Today I have another mission, to take my friends to sample nostalgic Cantonese dishes with a real 60's Hong Kong tone in downtown Bangkok's Asok area. Before I dance with Roselamoon, a self-claimed Cantonese cuisine specialty, it took me a decade of waiting to sample her dishes where the restaurant is just opposite to my old office but I was hesitated to give it a try due to her dim and out-fashioned facade. I used to think Roselamoon maybe another Chinese eatery for the fat-pocket Japanese clientele (yes this area used to be the site of the Japanese Embassy and a major Japanese community in Bangkok) with inflated price but loose the authentication for a native Cantonese feast.
As twelve years go by, on one night I couldn't hold my curiosity longer to see why this die-hard restaurant can survive for decades in the even heavier competitive retail food market if she is no good! Took a deep breath I pushed the door only to stunt a few minutes with hesitation to move forward. In front of me a 60's look dining hall with almost empty tables (at 7pm!) covered with plastic table cloth in subtle flora pattern, the decoration is glittering (the 60's kind I mean) and look like a New Territories (part of Hong Kong) kind village restaurant in my childhood. On my left were two customers in one table, and to my right were a series of obsolete fish tanks only to accommodate lichen. No pain no gain! Go go go! Anyway it was still early, if the food was wrong then I could go cross the street for my favorite steak at Neil's Tavern.
The menu is as minimal as a single page laminated sheet, with around 50 items to offer. Browsed the whole menu the Roasted Pigeon Hong Kong Style caught my attention, as this is a simple dish but really hard to please gourmet. I am a pigeon eater. I like pigeon whether it is Chinese style or French style; and whether it is braised, drunken, or roasted. However, after sampled most prominent individual and hotel restaurants in Bangkok there is no one came close to those quality I used to eat in Hong Kong. Without high hope I still took the pigeon as my only attempt, if it was no good, then I could move to Neil's Tavern to continue my dinner; therefore, I even called to secure a table at 8.
The Roasted Pigeon Hong Kong Style arrived to the table, my eyes opened, hey she looked okay! At least from the appearance of the bird's color and the aroma from the pigeon I was convinced that the bird was deep-fried in a pool of fresh frying oil, not recycled oil that many restaurants do without any shame. I held the pigeon with my fingers to deliver the first piece for tasting, then I experienced the love at first bite! The skin was so crispy while the meat was moist and tender with a subtle seasoning not overpowered the natural flesh taste of the bird. Then the table at Neil's Tavern was canceled and more dishes were ordered at Roselamoon, and more revisit since that day!
Of course Roselamoon's menu isn't only about pigeon. The owner keeps the menu small to ensure offers in Roselamoon were all specialties. Tonight our appetizers were Roasted Pigeons Hong Kong Style (Baht 350 each), one for each person. In Hong Kong, there are a few pigeon specialty restaurants and we really take roasted pigeon as an appetizer. Followed were Stir-fried Iceberg Lettuce in Oyster Sauce, and Quick-boiled Hong Kong Kale in Oyster Sauce. They were ideal to clear some grease if we ate too much deep-fried food. The Stir-fried Curry Crab (Baht 780 for our crab/ Baht 1,000 per kilogram) was so marvelous in overall it yielded a well balanced taste from Indian curry and spices incorporated well with the crab meat itself, not overwhelming by the spicy taste from chilies as some famous seafood joints do. This is real Hong Kong style curry crab though it is not the Thai-Chinese kind. The Deep-fried Sand Goby with Soy Sauce (Baht 650 for our fish/ Baht 850 per kilogram) was one of the best selling dishes of the restaurant. Roselamoon refuses farmed sand goby in the result with better texture and taste, the natural way. Fried E-fu Noodles and Wok-fried Flat Noodles with Beef were the other Stars of the night alongside with the pigeon. To conclude the dinner we had Home-made Black Sesame Paste Desserts, home-made?
I was filled with nostalgia by dining at Roselamoon with my favorite childhood dishes namely the roasted pigeon, the curry crab HK taste, and the quick-boiled kale in oyster sauce, as well as the wok-fried flat noodles with beef. Not only these dishes were some of my childhood favorites but Roselamoon also cooked them the nostalgic way, those same culinary skill in the 60's - 70's of Hong Kong. For example, in the very old days boiled kale in oyster sauce should incorporate with fried lard to unlock the aromatic flavor of oyster sauce, nowadays due to healthy concern lard had been abandon in the kitchen. To bring back some good old days' memory once in a while by eating this kale in oyster sauce with lard at Roselamoon is acceptable. If you really don't want lard and MSG, tell the chef to avoid them.
I am delighted to narrow down Roselamoon as a roasted pigeon specialty in Bangkok rather than a broad Cantonese cuisine specialty though overall most dishes were delicious. Roselamoon also retraces my memory of those bestsellers juicy and tender roasted pigeons in Lung-wah Restaurant and Fung-lam Kitchen we enjoyed so much with my family in the 60's to 70's of Hong Kong.
Roselamoon Chinese Restaurant ****1/4
165/5-6 Asok Road (Sukhumvit Soi 21)
Wattana, Bangkok 10110
Open daily: Lunch 11am - 2pm; Dinner 6 - 10pm
Pay (food for two): around THB 800 without seafood (or THB 1,500 with them)