Sunday, February 15, 2009

Butler's American Restaurant In Bangkok, Thailand

There are a not a lot of accomplished American chefs (to my knowledge, anyway) plying their trade in Bangkok, Thailand nowadays but a recent lunch at Butler’s, an American restaurant in the upscale Gaysorn Plaza shopping center, brought one to our attention in rather dramatic fashion. Tim Butler, a pastry chef actually during most of his American cooking days, has named a small yet interesting space in the basement of this shopping center after himself and is creating some interesting and delicious dishes in an unpretentious manner, raising the profile of American food in this city.

With a compact menu, plus a few off-menu specialties, Tim is presenting a short tour of what is happening in some of America’s best kitchens and what should probably be happening in more kitchens here in Bangkok. Using relatively easy-to-find ingredients that he combines in slightly unusual ways Tim gives diners dishes that taste great, can’t be found elsewhere and make a very small dent in your pocketbook.

If value for money is something that makes you stop and think occasionally then Butler’s would be a good place for you to visit. Even though Tim has the kind of resume that would cause some chefs to need a larger toque size he remains refreshingly unpretentious and seems committed to providing his guests a great dining experience and one that they can afford to repeat on a regular basis. His prices, in other words, are a reflection of what he considers to be fair based on what he puts on his plates and not on what his newpaper reviews and awards might justify.

The delicious pasta dish of creamy garganeli and pancetta that also includes green peas is a healthy-sized serving priced at 205 baht, for example. The fabulously simple Japanese tuna salad with a creamy dressing and melt-in-your-mouth fish will set you back another 205 baht. Even the perfectly cooked foie gras, seared and presented in a club sandwich format (or alternatively with carmelized apple and red wine syrup), is only 600 baht.

It may be slightly déclassé to put such emphasis on prices but these days you must admit that it is certainly in the backs of at least some of our minds. How else to explain the dearth of diners at some of Bangkok’s higher-priced eateries as of late? You can spend up to 700 baht here if you insist and that will get you a ribeye steak with sautéed mushrooms and polenta. Drop another 210 baht for a glass of the house shiraz and you’ll round out the taste of the steak beautifully and still be under 1,000 baht.

However, you’ll want to try a soup as well – the asparagus and grilled corn are especially recommended – although the chilled shrimp gazpacho looked equally tempting. And most of the other items on this 23-dish menu looked the same way, tempting, that is. There are certainly more that my lunch companion and I would have liked to try given the chance and the interior space. There are salads, sandwiches, pastas and a few meat and seafood dishes.

And although not a dessert person per se, my curiosity got the best of me when I read about his black truffle ice cream sundae in an online article. Somehow he managed to take the richness of the truffles and harmonize it with the vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup so that it enhanced the flavors of all the ingredients without any of them being overpowered. This is one of his must-try dishes.

We hope that Tim’s stay in Bangkok will be a long one. Apparently he has personal ties that will help to keep him here as well as professional ones and anyone that can cook this well and treat his guests so respectfully should certainly be welcome here for as long as he cares to stay.

See http://bangkokdining.ning.profiles/list/ for more information about Bangkok restaurants.


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