Part 12: Where and what to eat in Bangkok

After arriving by train from Chiang Mai, we took the Bangkok MRT to our beautiful hotel, the Amara. We wanted to splurge on our six last days of vacation, so we upgraded to an executive floor room which apart from a better room also came with complimentary cocktails and canapees each night. And I’m very glad we did splurge, as just a month after our return, big parts of the world went into lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic which we at this stage of the trip was starting to hear more and more about.

Bonchon Korean fried chicken

Our first stop after checking in, and basically breakfast after spending a few hours walking around the area of our hotel.

We’d eaten only Thai food and before that Lao food for weeks and thought we felt okay to deviate a little bit from the South East Asian fare, while still remaining in Asia. Our first idea was to go for Japanese ramen at Ippudo, but then we saw that a place called Bonchon, a Korean fried chicken restaurant which we’d heard about but never tried was next door. We hadn’t eaten anything since the day before so the sound of famous KoFC for breakfast/early lunch sounded a bit too good to miss.

We tried both their garlic-soy and their spicy fried chicken which were both extremely tasty. For sides we chose rice, kimchi slaw, and we also had some complimentary pickled radishes. So good.

Suppaniga Eating Room

Five years ago I visited Bangkok and went to dinner with a local Bangkok resident. The restaurant was Suppaniga Eating Room, and I remember really loving the food. This time we by chance ran into another Suppaniga branch, close to where you catch the ferry to Wat Arun temple. The location is basically on the river, meaning great views, and the food was as delicious as I remembered. We had their incredibly tasty panang beef curry, the best version of this dish that I’ve ever had with sublime flavours of meat, spices and coconut combined. The crab omelette was also delicious and came with a nice sweet chilli sauce on the side. All this paired with a bowl of sticky rice made for a very tasty lunch.

Amara Bangkok’s sky bar AkaAza

Our hotel, the Amara Bangkok’s sky bar, AkaAza, deserves a mention. There wasn’t that many people and from 7 to 9 p.m. you can enjoy 2-for-1 selected beverages with amazing views over Bangkok. Above picture is taken sitting at the table where we had our drinks.

Din Tai Fung (Central Embassy)

Whenever I’m in a city with Din Tai Fung, I need to go there. They have several outlets around Bangkok and we visited their restaurant in the Central Embassy shopping mall.

DTF is a Taiwanese restaurant chain that has taken one of the tastiest dishes there is, the xiao long bao soup dumpling, to world fame. The 18-times folded little nugget of gold is a dumpling that contains minced pork and jellied broth. When it’s steamed, the broth melts and hence there is soup on the inside of the dumpling. When you bite into it the dumpling (after dipping it in a soy-black vinegar-chilli-ginger sauce) it bursts in your mouth combining all the delicate, delicious flavours in one perfect bite.

Din Tai Fung also serve some other great dishes such as their amazing egg fried rice with garlicky, super tender Taiwanese pork chops; a peanut-y and sesame-y bowl of dan dan noodles, and delicious wontons coated in spicy Sichuan-style chilli oil.

Just go.

Bo.Lan

When visiting Gaggan restaurant last time I was in Bangkok I had my best ever meal. That is until I stepped into the doors of Bo.Lan during one of our final nights of the trip. We started off with a yummy Thai whiskey cocktail and some snacks while selecting which menu we were going for.

We were then taken to the kitchen where the first dish, a little spoon of crispy deliciousness was served. Both Bo and (Dy)lan were there and said “hello”, which made me just a little bit starstruck.

After the kitchen we were taken to our table. The menu at Bo.lan is “Essentially Thai” meaning it is their interpretation of Thai food. We went for one of their middle of the road tasting menus paired with Thai craft beers. An excellent choice as the beers worked so well with the dishes.

Starters, round one. Caramelized crab on rice crackers, local squid salad, organic rice dumpling.

Thai rice whiskey with a green mango and tamarind skewer, and pandan leaf mouth spray. First a sip of the whiskey, then a bite of fruit, then a spray. Yummy things happen in your mouth.

Crispy minced pork with plum sauce and fermented tofu, steamed fish pudding, sticky rice, caramelized coconut, and chicken.

It was all incredible, but the best dish of the night was this: Thai gnocchi with coconut broth and prawns. Amazing.

A bit into the meal they’ll just bring you everything they’ve got. Fresh veggies with nam prik chilli dipping sauce, fried chicken, grilled seafood with eggs, Jay Fai (Michelin street food lady) style crab omelette, duck panang curry, and a beef soup so spicy it sort of ruined my experience a little. It was so spicy I had to take a 10 minute break from eating while mouth spraying and drinking beer. 😅

There were some desserts too. This was a coconut pudding/soup with little nuggets of slimey rice dough. Unusual, but tasty.

The dinner was finished in the lounge where some magic was applied to coffee snacks and different candies.

We left Bo.lan tired, full, slightly tipsy, and very happy.

