{chiang mai} rustic & blue

when i planned a visit to our northern neighbor, if the food wasn't thai, it was probably not going onto my eating itinerary. 

well, the exception was my coffee fixes. 

and this. 

a restaurant located in the hip street of nimmanhaemin was recommended by a talented artist friend of mine who is currently residing in bangkok. its decor was as how i'd imagine the restaurant to be from its name - rustic, cozy and reminiscent of sharing a meal at the dining table of a friendly farm house.

a matching game of wooden furniture coupled with hanging greens occupied the dining space. at one side  of the room were shelves that held collections of tea leaves and few stacked cookbooks (i spied momofuku!).

smacked right in the middle of the dining space was a big rustic table where diners can pick to eitherwatch the staff prepping drinks at the back of the tiled counter or people-watch through the full length sliding door at the back of the restaurant of diners mingling and basking under the sun in the the restaurant's wide garden furnished for al-fresco dining.

akin to its decor inside, the garden was filled with comfy looking couches and benches with stringed lighting of bulbs hung over through the tree that created a cozy ambiance. if only the weather was cooler, that would have probably been our choice of seats. 

the decor was just the beginning. the theme persisted even in their approach food styles - inclination towards new american but with an organic farm-to-table concept, its menu gave an impression that most of there ingredients were made in-house. that was the kind of restaurants i've always liked.

warm & hearty :: duck prosciutto crostini | house-cured duck breast prosciutto, warm fresh mozzarella cheese, mango black tea jam, rocket, rustic rosemary bread (thb 185)

served on a wooden serving board, three pieces of crostini displayed itself proudly with its finishing drizzle of a balsamic reduction. the idea of combining the flavors of gamey-savory saltiness from the duck prosciutto countered by the fruity sweetness of the jam, creaminess of the cheese, pepper notes from the arugula and the occasional tartness of the balsamic reduction was interesting. there were some play on textures which was nice. 

there were some room for improvement: it was hard to chew a piece off the unsure duck "bacon" in the most elegant manner and it was too hard with a fork and knife. the gaminess may have a bit too pronounced. the bread itself had subtle hints of rosemary which was easily overshadowed by the other ingredients of the dish. my favorite part has got to be the reduced mango black tea jam against the melted mozzarella cheese. 

warm & hearty :: bbq pulled pork sliders | brioche mini burger bun, bbq sauce, rocket, pickled beetroot, homemade gorgonzola cheese (thb 185)

served with a side of sweet potato fries, it was a pretty huge serving despite its bun was "mini". the side of fries were greasy but i loved the splash of colors and flavors from the different sweet potatoes and the rare crunch of the salt against the natural sweetness, with the deep fried garlic chips. 

the pulled pork was mostly great but some bites were of borderline dry pulled meat doused in a generous amount of the sweet-vinegary (i thought i tasted notes of apple cider vinegar) bbq sauce. the strips of beets were visible but was mild on the taste. however, my mom thought the sandwich was pretty good. 

what i loved about rustic & blue is the farm-to-table concept coupled with most of the items are made #fromscratch and in-house and i am a sucker for those. the creativity in combining classic flavors and occasionally splashing in unexpected combinations while still making the flavors work beautifully together is something i always look forward to at a restaurant on top of friendly service. there are still some room for improvement in the execution but i like what is serving from this kitchen.

rustic&blue farm house | location
nimman soi 7
chiang mai thailand
{opens tues-fri : 830am - 5pm
opens sat-sun : 830am - 10pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

{chiang mai} akha ama coffee

a short entry. 

work and class have gotten a tad busy these days. 

a short entry but manage i will ;)

*               *               *

just as ristr8to has captured the attention of coffee enthusiasts in chiang mai, akha ama coffee has similarly garnered the same love and recognition for its caffeine beverages. 

my initial reasons were mainly because of the location of the cafe, its ambiance and of course, its cup of brew.

however, these were overshadowed after a quick read about akha ama's origins and its reasons - the cafe's founder, lee ayu sources coffee beans from local farmers in his village and neighboring communities who practice sustainable organic farming and fair trade while bringing that local coffee beans into the thriving local caffeine scene in chiang mai.  loosely described, it almost resembles the farm-to-table concept, supporting the local farmers and bringing the freshest coffee beans for coffee lovers in the northern city of thailand.

