Start with a bowl of Japanese seafood rice, continue with frozen yogurt, and finish with a freshly brewed Italian coffee.
By Laurence Civil
The Food Hall on the ground floor of Bangkok’s Siam Paragon is home to some 50 carefully selected restaurants that offer a myriad of dining opportunities. The three most recent additions to the hall are Hokkai-Don, with its rice bowl dish concept, and two leading brands from the UK: yoomoo, the frozen yogurt chain, and Costa Coffee, established in London in 1971 by Italian brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa.
Being at the restaurant feels like being seated at the edge of a pier, where fishermen bring their catch back from the sea to be served fresh. Targeting both Thai and foreign customers, the dining room’s rustic light wood bar surrounded by tables could make commensals forget they are inside a food court.
The branch occupies 53 square meters. A second location to be opened next year at EmQuartier shopping mall will have double the floor space, and it will cater more toward Japanese customers.
Hokkai-Don is all about fresh ingredients: mackerel is imported daily from Japan; soy sauce is boiled to caramelize its natural sugar and give it a sweet taste; rice is grown locally by a Japanese farmer who lives in Chiang Rai, and its flavor is authentic, as the rice has been cooked with mirin and then allowed to cool, a key step in improving taste. The restaurant also serves a clear soup made from fish trimmings, as opposed to the classic miso soup usually served in Japanese restaurants.
We tasted three rice bowls: the Double Salmon Don, topped with ikura, fresh salmon, and grilled salmon; the Ume Don, with maguro, hokkigai, hotate, ikura, kanikama, and uni, and the Aburi Don, with maguro, engawa, hotate, ikura, salmon, and tamago. A tip from the chef is to eat the seafood as soon as it’s served because oxidization will quickly reduces its flavor and color.
Yoomoo is fat-free, gluten-free, made with fresh British milk, a rich source of calcium, and with no nasties allowed. Picking up on the trend that Thais are slowly changing their eating habits to more healthful, fat-free diets, Anuwongnukroh spent a year putting her business plan together to now share her “love affair” with Bangkok.
“The ingredients are shipped to Thailand in powder form,” she explains. “We then blend it with water filtered to a specified pH level, and freeze it to ensure total consistency of taste. At the request of The Mall Group, the model for this branch is similar to the one in Harrods.”
Yoomoo is probably as close as it gets to a guilt-free dessert, and it comes in an assortment of flavors. You’ll find yoomoo frozen yogurt in the form of Devilmoo, chocolate frozen yogurt with swirls of chocolate sauce and rich brownie chunks, topped with milk chocolate stars; Tropicoolmoo, with juicy mango and passion fruit sauces, topped with tangy freeze-dried mango puree pieces; Strawbswirlmoo, with strawberry sauce and with freeze-dried strawberry pieces; and Veryberrymoo, natural and blueberry fro-yo topped with mixed berries, granola, and swirls of raspberry sauce. The list also includes Cherrychocmoo, Vanillamoo, and Nakedmoo, a natural flavor you can use to create your own unique taste, among many others.
On the 4th floor of Harrods, a regular portion of Yoomoo’s frozen yogurt costs GBP 5.50 (THB 270), while the same serving size costs just THB 199 in Bangkok. And because the portions are generous, one of them could easily be shared by two dessert lovers. Our tip: eat first and talk later, as frozen yogurt melts quickly.