Price, you may wonder? Well, compared to Thailand in general, this is super expensive, but sonsidering quality of food and the general experience it’s not that bad. We paid around $400 for two tasting menus with their Thai craft beer pairing, and a cocktail each upon arrival.

Kua Kling Pak Sod

I received a recommendation to visit Kua Kling Pak Sod on Instagram, and when i looked it up found that one of their outlets were in the building next to the Amara hotel where we were staying. In a gigantic city such as Bangkok that is quite lucky, and naturally we decided to go.

The food is from southern Thailand and hence it’s even spicier than the food in the north and central parts of the country – which still is quite fiery, if you ask me.

Upon ordering they asked us if we wanted spicy, and we replied “just a little bit” which they took as “yes”.

We ordered their curry with coconut milk, eggplant, green curry and tofu; stir fried long beans with red curry and pork belly, as well as southern style dry khua kling curry with minced pork. Everything was super delicious, and of course super spicy. We downed several plates of rice to handle the heat, but it was absolutely worth it as the food was so good. Be prepared however or tell them that you don’t want any chili at all if you’re sensitive. 🙂

Ink & Lion Café

One of the best cup of coffees we had in Bangkok was at Ink & Lion in hipster neighbourhood Ekkamai. A really perfect flat white with a deep toasty aroma. Mmm.

Chatramue

My all time best lemon ice tea is from Chatramue. We went to their outlet in Siam Paragon shopping mall’s food court. So, so good.

Ruen Urai

Close to Amara hotel is Ruen Urai, located partly in an old style traditional Thai house and partly in a nice little ‘secret garden style’ courtyard, next to the Le Meridien Surawong hotel.

The food is inspired by traditional herbal medicine, and we enjoyed it very much. We had woked flat noodles with shiitake mushrooms, pork coconut green curry, and woked lemongrass-cashew chicken. It was a tad expensive, but quite delicious.

Paris Mikki

If you’re craving high quality French style pastries, visit Paris Mikki, a nice little café next to the Terminal 21 shopping center. We went their for my partner’s birthday as she wanted something birthday cake-ish and we were very pleased. Coffee wasn’t great, but the pastries were.

Allegedly their croissants are the best in Bangkok, but we didn’t try them unfortunately. They looked very good though.

Ba Hao (Chinatown)

Despite having visited Bangkok two times prior to this visit, i hadn’t been to its Chinatown.

This visit it was time however, and we caught a Grab (like Uber) to Ba Hao, a fancy 1920s Shanghai style bar and restaurant in the midst of Bangkok’s Chinatown.

Ba Hao serve great cocktails and bar food-y takes on Chinese classics. We started with Opium, or ‘Chinese negronis’ with ginseng and herb liquor, and then ordered from their food menu. The dishes aren’t huge, so you’ll probably need at least two each to get full.

Dan dan noodles.

Duck wontons.

Chinese pancake stuffed with pork.

Great food, great drink and great ambiance. You can also rent a room above the bar if you’d like the full Chinatown experience.

Part 6: Luang Prabang

We arrived Luang Prabang and Laos by a comfortable direct 1.5 hour flight from Siem Reap in a Vietnamese Airlines airbus A320 (I do not love to fly in propellered planes that otherwise are common on domestic routes in the region). A top tip is to buy a local sim with a data package in the airport, they had a booth at bagage claim and it took like a minute, costed $7 for about 8 gbs lasting a week, and they did all the setting up for me.

Luang Prabang, also spelled “Louang Prabang” is a cozy little city of approximately 50 000 people, situated by the confluence of the mighty Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers. Its old town where we stayed at the excellent Mekong Riverview Hotel, is filled with French colonial buildings, temples, a former royal palace, small restaurants, guest houses, shops, markets and bars. And, importantly, being in South East Asia it’s surprisingly super relaxed. We had just arrived from Siem Reap’s hustle and bustle with crazy traffic, stray animals, thumping music and drunk tourists, and were therefore prepared for something a bit similar. How wrong we were.

There is pretty much a general sense of calm at all hours in Luang Prabang. Of course there will be the odd vendor calling for attention, or tuk-tuk drivers offering a ride, but not that often. You can also walk everywhere as the roads and sidewalks are good and traffic as mentioned is quite calm.

The views of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers are everywhere as the old city lies on a peninsula surrounded by them. You can also see large mountains towering in the distance. It’s a super scenic place, and we really loved it.

What to see

Except for eating a lot of food we also climbed Mount Phousi to watch the sunset (as will many others, it’s quite crowded). We also visited the beautiful Kuang Si waterfall, a top tip is to arrive early before the crowds. We hired a taxi driver and arrived just as they opened at I think around 8 a.m.

Much also happen on the river(s) and there are plenty of different cruises and boat trips to go on, for instance to Pak Ou Caves.

[Breakfast in our hotel Mekong Riverview Hotel, on of the best I’ve ever had, especially considering the view.]

