Hyde and Seek Gastro Bar & Restaurant

Lately, here in Bangkok, I’ve been feeling a bit lost in my purpose for being here, like I’ve forgotten my direction. So I decided to resume something I like doing and go out to eat good food and then write about it. So I’ll start with the best of what I’ve eaten in Bangkok thus far:

Hyde and Seek Gastro Bar and Restaurant
IMG_0362After reading some reviews I came to this place, as it was called ‘the hip place’ to go and to be seen. I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like in a city like Bangkok, so I thought I’d check it out. Maybe Sunday night wasn’t the best time to do so as it’s a rather slow night in Bangkok. On this occasion there were a few ‘falangs’ (white or western foreigners) of the older white man varietal sitting outside eating casually, perhaps a bit sloppily as one seemed all too comfortable in the big comfy chairs without shoes and eating cheese from a plate he held in one had as he jerked about talking to another man sitting across the low table, laid-back smoking a cigar. There were a couple other people outside around the front as well. Inside there was a couple and two other small parties.

I opted to sit inside the clean, modern, cool interior. I sat at the long empty bar rather than the high tables behind the bar, a bad choice I came to realize because the bar chairs are so low that you could literally fall backwards, drunkenly or otherwise, by thinking that the mock-backs are high enough to prop up against, giving this false sense of comfort when you actually have to sit upright as if they are bar stools.

However, the food was better than expected. In what I’ve determined as a non-foodie city like Bangkok, I have come to lower my expectations of what to expect. Yet Hyde and Seek was perhaps the closest thing I could find to home. The food is classified as ‘International’ but it was more like American. The menu and many options had the kind of written-on-a-blackboard, farm-to-table kind of feel.

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I opted for the pork belly and tuna tartare. I asked for the tuna first and then the pork belly. But, surprisingly, they ended up bringing the pork belly first, shortly after the bread (two brown wheat rolls, nicely average size, with tasty clarified butter). The pork belly was great, like a nice piece of southern pulled pork. It was a nice size square cut of pork cooked fork tender, with a well paired, slightly creamy sauce. The fat of the belly was meltingly good, rather than chunky or obtrusive, and I ate all of it first and happily as the tartare sat to its side. (They offered to take away the pork while I ate the tartare, reheat the pork, and return it to me later, but I thought this rather unappealing as I don’t trust they’d not simply microwave it -as I saw a restaurant do with my samosas earlier in the day- and I didn’t want them to ruin the texture.)

So I had the tuna tartare second. It was composed of fresh deep red tuna, chopped in a rather minced fashion, laid out amply in a crescent, garnished with radishes and a bit of decorative sauce. Though quite a bit less flavorful by comparison to the pork belly, it retained the flavor of medium fatty tuna (not so buttery and rich as fatty tuna, but meaty nonetheless). Though I had one of the small rolls with the meal, I wouldn’t really call it a meal. Before ordering, I asked the bartender if the tuna dish was large, as I had planned to get a salad as well. She responded that it was rather large. And though the dish wasn’t fine-dining-petite, per-say, it was not large; and I wished I’d have gotten the salad as well. What I ended up with was two plates of meat, as neither had accompaniments, and two rolls. Some green vegetables would have been welcome.

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I was also recommended the ‘Secret Window’ cocktail by the bartender based on telling her I like drinks with whiskey or vodka, that are perhaps sour and not too sweet. This bartender spoke English well though the others there did not very well. Because the drink shared a name with a Johnny Depp movie, I acquiesced. It was composed of Gentleman’s Jack whiskey, dark chocolate liqueur, vanilla, bitters, and garnished with a large pretty piece of sugar Carmel on top. It was a tasty enough drink, though I’d not likely get another.

In all, food was rather expensive, though having paid near this for much lesser food, I was fine with doing so and actually left a tip (which is not necessarily required in Thailand because most places slap on a gratuity percentage, -and also I’m pretty sure the two other bartenders were talking about me the whole time -though unclear whether good or bad, which in a different mood could have swayed my decision to leave an additional tip). Also, the doorman asked if I had a reservation when I arrived, which I thought was rather pretentious as the restaurant was at least 75-80% empty. Yet I’m sure it’s simply what he was told to do as he led me amiably to my seat of choice. All in all, I’d recommend this restaurant as good quality food in Bangkok and would return. Though nothing further screamed my name to come back and eat it, I know that what I’d eat if I came back would probably be a solid choice.

