Amazon.com Widgets A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care: Restaurants Archives

Restaurants Archives

Weekend Gluttony

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Back from the Millesime Weekend Valencia food festival. This weekend we drove thirteen hundred kilometers in order to consume an untold number of calories. I suspect that Pallavi will be doing some food blogging shortly, once Picasa's upload function starts working again. And yes, I might have a wine review or three.

IMG 8643

Cerezas con foie: Cherries covered in port and coffee, by Restaurante Moo, Barcelona

Quito Eats

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The capitol of Ecuador is not one of the notable food capitols of the world, but we had some good meals there nonetheless. I'm afraid we didn't take pictures anywhere we ate, but we did take some photos of a place where we refused to eat: the internet-infamous Menestras del Negro.

IMG_1556.JPG

Despite all the gawking Westerners taking photos of its signage, Menestras del Negro lacks a significant web presence of its own -- its site just has pictures of its meals and numbers to call for local delivery -- so I have no idea what inspired the monkey-with-bone-fork "Negro" logo.

Valentine's Day Dinner at Nahm Bangkok

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks

To celebrate Valentine's Day, we splurged on the special occasion set menu at Nahm, a restaurant helmed by an Australian with the controversial mission of "striving for authenticity" in a "decaying" Thai cuisine. In appropriate Greek tragedy fashion, Chef David Thompson recently suffered the loss of his London restaurant's Michelin star. Nonetheless, an Australian couple and their expat friends we met at Sky Bar had recommended Nahm to us as worthy of being our fancy meal out in an otherwise budget-minded stay in Bangkok. So we dressed up in some of the new clothes we'd acquired in Vietnam and set out with open minds and mouths.

IMG 0400

Nest: Great Restaurant in Siem Reap

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

As a celebration of my ability to escape the hotel, yesterday evening we dined at Nest, a well-reviewed establishment in the heart of Siem Reap. I was genuinely impressed by the layout: the dining area sprawls underneath a series of interlinked canopies such that it feels outdoors without being open-air. A curved stone walkway meanders through the middle of the restaurant, dividing the lounge area and bar on the left from the dining area on the right.

We didn't sit in the lounge, but I'd like to go back and try it: some of the seats are practically beds made from wicker frames, and couples were cuddled up on them drinking. It looked like a cozy, comfortable place to have a cocktail.

On the other side of the stone path, dark wood dining tables are covered in white linen, while dark-stained wicker decorations carry over the motif from the bar. The overall effect is one of relative luxury and comfort.

And for Siem Reap, this is certainly luxury: even the set menu will run you $20 or upwards, which sounds like a good snack to a Manhattanite, but extravagant for a meal here. The food is fantastic, however, and I highly recommend the set menu. The salads were fresh, well-presented and spicy. The meat dishes--Pallavi had a finely flavored pork shank, while I had a nicely peppered cubed-steak dish--show signs of a French/Cambodian influence.

Hopefully Pallavi will say a little more about the food--I'm not much of a gourmet [1], and so I lack the vocabulary to really do Nest justice. I'll stick to my strengths and note that I'm very impressed by their cocktail list, which shows a delicacy that I haven't seen since we left Hong Kong. Most Cambodian bars have your standard fare--mojitos, caiparinhas, cosmos--and a few "tropical specialities" that are mainly fruit juices and spirits. These don't take much skill to mix and aren't very ambitious. Ordering a Manhattan will show the weakness of such places: the result will be pedestrian, usually poorly mixed and with a too-strong flavor of vermouth.

Nest's menu, on the other hand, respects the classics while holding some true modern gems. One sign of sophistication: the menu asks you to "please order your Manhattan dry, sweet, or perfect," and has similar instructions for variations of martinis and other classics. On the other hand, the bartender challenges you to try modern innovations like the Occidental Blazer (see the last page of the PDF, the only recipe I could find online), a strongly aromatic rye-and-brandy mix. Served warm in brandy snifter, this cocktails doesn't so much tickle the nose as assault it prior to the first sip, but then settles to a spicy thick syrup as it cools. They have a few more drinks (including a curious stout/vanilla ice cream mix) that I hope to try before we hit the road. Preferably in one of those lounge beds.