i never quite understood its slogan of "socially empowered enterprise" until now and lee's efforts were recognized when their beans have been selected by the speciality coffee association of europe (scae) for the world cup tasters championship in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

the sun was unbearably hot, to the point it felt scorching that i quickly sought shelter at akha ama cafe by one of the busiest and oldest wats in chiang mai, wat para singh.

the petite shop was not as bustling as ristr8to. it took a very minimalist rustic approach in its decor - adorning the typical cafe industrial theme, keeping it simple with cement walls with occasional red bricks and accented by wood logs. i enjoyed the hand drawn arts of the essentials behind a cup of brew on the wall of chalkboard which added a little charm to the cafe's personality. mellow songs played in the background but were contrasted by the occasional screech of the espresso machine.

i ordered at the counter and picked a seat at the high table where i could watch the barista work his magic behind the counter. best of all, i had a front row seat to enjoy watching chiang mai just go by along its daily routine - uninterrupted.

espresso :: mocha (thb 550)

i looked at the latte art on my mocha in amusement - how fitting that it reflected my love that has grown for the city as my vacation in chiang mai was nearing the end. 

i sipped the cacao-coffee beverage while people watching, quickly noting the lovely flavors of the espresso. the espresso was full-bodied and smooth to the taste accentuated by the creamy milk where the various flavor notes ended with a tart finish, paired with the lip smacking bitterness. 

the cacao half was too subtle and left me wondering "where has the chocolate flavor gone to?". its lack of balance in the cacao - coffee ratio had this cup inclined towards the latte instead of a mocha. despite that, it was still an enjoyable cuppa. 

oh! and the people watching?

i found it absolutely endearing and amusing, even as of the many walks of life, tourists and locals including monks moved at their own pace towards their next destination. add into the equation the songthaews, 'tuk tuks' and motorbikes that whizzed by quickly, occasionally stopping by the side of the street to pick up passengers. it was oddly calming and found it almost meditative.  

akha ama coffee la fattoria was an unforgettable experience that i never expected to have enjoyed this immensely.  definitely one of my favorite things to do while i was in chiang mai (read more here).  this was when i finally slowed down to savor my vacation with every sipful of coffee while people watching to recharge myself mentally and emotionally. just lovely.

akha ama coffee la fattoria | location
175/1 rachdhamnoen rd,
phrasingha, muaeng,
chiang mai thailand
{opens mon-sat : 8am - 6pm
opens sun : 8am - 8pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

{chiang mai} ristr8to coffee

i have no excuse.
a long overdue entry (months even) that i've been meaning to get to but 런닝맨 has a hold on me - an addiction if you will.  but i digress. 

and a mini hiatus ensued shortly after since work had me go on a business trip. 
but again, i digress. 

during my getaway to thailand earlier this year, i've had some pretty awesome food adventures that i'd love to share. i will be writing a couple of restaurant entries from my trip, hopefully in quick successions as much as my free time allows it - i'm trying to catch up with some of my food adventures.

my favorite pick-me-upper. while the coffee culture has been steadily spreading its love throughout the local food scene, thailand has a thriving appreciation for cafes amongst its community of caffeine enthusiasts. 

the heart of it all in chiang mai - nimmanhaemin road spearheading the movement with its "coffee street"  

a social media favorite. coined as arguably the best coffee place for real coffee lover, spoiled with amazing options. boasts single-origin global bean source. its name is a play on the coffee base of ristretto instead of espresso for their dominant offering of coffee beverages.

traditionally a short shot of espresso but extracted with about half the amount of water, essentially is the first half of full length extraction. "restricted" in italian - richer, sweeter and has fewer of the harsh flavor compounds that come through in the later stage of the espresso pour. 

located on the main road, its black clad wooden exterior was just a preview of the rustic appearance on the inside. coffee machines screeching loudly in the midst of the boisterous crowd's chattering - the cafe's popularity apparent as we managed to find seats amongst the very few available tables. the space was petite, interior of wood and exposed brick walls matched its exterior - exuding a industrial minimalist, keeping it rustic. 