Sushi Zanmai, Tokyo

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Sushi Zanmai is an awesome, popular place for sushi in Tokyo’s, Tsukiji Fish Market. It is a bit touristy and has a long line out the door, but it’s worth going here as the fish is great and the prices are fairly reasonable. I went to their main restaurant, but they have also another, smaller restaurant within the market as well. I also had a line, albeit a bit shorter.

I had read about this place in guidebooks and that it’s one of the best sushi places in Tokyo, that it takes hours to get in, but that it’s worth the wait. So I decided to go check it out and endure the wait, even amidst the random fish smells and despite the throngs of people.

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My wait was only about 25 minutes at 11:00am. Again, I must emphasize how awkward it is to not speak the language, have people yell at you as if you understand what they’re saying. and then, assume you understand what they’ve just told you. In addition, there are all these customs and rules in Japan that you’re supposed to go by; and you are partially expected to know them (like not poring your own beer or sake, which is something one cannot help if they’re dining alone). All the while, people constantly stare at you, as an obvious tourist, which cannot help but feel judgmental at times. And I’ve been told by expats and various others that the Japanese are a rather elitist group when it

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comes to tradition: that they do not think anyone but themselves can truly master their customs properly. I cannot justifiably speak to this assertion, all I know is that I did not know nor abide by all of their customs properly, though I did try.

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I had a sampler of the various kinds of fish offered, along with a few extras that I had in addition to the set sampler that I chose from the menu. There were several set options of various fish, but I tried to choose one that would give me the most variety. The one I chose consisted of: scallop (which was soft, light tasting, and excellent consistency), fatty tuna (which was delicious. The texture was spot-on, with a deep, buttery meaty flavor that could almost be filet mignon. I could eat a plate of it.), broiled fatty tuna (also very delicious. It is the fatty tuna that has been seared on the outside, so you get the best of the flavors both raw and cooked. It tastes a bit more salty the raw version. It being cooked, the texture is even softer and more moist, as the juices of the fat begin to come out), sea urchin roe (which literally tastes like a half-melted dollop of fresh farm butter dropped into the the sea), salmon, shellfish, egg, sea eel, albacore tuna, sweet shrimp, red snapper, salmon roe, and yellowtail (all of which were among the best I’ve ever tasted).
IMG_1553 My meal was also accompanied by staring off with miso soup and ending with a slice of asian pear and two plums. Though basically gorging myself on fresh, delicious fish, I did not feel a bit guilty or gluttonous by comparison to everyone around me, as they all seemed to me eating just as much in course after course. Moreover, I was only able to go here once on my visit to Tokyo, so I had to make one visit count.

All in all, Sushi Zanmai did not disappoint and, rather, left me feeling more satisfied than I had expected to feel, as I had somewhat doubted all the hype surrounding this place. Despite waiting nearly 30 minutes and spending over $50 on lunch, IMG_1558it was worth it. It was a great experience and I would not take it back or alter it in any way.

IMG_1552The woman beside me, and really all the people around, seemed to basically  be writhing in excitement to eat this sushi. It seemed to me like it was like a genuine treat and experience for them also, knowing, perhaps, it was going to be the best sushi they would ever taste I their lives! I had the feeling that some of the people around me had come from other parts of Japan or had

saved up money to come here, and that this was actually a life event for them, just as it was for me. All of this made me feel glad that I decided to come here, thankful that I had the

IMG_1551opportunity to do so, and vow that I would come back again in the future. I also had the distinct feeling that, because I had tasted such superb sushi, I would never be truly satisfied with sushi below this level of excellence. Alas, the double-edged sword of indulging in excellence!

Also, randomly while I was here, a family sat next to me, of which I struck up a conversation with the father who told me that he went to the University of Alabama in 1974-5, as a sports photographer for the football team! This is so ironic because it is exactly the same time in which my father was at the University of Alabama. It was so random and beautifully ironic. Once again, I am struck by feeling that life is such a funny, ironic place.

Voodoo Doughnut Portland

IMG_1064IMG_1063As their cheeky slogan exclaims: The Magic is in the Hole. Well, I suppose there is some truth to this as these doughnuts are undeniably great (and I’m not a big doughnut fan). Though I tried only one, the maple glaze and bacon, which was delicious, I could tell that these were well made, quality doughnuts. The dough is what made it truly superb: moist, almost melting in your mouth, with a rich buttery taste both sweet and fulfilling, yet not overpowering. It tasted much like a beignet. The maple glaze was fresh made and appropriately coated as not to be too intense. The bacon on top added a nice savory component and tasted great with everything all together. It was like your morning bacon and pancakes. All in all, as I rushed off to the airport for an early morning flight, I was happy I took the extra time to squeeze in a visit to this place and get a maple and bacon doughnut, which constitutes a well rounded breakfast, right?