[1] My sibling has informed me that he hates the word "foodie," so I'm avoiding it, but I'm not much of one of those, either.

We're in Siem Reap, probably the most tourist-friendly city in Cambodia, and I think we're going to be here for a week more. We arrived on the fourth, but we have had no chance to get to the temples yet as I've been ill ever since we arrived. Indeed, I didn't even leave our initial hotel until last night.

Any extended travel plans need to have enough slack to account for getting ill, so that if you end up bedridden for a day or two you don't feel like you're missing out on a great cultural experience. Face it: if you spend a year going through countless airports and staying in hotel after hotel, you're going to pick up a germ or two. We have flexibility at the moment, so in all honesty I'm kind of glad that it happened here rather than Phnom Penh. For one thing our hotel, while as nice as our Phnom Penh abode, was much cheaper: three nights with every meal that I was able to eat (and all of Pallavi's food) came to less than $65.

Nor am I feeling much time pressure, because Southeast Asia is probably the least-scheduled part of our international trip thus far. Our last ticket was from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh, but our next ticket is from Bangkok to Dehli. How we get from here to Bangkok is up to us, meandering at our own schedule. So a day or two doesn't matter much: we'll still see the temple.

We've now changed hotels into something only slightly more expensive, but much nicer and more central. Now that I'm finally able to leave the hotel, I think I'm going to like Siem Reap.

I've mostly wandered around the Old Market area downtown, which is a hodgepodge of tourist restaurants, bars and massage parlors, each surrounding several marketplaces. These sell everything from gaudy t-shirts and flashy dresses to an IP litigator's paradise of knock-off watches, sunglasses and fashion items. Bargain hard: dealers will relent to far less than their original offer, and the knockoffs are normally such poor quality that they're not worth the discounted price. (I ruined the "waterproof" Wal-Mart watch I purchased before we left Texas while diving in Gili Trawangan, and tried to replace it with a "Vacheron Constantin" [1] here. It ceased to work overnight, though the vendor did replace it when I came back. The replacement "Patek Phillipe" has already broken.)

IMG 0359

This is not a Patek. Nor anywhere near the correct time.

In any event, Siem Reap is tropically warm, the weather has favored us so far, and I look forward to three to five days of viewing Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples.

[1] Yes, the watch almost certainly violates VC's intellectual property rights, and given that I love what VC makes, I don't take that lightly. That said, if there ever was an argument for a parody exception to trademark, this watch was it. A glance at the metal casing, the asymmetrical bezel, and the poor work on the watch face suggested that the strap, which appeared to be authentically leather, was the most expensive part of the entire contraption. Anyone vaguely familiar with the VC brand would not suspect for a minute that this watch had been on the same continent as a Swiss watchmaker. Besides, since arriving in Cambodia and trying to purchase a watch, I've found it impossible to find anything that isn't impinging on someone's IP.

Things Undone in Australia

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Aside from the shady neighborhoods like King's Cross in which we stayed, Sydney is the sort of city my mother, a partisan of Singapore and Dubai, would like: clean and pretty.

IMG_2531.JPG

With the help of a pay-what-you-will tour, we saw a reasonable amount of it; we walked the Harbor and CBD, and I took the subway out to the suburb of Davidson in order to make a delivery from the original Galapagos post office. No doubt that a guidebook could find many more "must-do" holes than these, but the following are a few idiosyncratic regrets I have about our stay.

Guniganti Girls Take Buenos Aires

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

With both of my sisters visiting for the next few days, I'm really focusing on what's worth seeing and doing in this city. What follows is a very tentative, front-loaded plan, because I know that all sorts of factors may alter the outcome. I've already been foiled in "listen to live jazz" tonight, because Notorious, a record store-cum-restaurant-cum-performance space, made an exception to its usual jazz-supporting policy to have a klezmer orchestra play instead. Charming fellows with a cute "Fiddler on the Roof" medley, but not a good example of Buenos Aires's famed jazz scene.

