Wandering into Bangkok’s bustling Arab district (around Sukhumvit soi 3-5, just across the road from the sleazehound mecca of Nana Plaza) really is like entering another country – the shop signs are in Arabic, the smell of shisha smoke fills the air, and you feel rather inadequate for not having a moustache. If you suddenly woke up here with no idea where you were, you’d assume it was Cairo or Casablanca.
I’m calling it; Rosé wines are now officially trendy in Phnom Penh, the drink de rigueur for fashionistas, theatre goers and pretty young things.
I know this, because rosé here is no longer merely a single entry on a handful of wine lists, it is on virtually every wine list in town, many are listing several and more than a few are offering it by the glass.
On his foul-mouthedly entertaining Kitchen Nightmares show, one of Gordon Ramsay’s pet hates is restaurants with overly-complicated or multiple menus. “Keep it fucking simple!” is one of his regular aphorisms, and so I hope Bangkok’s popular French bistro Le Petit Zinc isn’t lined up for an appearance – not that it should be, it’s wonderful, but upon arrival I’m handed two menus, both containing apparently similar dishes at different prices, with no explanation as to what, if any, is the difference between them.
For two countries so close geographically, there is very little cultural overlap between Thailand & Vietnam, and that includes the countries’ cuisines. Just as it’s nigh-on impossible to find authentic Thai food in Saigon or Hanoi, so it is a real challenge finding proper Vietnamese cuisine here in Bangkok. Which, given the fact that both cuisines use pretty much the same ingredients, is rather surprising.
...So I pull the pin on my family friendly accommodation in Kampot and escape to the hills near Kep. I end up at the Vines retreat which came recommended by another hotel guest in Phnom Penh. I arrive at the remote location, an hour’s tuk tuk ride from Kampot and marvel at the lush, mountainous surrounds.
I love asparagus. I adore panacotta. It has never occurred to me to combine the two.
Last week I discovered the result: asparagus panacotta, mint-green and wobbling on the plate.
It's a rare thing for a dining experience to be one you’re sure you’ll never forget. But this was the case with Cocina Cartel – incidentally not for the food, but for the monsoonal rain that flooded the road, forcing us to stay inside after finishing our meal and knock back the numerous cocktails on offer, before finally giving up at about 11pm and wading knee-high through the flood water.