Fifty Licks Ice Cream

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This is an awesome little ice cream shop that was suggested to me around the corner from the Cambodian restaurant at which I ate. With specialty ice creams and hand made, gluten free cones (I was told it took a long time to perfect this recipe and the result is really good).

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I spoke for quite a while with the girl working there, who allowed me to taste many of the flavors. She was a really nice and cool person who reminded me of someone I used to know.

She started by giving me the jasmine rice with sweet cream. It was delicious. You can really taste the sweet rice flavor. I actually ended up getting this with the passion fruit sorbet, to make kind of a mango and sticky rice concoction. (It was her idea and it was awesome!) I also tried the Tahitian vanilla, with a more mellow, fruity vanilla than many other strains of vanilla, like Madagascar or Chilean.

I tried also the browned milk cream. They take milk powder and cook it so that it’s slightly carmelized in the pan and then fold it into the ice cream. It was delicious. If not for the rice and sorbet mixture, I would have gotten this and the bourbon cherry. You have to be over 21 to get the bourbon cherry. There is a local brewery that makes cherry bourbon; and Fifty Licks takes the cherries left from the batches, grinds them down, and uses them in the ice cream. You could really taste both the distinct flavors of tart cherry (like mellow and sweet like rainier cherries, and sweet bourbon -more mellow, with a nonintrusive bite -kind of like the nonintrusive bite I accidentally took out of the ice cream in the photo about before I remembered to take the picture).

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This place started as one food truck, then several; and one can see why because this is probably the best ice cream I’ve tasted any where in the world thus far. Sweet, creamy and flavorful, yet not heavy or saccharine, all tasted like fresh from a cow milk and garden fresh ingredients. It’s a must to go to in Portland.

Unicorn Bar – Capitol Hill – Seattle

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The Unicorn is a cool bar in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. I would suggest going simply for the ambience, if not for food and drinks. I randomly sat beside the owner, Paul. We spoke about the place, as I complimented the unique decor. He said they wanted a circus type theme. I’d say it’s like Betsy Johnson as much as circus, but I see where they were going. And I happen to really love it. Along with the EMP, it is a place of my own heart and a redeeming feature of Seattle for me.

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I was aimlessly walking around, with the vague intention of going to a Russian restaurant for dumplings (I couldn’t find that place, as it was quite inconspicuous; and I didn’t see it until I was walking back home), when I passed Unicorn and it spoke to me. So I ended up there. And I’m really glad that I did because I met Paul and the former chef, Josh, who made the menu.

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Paul was able to acquire for me a half order each of the Unicorn balls (fried ginger and jalapeño pork balls with bento ginger aioli) and Narwhal Balls (potato, swiss cheese and caraway, with harissa mayonnaise). In the Unicorn Balls, the taste of the spicy and ginger, with the pork, reminded me of something like a lamb pakora. The texture was meaty, yet not too chunky or flaky. The Narwhal Balls were delicious as well. The swiss melted beautifully with the potatoes; and the caraway was a nice touch. Both were fried in a rather light, crispy batter. All-in-all their tastiness made me contemplate the prospect of a love for fried bar foods. (I am from the south, after all, and southerners do love things fried!) And I regret that I didn’t take better photos to do them more justice.

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I also tried the original corn-dog -the house specialty, in tune with their carnival theme. It was rather good for a corn-dog, a good size, though I couldn’t eat it all after the balls. The batter was great. It tasted like sweet, moist cornbread. And the hotdog, which they make, along with the batter, in-house, was not so bad itself.

I actually had a long conversation about making sausages with Josh and Paul. Josh, with an exhaustive sausage making book in hand at the bar, now works for a specialty sausage store in Pike Place Market. And Paul, an interesting and worldly Brit who also maintains a day job, says that this place is more like a hobby for him.

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We share a fondness for occasional indulgence and excess when it comes to food, and apparently decor as well, we spoke about that and of travel in different countries of the world. He said he stops by the place typically every afternoon, but leaves when the bands start -something I came to later understand, as this evening the band on roster was a death metal group. As the noise level increased to a roar, and many goth, grunge, and hipsters filed in, I, feeling to old to be hip, decided to go home and get some rest.

