August 19, 2012 00:00
By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
A popular family eatery in Bang Rak has a new name and a new owner but the menu and the food remain reassuringly the same
Bangkok diners seeking authentic Thai dishes will probably find themselves scratching their heads over the ownership of the new Baan Garagade on Mahaset Road. One question being asked is whether this Bang Rak eatery is in fact a reincarnation of the old Baan Chamnong that used to occupy the same spot.
The answer is yes… sort of. The owner of the longstanding Baan Chamong, who has been involved with five-star hotels for the past three decades, decided to shut down the business. Surasak Tanpoonkiat, who runs the Chinese restaurant Delight Kitchen just up the road, wanted to expand his business, snatched up the premises and changed the name to Baan Garagade.
This 50-year-old, two-storey, wood-and-concrete house has been revamped but remains appealingly relaxed, clean and welcoming with predominately white walls and old-fashioned ceramic floor tiles. Surasak, who’s been running Delight Kitchen for more than 10 years, is well aware that taste matters more than the setting or a menu boasting dishes with fancy names.
“The culinary team is the same as the old Baan Chamong so you can be sure the food tastes the same. About 80 per cent of the old menu remains unchanged and I’ve added a few more Thai-Chinese dishes. Seafood is the speciality here. Diners can also order Chinese and Vietnamese dishes from Delight Kitchen,” Surasak says.
Designed more for families than romantic tete-a-tetes, the restaurant can accommodate about 100 diners downstairs and offers three private rooms upstairs each seating about 15.
Fried green curry with fish balls in coconut cream (Bt180) pairs perfectly with hot steamed rice. The texture of fish balls is pleasantly chewy and the curry is well spiced with lots of herbs and eggplant. Equally delectable are the sauteed red curry with pond snails in coconut milk, which is generously laden with cha-om leaves (Bt180) and the hotpot of sour soup with fried cha-om leaves, mixed vegetables and shrimps (Bt280).
Fried noodles with shrimp and water mimosa is a simple dish yet it’s surprisingly rare to find a restaurant that manages to get it right. Baan Garagade blends the fresh shrimp, crispy water mimosa and chewy noodles in exactly the right proportions and it’s a steal at just Bt140. Salted mackerel simmered in coconut milk laden with chilli and served with fresh vegetables (Bt170) was a new dish for me, but I found it too sweet for my liking.
The highlight is grilled giant river prawns served with a spicy dip that usually comes with a savoury raw meat salad (Bt140 for 100 gram). The river prawns from the Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River and they are bigger than their Thai cousins and contain more fat. The shrimp pairs well with the spicy dip, which is made from chopped lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chilli and shallot mixed with fresh milk, fish sauce and syrup. The big plate comes with three gigantic shrimps, whose combined weight is almost one kilogram.
Another worth trying is steamed sea bass in Hong Kong soy sauce (Bt400), which comes with a generous heaping of fresh, thinly sliced ginger, chilli and vegetables to liven things up. The flesh is cooked just right and there’s an addictive soup you’ll be spooning up even when the fish is gone. The eatery adds creative twists to a typical steamed egg by throwing in shrimps and tangy lime sauce laden with mint and garlic (Bt280).
Baan Garagade on Mahaset Road is open from 11.30am to 2pm and from 5 to 11pm, and all day on Sunday. Call (02) 631 8808 or (02) 234 1432.