Thursday
- Morning: Greet my older sister, coming off the overnight flight from Texas. This and other events will obligate being up and about before 9am.
- Noon: Recoleta cemetery. We've walked by dozens of times, but never yet gone in, though it's probably the most famous site in the neighborhood where we've rented an apartment. What better way to welcome someone to Argentina than to show her where Evita's remains lie? Nearby, we can get coffee and medialunas ("half-moons" or croissants) at La Biela, a historic cafe.
- Afternoon: Sirop Folie. I think I've made clear my views on the desirability of a cream tea, and I'll have been awake early enough to justify it!
- Evening: Tango lesson and show, along with dinner and a drink. All this has been promised for 190 pesos per person, thanks to the help of the great South American Explorers club.

Friday
- Morning: Plazo de Mayo. Another place we've walked by but not closely explored, and breakfast at Cafe Tortoni.
- Noon: Lunch at Clasica y Moderna. Like La Biel and Tortoni, it's a cafe notable, i.e. a restaurant with an interior protected by historic preservation law.
Afternoon: Shopping in Recoleta. I haven't bought much clothing on this trip, but even I can admit that my existing wardrobe, bought for both its durability through multiple washes and its cheapness that allows me to be indifferent if it falls apart, is just not working for going out in this city. When we had dinner and cocktails a few nights ago, I wore a $10 dress from Macy's with flats; the woman who preceded me into the restaurant was wearing a fur coat.
Evening: Dinner at Cafe Garcia, famous for its multi-course meals dispensed essentially at the owner's whim.
Late night: Putting the results of the afternoon shopping to use at a dance club -- maybe Tequila? KiKa? Suggestions are very welcome.

Saturday
Sleeping off the previous night, getting one sister on her flight and hitting the to-dos on my other sister's list. Also, perhaps visiting Persicco or Chungo, two of the most-recommended gelaterias that I have yet to try, and another late night out.

Sunday
A day in Colonia, if we can get on the boat to Uruguay. Otherwise, retreading the San Telmo and Recoleta markets for gifts and souvenirs, and checking off the missed items of this list and my sister's.

Monday
Getting Sister 2 on her flight and putting ourselves in order for an upcoming trip to Patagonia...

Before we went to Ecuador, I had never heard of Otavalo. But once there, it and Banos were the two day-trips that everyone suggested. Otavalo, aside from having its own share of tourists, is about as different from Banos as two Ecuadorian towns can be. Banos's tourist appeal is based on outdoor activities and nightlife; it's essentially divorced from the particularities of the people and their culture.

In contrast, the big draw in Otavalo is a weekly market populated largely by people from outlying towns and villages, many of them wearing traditional garb. This consists of bowler-esque hats, embroidered blouses and long black skirts with white or colored underskirts on the women; lengthy braids (allegedly signifying virility) and pajama-like pants on the men. It's no once-a-week costume for the tourists, either, as we saw several people dressed this way going about their business in town on days before the market took place. Many of the products at the market are produced nearby. Tony acquired a jaunty Panama hat that came with its own box in which to be rolled up, and I got a dark red llama wool poncho that occasionally needs to be petted back down when the long strands of wool get ruffled.

IMG_1546.JPG

Celebrations with Gaston and Others

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks

Tony and I recently had all our individual special occasions (i.e. as distinct from general holidays like Christmas) in quick succession: our second wedding anniversary while we were in Quito, and our birthdays while in Cuzco.

Oskar's Pizzeria, Otavalo, Ecuador. A pizza restaurant targeting kids and teens, with placemats hawking the local equivalent of the Gap. Their mascot: a cartoon Che Guevara with pizza slices for eyes.

Che! Comrades shall pay for their pizza at the front!

Yes, that's Che, the face that launched a thousand college t-shirts, telling you to settle your bill at the front.

I think it's safe to say that when your leader has been reduced to a cartoon giving instructions to teens on how to pay for their capitalist fast food, the revolution's over.

Things We've Seen


Things We Like