Passing this interesting painting on my long walk home, I was left only to ponder how things kindred to my own heart seem to find me, or either I simply seek them out, things I would not otherwise encounter if not for my wandering.

Pike Place Market Seattle


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So this is the touristy place to go in Seattle. It’s a market in the central part of the city and near the water front. Yes, it was crowded and obnoxious at moments, but is a cool place that probably should not be skipped on a first visit to Seattle, given you have the time to go there and peruse the foods and wares. It seemed like the market had pretty much anything you could ask for: farm fresh produce stands (where I got some delicious dried papaya), arts and crafts stands with jewelry, leather goods, lavender bath soaps, hand dyed T-shirts, specialty dried and chocolate covered cherries, tea and crumpets, handmade kids toys; there were all kinds of specialty food shops with things like very niche Mexican and Korean grocery items; there were French and Russian bakeries (with lines around the block), specialty shops with handmade cheese, smoked salmon, local wine… I could go on and on.

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On top of all the stalls and stands in the market, and the shops surrounding it, there were many restaurants and restaurant stands, of which I indulged in a few (and as a consequence have no desire to even look at food today)!

Pike Place Chowder

This place has the self and publicly proclaimed ‘best clam chowder’ in the states. They’ve won various awards and are highly touted around media sites like Urbanspoon. Admittedly, though, they seem to be extremely touristy, as I don’t think locals in their right mind would go wait in their line simply to eat lunch there on a given day!  When I arrived at 2pm (a Saturday) the line was around the corner and took about 15min (quicker than I thought it would for the number of people in it). I got a sampler of 4 chowders and a half of a crab roll.

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Here’s my ranking and thoughts about the chowders:

1) The Scallop Chowder was my favorite of the four. It had a very buttery flavor. It was creamy with distinct notes of lemon and fresh dill. Though it only had tiny scallops, in total it was quite chunky and had a satisfying mix of bits inside.

2) The Smoked Salmon Chowder was a close second. It had a rich, somewhat smoky flavor, with a distinct tomato base flavor. It was sufficiently chunky as well. I liked the soft onions and tomatoes for a good contrast to the more robust mouth feel of the salmon.

3) The Daily Market Special came in next for me. It was a Crab Oyster Chorizo Chowder. It was very smoky. The chorizo definitely placed a major role in the flavor. In total, the flavor was almost like a smoky gouda cheese. It contained lots of small chunks like the others and was nice to have the various seafoods mixed in one.

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4) The Award-Winning New England Clam Chowder. Though this was a good clam chowder, somehow, compared to the others, it just wasn’t a favorite for me. The flavor was rather mellow, with almost sweet cream notes. There was a sufficient mix between small and large chunks of clams and potatoes. There could have been more clams for my taste. And ultimately, though a solid clam chowder, was rather uneventful for me.

The moist sourdough bread served with the chowder was quite good, though by personal preference, I enjoyed it with butter perhaps more than with the soups. Now what was most uneventful -though perhaps my expectations were simply too high, as maybe with the clam chowder also- was the crab roll.

 

5) The Crab Roll Had a bland, almost watery taste that kind of blended with and tasted somewhat like the lettuce with which it was paired. There was plenty of crab, it just had no crab flavor and left me sad that it wasn’t just plain crab instead of their crab salad concoction. The only way I could enjoy it was drenched in cocktail sauce, which is the only thing that gave it a seafood flair for me. Moreover, the French bread was a little hard for me as well. Though not completely inedible, it was a decent crab roll, it was just highly lackluster for me.

Rachel’s Ginger Beer

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An awesome idea with which more cities should follow through. Rachel travelled and lived in Europe and took that experience and things learned there to bring ginger beer to Seattle. They had various flavors of ginger beer, growlers for sale, etc. I tried the Peach, which was quite good. And I also splurged and got a Orange Ginger Beer and Vanilla Milkshake, which was delicious.

IMG_0899Other things I tried at the market: dried salmon- not very good, Beecher’s cheese curds- great! -though I hat to admit that I’ve once made better :/ Seattle wine from a local vineyard that brings the small batch delivery via a moped twice a week (I’ll have to find the name and update this), dried cherries – delicious, very moist and the best I’ve ever had, dried papaya – again, the best I’ve ever had. I’m going to try to go to the Russian bakery today. But if the line is around the black again today I can’t really justify it. I also think I might eat at a Russian restaurant tonight. For some reason I’m in the mood for eastern European food. Perhaps it’s because I know I probably won’t eat it for a long time while I’m in Asia! Or I might have Greek food. I’ll post something later about this.