tasted on December 3, 2005 —
In general, eating alone is no way to eat. Eating is a social
experience meant to be shared. Social interaction aside, when you're
trying to get a sense of a restaurant, going with many people is
best so you can try as many dishes as possible. Imagine how
difficult it is to try a bunch of dishes when you're not only eating
alone, but the food is served family style (as it is in most Thai
restaurants). I suppose that's all I can really complain about given
how good the food was at Celadon, a super interesting and refined
Thai restaurant at the Sukkothai hotel in Bangkok.
Celadon is a beautiful restaurant. Thai design is
gorgeous in general with all the dark wood. The modern lines
combined with the
antique sculptures and icons are just beautiful. It was still my
first day in Thailand so I decided to order calmly and have at
least one thing that I knew so I could acclimate my stomach slowly.
Chicken Satay fit the bill. You might argue that chicken satay
is so simple, why order it if you're trying to see whether there's
any talent in the kitchen. I claim that the simpler dishes are the
true litmus tests because there's no hiding if they aren't good.
When something is simple, the flavor has to be right out in front.
And it's easy tell when it isn't.
No worries with the satay at Celadon. The meat was
buttery and creamy. The peanut sauce had sweet and roasted
qualities. Though only accompaniments, the cucumbers were excellent
too. Attention anyone who makes food for other human beings and
cares about quality. Attention to detail makes a difference. A big
difference. The cucumbers had these ridges and were sliced small and
super thin. Their texture was super enjoyable especially in
combination with the chicken.
When you spend this much time telling others what
you think of various food experiences it's important to know your
own blind spots, limitations, and biases. I won't claim to be
introspective and secure enough to know them all (much less admit
them) but I will point out that I am a sucker for refined ethnic
cuisines. And Celadon was definitely refined Thai food. It's not
that the ingredients changed, or the recipes were modernized. It's
just that things were done with care and precision. Refined to me is
the opposite of rustic. I like both, but I really adore refined. The
flavors feel clean and pure to me. And while Celadon plays the
refined notes well, I was also pleased to see that their dishes
could be hearty at the same time. Case in point was my next dish -
Green Curry of River Fish Dumplings. In terms of trying new
things, this seemed like a good idea. Frankly, the fish balls were
amazing. They had a slight rubbery quality in a good way (like a
sausage or Vietnamese beef ball should). The texture was super
smooth and the flavor was deep. These were heavenly.
Celadon has a dirty little secret - it's in a hotel.
The Sukkothai hotel to be exact. And frankly, hotel restaurants are
almost never good. This is because hotels need restaurants on
premises (to serve room service, breakfast, etc.). In order to
entice restaurants to reside on premises they either create them on
their own (following their own mass market formulas) or the
subsidize the restaurant's existence. Either way, the staff of the
restaurant are almost never competing for business. They have a sure
thing. It doesn't matter how bad they do as the hotel will never
shut them down. They can't. This atmosphere makes for lousy food.
This however appears to be mainly an American phenomenon. In Asia,
forget it. Some of the best restaurants I've eaten at are in hotels.
And Celadon is no exception.
For my final dish (I know it's a bummer that I only
had three) I got a regional specialty from central Thailand. I
thought that would mix things up a bit. I ordered
Baked Yellow Curry Rice with Prawn, Chinese Pork Sausage, and Eggs.
This was a perfect complement to the spicy curry. The rice was sweet
but not overly so. Normally I'm not someone who enjoys an emphasis
on the sweet part of the spectrum, but the little juice pineapple
cubes were super enjoyable. The dish was also covered with (what I
think were) coconut filaments. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure what
they were exactly but they tasted like coconut cotton candy.
was pretty much a superb first day in Bangkok. My
lunch at essentially a grandma's
restaurant was excellent as was my dinner at a high end hotel
restaurant. (By the way, the high end here was also pretty cheap -
$6 for an entree.) So far I'm pretty much in love with Bangkok and
the food at has to offer.