Suan Bua Thai Fine Dining at Centara Grand Ladprao

Itwas a semi-work-and-social lunch. But the meal was quite good that I want to spread the words. We were at Suan Bua Thai restaurant at the Centara Grand Ladprao not too long ago with a mission to eat Thai summer rice or Khao Chae, now in season until end of May (Bt590++ per set). But then, their regular menu was vast and we picked a few things there, too. Turned out that this is one underrated Thai restaurant that deserves more attention. The place is beautiful, set on the ground floor overlooking a lush garden with a glimpse of the hotel’s swimming pool. The ambiance is cosy, yet upscale and the food is tasty, scrumptious even, and beautifully posh enough to be called a fine-dining.

Suan Bua is the name of the Thai restaurants of ‘Centara’ – the hotel chain owned by one of Thailand’s richest families. Centara Hotels have properties from north to south of the Thailand, and a few more in places like Vietnam, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Qatar and Oman. But for Thais, especially those growing up in the 1990s or earlier, the name Central or Centara for their properties, usually mean the department stores. Hence a lot of Centara hotels connected to their Central department stores. And their flagship back the heyday is not the one at the Ratchaprasong intersection, but this one here at the five-pronged intersection of Ladprao (Ha Yaek Ladprao). Centara Grand Ladprao has been the ‘Central Plaza’ that pioneered many other similar settings of hotel+mall+plaza to come. But this is the place that everything first took place. The cool plaza + Central department store to walk and shop about or observe the latest street fashion, and the Centara hotel + convention center + a lot of restaurants in different cuisines that cater to not only the in-house guests, but also those looking for quieter, more secluded settings or more exclusive ambiance for their meals.

We had a large set of Khao Chae to share. As you might have already noticed, we are now riding on the crest of Thai food revival right here in Bangkok. The high numbers of Khao Chae available in the summer of 2017 have transformed the dish from being rare and exclusive to being ubiquitous and even competitive. We have so many Khao Chae to choose from this year, and it means a lot of crafted and meticulous Khao Chae like never before. Khao Chae at Suan Bua is available in ‘pork’ and ‘beef,’ meaning you can choose from ‘sweet pork’ or ‘sweet beef.’ But other than that, everything else remains typical: polished crunchy steamed rice served in a fragrant chilled water, accompanied by a set of savouries, all known for each’s elaborate preparation methods. Look kapi: preserved shrimp paste slow-cooked with fingerroot, battered with egg-wash and deep-fried. Chaipo: pickled julienned radish slow-cooked with palm sugar. Hua Hom: whole shallots stuffed with dried fish and deep-fried. Prik Yuak: green chillies stuffed with minced pork and shrimp (this one at Suan Bua is more shrimp than pork, though), steamed and covered with egg net. Pla Yee Son: black ray meat pounded and shredded and cooked with palm sugar. And lastly, the sweet sun dried pork or beef. The garnishes are also edible and encouraged to be eaten. Fresh fingerroot carved into magnolia buds, green mango carved into leaves, to be eaten intermittently between bites, as to refresh the taste buds after the heavily sweet and salty aforementioned savouries.

My verdict about Suan Bua’s Khao Chae is positive. The rice was delish, crunchy, and munchy, al-dente, if you will. The chilled water was so aromatic, refreshing. The tastes of each savouries were delicious. It was a summer rice set that actually made me happy.

We also had a few things from the menu: appetizers of crispy prawn in lotus petals (Bt350++) with shrimp paste based dressing and fresh red chillies on the side. The flavours were quite strong, and tilted on saltiness. But ok, not too bad. Their creamy salad of cha-karm or sea blites or samphire with crab meat and deep-fried shallot (Bt390++) was also flavoursome. Biteful of the salty cha-karm, some of the fresh crab meat and then the shallots and dried toasted chillies. A good combination.

The last thing savoury we ordered was something called ‘Ngob Pla Chon Mae La’ which is steamed fish curry in banana leaves (Bt690++). This one, thanks to its being super tasty and salty and spicy, immediately called for a steamed rice to share. Each bite was packed with the flavours of the red curry pastes, heavy on nam pla and fish meat. A delicious one, albeit a bit too strong for us.

For desserts, we each order different things: me: Som Chun which is a shaved ice syrup served with lychee, salak, julienned ginger and toasted shallot; my hubby: kaya on white bread and ice cream; our host: coconut ice cream with jackfruit and toasted peanuts.

A great meal that deserves beating the traffic for. Suan Bua also has promotions with several reservation apps such as Eatigo with good discounts, too. Check them out and reserve your tables.

Suan Bua, Centara Grand Ladprao, 1695 Phaholyothin Rd., Chatuchak, 10900: T: 02 541 1234, Hours: lunch 11.30-14.30, dinner: 18.00 -22.30. 


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