its theme was even featured down to its menu - or rather their speciality coffee guide. 

a barista choice, invented in the year 2013. made by pouring well textured steamed milk on a doppio ristretto shot in their custom made 4 oz cup. the shape and size of it came from their long period of experience with coffee in order to bring out the best flavor of both coffee and milk together and keep that whole round flavor from the first sip until the last sip. (thb 88)

served on a wooden serving block with its cafe name engraved, the warm coffee was sent to our table with extra care with a side of warm water. the beautiful latte art was intricately done, topping it with a heart at the top. the warm water was an unexpected thoughtful addition - possibly drinking alternately allows every sip of the coffee to be a fresh one, if desired.

rooted in the beginnings of ristretto, cigar8to had a floral bitterness with a subtle notes of cacao as it hit the tongue. a smooth bodied coffee that ended with a sharp but transient intense coffee bitterness that was surprisingly somewhat pleasant. the great part was that the milk to coffee ratio allowed the main star to shine. pretty good if you are looking for a cuppa of just coffee-milk combination. 

caffé mocha is coffee that created to mimic the natural chocolate flavor of coffee from mocha port in yemen. their coffee mocha made with their secret recipe brazilian cocao syrup mixed with a shot of ristretto, smoothed  with silky milk, resulting in a satisfying bitter-sweet chocolatey coffee (thb 88)

all my research about this favorite coffee spot pointed towards this familiar chocolate-coffee marriage, the mocha. post cigar8to, i'm already all coffee-ed out but i was really curious how this would fare against my favorite cup of mocha. the solution? just have one to go. 

sweetened by deliciously evident good quality cacao, it leaned slightly more towards the chocolate flavors, and that had me craving for a stronger bitterness of coffee to mellow that sweetness, which was very surprising. it definitely had a smoother finish than the cigrar8to - a pleasure to drink even though the delicate balance of the chocolate-coffee only missed the mark ever so slightly. although it is slightly sweeter than i'd expected,  i'd still give it a yummy :)

ristr8to coffee has earned the respect in the beloved coffee scene by local and foreign coffee enthusiasts for obvious reasons - the care and detail in every cup of ristretto-based crafted drinks. if you are ever in chiang mai and is craving for a good cup of coffee, you can probably be assured that ristr8to can brew something to your liking. 

ristr8to coffee | location
15/3 nimmanhaemin road
sutep, muang
chiang mai thailand
{opens daily: 8am - 11pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

jjajangmyeon loving at chung gung, 청궁 중국집

i've only had four previous ones before.
one left a bitter taste in my mouth and the rest were alright - almost forgettable.

but this one was like no other.
the only one that made me crave for more.
(..at least thus far!)

the luscious, hearty dark savory thick sauce that clung lovingly onto the smooth, chewy noodles, as i slurped satisfyingly. 

it was one of the yummiest 짜짱면s i've ever had.

truth be told - the two times that i've been to south korea, not once have i ever considered trying this iconic korean chinese cuisine. only one reason that can justify the situation - there were just so many delicious korean dishes that i had to get my hands on. but knowing now what this noodles could taste like, i'd loved to try it in korea.

짜장면 (jjajangmyeon) dreams are made of white wheat flour noodles (수타면) crafted entirely by hand, topped with a black soybean paste, 춘장 (chun jang) which is made from roasted soybeans sweetened with caramel. the sauce is loaded with the good stuff of ground meat (typically pork), diced onions, potatoes, thickened with potato starch or cornstarch. for a touch of crisp freshness, raw cucumber sticks finish this hearty bowl of noodles. the supporting roles of pickled yellow radish (단무지) and raw onions accompanied with a little chun jang sauce are a must. the occasional guest stars are diced zucchini, daikon and/or seafood. 

it gradually gained popularity as jjajangmyeon makes its way into many menus across the different korean restaurants. one of which is 청궁 (chung gung) restaurant. located in koreatown in ampang kl, its authenticity can be vouched by the many koreans making a beeline for this restaurant.

it may be a bit of a challenge to find the restaurant since it is on the second floor but look out of hanwoori and you're almost there when you've found the eatery's sign. as you enter its main door, its decor was a bit dated as the space was fully clad in finished wood as the furnishing was kept to a minimum. oddly in retrospect, it was the same simplicity, traditional and authentic qualities that  the dishes embraced in its execution.

even while the menu lured me with the extensive options, it was the typical almost inseparable complementary trio that i desired the most, the combination that has made its several tempting appearances my favorite variety show, 런닝맨.

