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Monday, February 12, 2007

Once Upon A Time


Once upon a time cuisine

Tonight my friend brought me and our visiting friends from the States to a Thai restaurant in downtown Bangkok's busy Pratunam area. Entering into the venue I wondered if it was a garden in the city center, or it was a museum, or it was a gallery; it is all of them plus a lovely eatery, and it was Once Upon A Time Thai restaurant. A visit to this restaurant gave me a clear picture that why so many people cherish Thai cuisine around the globe.

Welcome by a beautiful garden with lush green (and mosquito) divided two Thai houses with the interior that a traditional Thai house would have looked like. We were entertained in the right corner house with air-conditioning instead of the al-fresco dining in the garden that is most farang (Western foreigner) customer's preference. Generously use of rich brown wood, heavy furniture from the generation of grandpa, numerous antiques (and even a show 'bedroom' of Lanna Thai), old fashioned toys, big framed photos on the wall, traditional Thai utensils and flow of Thai classical music decoration our dinner could never been more delightful. Once Upon A Time is not about Thai cuisine for the local but rather for the non-Thai palate (tourist) in a rural setting with wait-staffs wearing jong kraben (traditional lower Issan costumes).

Feel like eating in a museum did improve our appetite for dinner. In Thailand the drink that goes best with Thai food is never wine or beer but fresh young coconut juice therefore we ordered some. Our dinner kicked off with chicken satay which was probably the most straightforward appetizer; the version in Once Upon A Time had the chicken meat marinated with turmeric, galangal and lemongrass, and was tender, delicious and sweet, and had a nice taste of smoke from the barbecue; its dipping sauce had a balanced taste of coconut milk, peanut, red curry paste cooked with palm sugar, tamarind juice and little salt was great and never spicy. An accompanying salad of cucumber, shallots, and chili adding pre-cooked rice vinegar with a little sugar did go well with the chicken satay. We therefore couldn't couldn't resist to reorder another one.

Dishes to accompany with rice were; grilled chicken with full aroma of herbs from QUAT secret recipe was really another great chicken dish that night; and pla smalee tord (deep-fried king fish with green mango dip) was deep-fried to golden outside and soft inside brought us the texture of soft crispy skin and tenderly smooth flesh. Serving next was hor-mok talay maprao-on (steamed seafood with sweet and sour sauce in young coconut), this dish usually cooked with curry but since my visiting friends didn't eat hot therefore we asked for the sweet and sour version, and it came out delicious. The goong ob wensen (baked glass noodles with prawn in a pot) was very popular on any Thai-Chinese dining table but didn't know since when it was also popular in most Thai restaurants until today.

The phad pak ruam-mit (stir-fried mixed vegetables) there was unique as the pak (vegetable) included young coconut shoot, asparagus, and snow peas putting into one dish which was uncommon in other Thai restaurants. Gaeng (a curry soup) is part of a Thai meal. We sampled gaeng kieo waan gai (green curry with chicken meat) and it was satisfying. Rice in Once Upon A Time was not special but the bowl that contented them was beautiful.

After a full meal we had no room for desserts, or actually we didn't like to eat sweet before bedtime. So we skipped the desserts that night.

Once Upon A Time is one interesting Thai restaurant with good food (especially for Western palates) and multi character whether we shall call it a restaurant or a museum worth our unlimited returns.

Once Upon A Time ***1/2
32 Soi 17 Petchburi Road
Pratunam, Bangkok 10400
Tel.: 02.252.8629

Open daily : 11 am - 11 pm
Pay (food only for two): around THB 800

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