s nickname – he’s a gastroenterologist by day, amazingly enough. “‘Joe’ is just a neutral name, easy to say and casually farang,” explains the pastry-chef-co-owner Ayusakorn “Van” Arayangkoon. “Diners feel more at ease having ‘Joe’ cook for them.”
Joe’s two-month-old Table, at the new lifestyle mall Promenade, is bright with tall windows and cosy with comfy beige sofas, blue chairs straight out of the ’60s. Yellow cushions complement the exterior yellow awning.
Plant life thrives. WiFi is free. Stacks of magazines demand browsing. This is a lovely place to linger.
Before you begin lingering in earnest, though, you have to choose which of the 100 dishes on the menu will keep your tummy company. There’s a lot of fusion food and many intriguing twists. You can have pulled-duck pasta, Buffalo wings and banana-blossom salad.
Also on offer are 15 of the most popular dishes from 4 Garcons, including frog’s legs in butter, ox-cheek bourguignon and salad with anchovy dressing. They all come with funky side dishes to remind you that Joe doesn’t do “fine dining”.
“They’re the casual version of the 4 Garcons entrees,” says Ayusakorn. “People tend to view French cuisine as classy but expensive, despite the small portions. Here things are more comfortable – the French food is easy to eat and affordable.”
Well, Bt120 for French fries doesn’t seem cheap, but they use Holland potatoes, cut in thick thumbs and deep-fried twice, first at a low 180 degrees for eight minutes to soften the spud. Then they get another four minutes at 200 degrees to crisp them up.
Van and Joe fell in love with Buffalo wings while studying in the US. “We had them at a Thai restaurant in San Francisco and they were delicious!” says Van. Joe’s Bt240 version is the right mix of sweet and spicy. “The secret is to use sweet chilli sauce together with the usual spicy barbecue sauce.”
The Bt170 Croque Monsieur is a hot ham-and-Gruyere-cheese sandwich with Mornay sauce. The bread is baked fresh every day and sliced thick.
Duck confit with sauteed potato, a favourite at 4 Garcons, reappears at Joe’s Table for Bt350 but with an Isaan-style jaew dip, a northern green-chilli nam prik num dip and black sticky rice accompanying the crispy brown duck.
The spaghetti is cooked with num liab – the Chinese pickled black olive – and topped with golden-brown garlic for Bt180. The Bt350 ox-cheek bourguignon is never rushed, the meat braised slowly in red wine with carrot, celery and onion.
Joe spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and is now cooking Javanese-style fried rice with salted fish (Bt185). It’s served with lightly grilled green onions, shallots, chillies and garlic.
Downtown’s 4 Garcons benefited from the four pals’ several weeks of “field research” in Paris and Lyon. The Vietnamese dishes at Joe’s Table similarly owe their authenticity to a month-long culinary tour of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
“Our mission was to eat, eat and eat,” Van laughs. “Thais love Vietnamese food and the ingredients are similar to ours, but there’s a lot of borrowing as well from French cooking techniques, which we specialise in.
“The freshness of the ingredients is always crucial, but we also adjust the taste to please the Thai palate more. For the spring roll dip, instead of using coconut juice we use vinegar, chilli and roasted peanut for a stronger taste.”
Joe’s spring rolls (Bt170) do, |however, stick with rice paper |from Vietnam that’s so thin you |can count the shrimps inside |nestled among rice noodles, butterhead lettuce, red and green oats and bean sprouts.
Dessert? “Mais oui!” Or rather, “You bet, buddy!” Among the great choices are the Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream (Bt150), Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter (Bt125) and Lemon Meringue Tart (Bt100).
Plus, if it’s a Sunday evening, there’s a jazz trio playing.
<< Joe’s Table is on the second floor of the Promenade on Ram-Indra Road, next to the Fashion Island mall.