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Publication Date : 17-03-2013
A brasserie-cum-bistro offers freshly baked breads, great coffee and some simple but tasty dishes
After 20 years of working for a media agency, Arpha Seneepakonkai wanted out of the fast lane. An enthusiast cook, she'd always wanted to own a restaurant but knew that if she were to realise her dream, she's have to learn from the very best.
Following a diploma course in cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School and three months of baking lessons, Arpha and her partners headed to France. There, they spent a delightful few months on the road between Paris to Lyon sampling regional dishes and acquiring the real taste of French food. Since late last year, she's been offering those same tastes to Bangkok diners at her bistro - Calin at Eight Thonglor mall.
Despite being located inside a building, the interior is chic and even comes complete with a patio decked out like a Parisian sidewalk cafe. Billed as a French brasserie and patisserie, Calin oozes atmosphere with lots of dark oak, black and gold and a cement floor painted in a black-and-white chequered pattern.
Calin is French for cuddle, the literal translation of "Aoom" - Arpha's nickname. The menu offers a classic and simple menu as well as house-made breads and jams.
"Rather than open a fine-dining establishment where diners may feel reluctant to order, we've blended brasserie with bistro, making it a place where customers can feel comfortable with home-cooked foods. We try to maintain traditional recipes without adapting to please the Thai palate," says Arpha.
Calin serves all-day breakfast from 8am to 11pm along with fresh-baked croissants, brioches, baguettes and red wine bread. Arpha has separated her kitchen from the baking area and the aroma of freshly baking bread is heady.
"I'm a bread lover so it seemed logical to take a bakery course and learn all the various kinds of bread making techniques. As we serve breakfast, freshly baked bread is vital. I use flour, butter and cream imported from France. I did try local ingredients but I couldn't achieve the aromatic loaves that are so much part of the French dining experience," she explains,
With the breads, Arpha serves her home-made orange-cinnamon and strawberry-balsamic jams. They've both proved so popular that she's turned them into a take-home line.
The coffee is also French: single origin coffee pods of the Cafe Richard brand that come in six strengths from light to intense. For a gentle java kick, opt for Costa Rica. Florio pod is an Italian blend that is easy to drink while Columbie is complex and full-bodied. After picking your preferred pod, you can ask the staff to brew it as espresso, latte or cappuccino.
"We fell in love with Cafe Richard coffee during out time in France. It's one of the top brands there and we were delighted to find an authorised dealer in Thailand," she says.
Calin also serves a selection of Ronnefeldt teas and their soft peach blend is perfect for the summer. The star of the drinks list is Inedit beer, blended by celebrated chef Ferran Adria and his El Bulli team to pair with food. It comes in a 750-ml black wine bottle and is soft and delicately fruity, with very little hop bitterness.
Customers heading to Calin for breakfast should try Croque Monsieur - a toasted ham and cheese sandwich - or Egg Benedict, brioche with poached egg and ham topped with hollandaise sauce.
For lunch and dinner, Monkfish cheek salad with rocket, beetroot and balsamic dressing is a healthy choice. Equally tempting is cod steamed with white wine on a bed of mushroom, zucchini and tomato. Croissant pudding is a great way to end the meal.
Calin is on the ground floor of Eight Thonglor mall in Soi Thonglor in Bangkok.