짜장면 : jja-jang myeon | stir-fried noodles with chinese bean sauce (rm 15)

this bowl-full of goodness is what jjajangmyeon dreams are made of. the best part is - it's dream turned into reality. a pair of scissors were provided to cut the noodles, which may be shrugged off by some but i thought it was a nice added touch of authenticity. the lip-smacking black bean sauce balanced with a light sweetness were thickened just enough to coat the perfectly cooked noodles that had a slight bite. exactly how i'd imagine jjajangmyeon to be.

despite the lack of minced meat in the sauce it was satisfying as i easily 'inhaled' the noodles with gusto - almost a slick velvety mouth feel as i tasted the light savory, umami flavor. occasionally alternating with the crisp pickled danmuji to restart afresh again with more noodles. it was almost addictive that i crave for another bite as i chomped down on one.

짬뽕 : jjam-bbong | spicy seafood noodle soup (rm 17)

the fierce battle of preference between the two korean chinese signature dishes - the luscious jjajangmyeon vs. the fiery jjambbong has left some fans of korean chinese food divided into two camps - mainly dependent on the mood and weather, really. i very much prefer the third category - a proud supporter of 짬짜면 jjam-ja-myeon where these two very different flavor profiles of jjajangmyeon and jjambbong (separately, of course) complement each other in the most unexpected ways.

the fiery red soup of jjambbong base was slightly spicy sweetened by onions (both green and yellow) and fresh seafood contained the softened noodles took on the role to subdue the heat of the hot pepper powder that only left a warm sensation on the taste buds. the noodles were softer than its counterpart in jjajangmyeon and wished it was done slightly under.

탕수육 : tangsoo yook | fried pork with sweet and sour sauce (small | rm 35)

if you're expecting is the tomato-base sweet & sour pork that we grew up eating, you're in for some surprise. the korean take on this chinese favorite is different in almost every aspect from the texture of the pork down to the sauce. the thickly cut pork fingers lightly battered, deep fried for that familiar slightly crispy texture (could definitely have been crispier) encasing the moist, chunkier meat. on the other hand, the light sweet & sour sauce started with a plum-like sweetness base mingling with the light tartness of lemon for a citrus-y finish, served separately - typically poured over the plate of fried pork or dipping is also an option.

it was good especially since it wasn't cloyingly sweet but my preference still leaned towards the original chinese interpretation. the price tag is slightly steep but it is enough to be shared by 2-3 persons.

after our delicious encounter at 청궁 "chung gung", we finally understood why 짬짜면-탕수육 "jjam-jja-myeon-tang-soo-yook" combo is a match made in flavor heaven- tingling almost every taste buds and playing on the textural difference. start off with the hearty jjajangmyeon accompanied with the crispy, meaty sweet & sour pork and occasionally cut through the savoriness with the pickled yellow radish. then, bring it on with the spicy jjambbong only to seek for a relief from the heat by returning to the black bean sauce noodles once more.

my current benchmark for delicious bowl of 짜장면 goes to 청궁 중국집 "chung gung korean chinese restaurant". in fact, whenever these black bean noodles make its brief appearance on a few of the 런닝맨 episodes, i drooled as i watched longingly and immediately wished i was in chung gung gobbling down the craving with a huge smile. i'd say bring at least a friend to share the must-have duo of of jjam-jja-myeon. but if you can't, jjajangmyeon may be enough to entice you to return for more.

chung gung | location
c 6-, c7- d.e malaysia
1, jalan 1
one ampang avenue
68000 ampang
{opens mon - sun: 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
except for 2nd & 4th thursdays of every month}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.