How about the food then? Well I can honestly say that we had a few of the best meals of our almost six weeks long trip in Luang Prabang. Lao food is quite similar to the more famous northern Thai cuisine, with shared dishes such as the local sausage Sai Oua, which in Laos is made with pork and herbs – in Thailand they also add chilli and lemongrass. Both are incredibly good. Other shared dishes are the famous spicy herb laab (also known as larb or laap) salad, and khao soi noodle soup. The latter is only similar by name though, and that they both are noodle soups. The Lao version is tomato-y while the Thai uses coconut milk.

Below are our favourite Luang Prabang restaurants:

Phonheuang Café

Make your own spring roll wrapper with crunchy chopped up spring rolls, cold noodles, spring onion and herbs. Put in a lettuce leaf, roll and dip in the amazingly delicious sesame dipping sauce.

The black stuff in the upper left corner is the local specialty kaipen, which is crispy river weed with sesame seeds.

To the right is pork laab, one of the best we had during the trip. This place is quite tiny but you’ll find it using Google maps.

Price: Inexpensive.

Saffron coffee

If you miss your big city latte art hipster coffee, fear not, Saffron’s got you covered. We saw at least two outlets in Luang Prabang and they serve a quite decent cup of coffee. Their tamarind and apple tarte was decent but served icecold.

Price: Medium

The Belle Rive

The Belle Rive is a quite touristy (but not in a terrible way) place which offers one of the best views of sunset over the Mekong River. They also fortunately have very nice food, and given the location, prices aren’t that bad.

We had (from left): Oua Si Kai, lemongrass grilled chicken (so good); Jeow Mak Khuea, smoky eggplant dip, served with veggies; spicy green papaya salad with ground peanuts, and fresh spring rolls filled with veggies & rice noodles, served with a peanut dip.

Price: medium

Xieng Thong Noodle Soup

Only open at lunch time, this place serves a delicious bowl of khao piak sen which includes thick rice noodles, pork, bean sprouts and spring onion in a quite mild salty broth. Finally a pile of crispy roasted garlic is added which gives the soup a really nice depth.

Price: inexpensive, a bowl was around $1,5 or 15000 kip.

Paste at the Apsara

Our first proper fine dining meal of the trip was at Paste Laos on New Years Eve. Paste also has a restaurant in Bangkok which has been awarded a Michelin Star so we were super excited to try their smaller Lao sibling’s fine dining take on local food.

Jaew bong: Mekong river crab, river weed, chilli relish.

Seared scallops, tossed in a salad of mangosteen, lemongrass, young coconut.

Sour River Fish Soup with lemongrass,chili, sugar cane,shrimp paste and fermented fish sauce (pa dek). Finished with young tamarind leaves.

Crunchy cured rice balls with sour sausage, kaffir lime zest, red curry paste, river weed and rose pepper leaf.

Salad of cured eggplant, air dried buffalo, ginger flower with kaffir lime, guava and dry spice mix.

A recreation and slight reinvention of the classic recipe for Laos Duck Curry-Kalee Ped.

Stir fried glass noodle with mixed mushroom, sweet bamboo shoots and fermented bean curd sauce.

Banana with coconut milk cream and fresh jackfruit.

The food was delicious. It tasted exactly like I had hoped, local but with fancy cooking techniques that made it an exciting contrast to the more ‘home cooking style’ restaurants we’d so far visited. Especially the salad dishes were “out of this world” (I’m starting to sound like my mom now- thank you thirties?).

Price: Expensive, about $140 for two with a shared large beer and one glass of wine each. They pour super small servings of wine so buy a bottle, or stick to beer which was more reasonably priced.

Khaiphaen

Run by the Tree Alliance Group that employ and train former street kids and other marginalized children and youth in hospitality. We had some of the best food in Luang Prabang here with a yummy, spicy chicken laap salad; crispy crackling pork belly with pumpkin puree and the best grilled Lao sai ua sausages on the whole trip.

Price: A tiny bit more expensive than other restaurants we visited, but still very affordable.

Khao Soi Luang Prabang

Located on the main street, Sakkaline Road, towards Wat Xiengthong, we found a great Lao khao soi shop. It’s just a few seats, but usually quite busy with a lady spooning up delicious bowls of the local version of Khao Soi. As you might know, Khao Soi is a famous dish of Northern Thailand, but apart from being soups with noodles in, they aren’t very similar. The Lao version contain minced pork that has been slow-cooked and then it’s added to a spicy, tomato-y broth that kind of reminds me of a South East Asian take on a bolognese. In the soup are rice noodles and the usual “choose yourself” fresh herbs such as mint, coriander and spring onion. Incredibly delicious.

Price: Not much.

Xieng Thong Phonsavanh Restaurant

We found out that our hotel was next door to famous food blogger Migrationology’s favourite restaurant in Luang Prabang, so we though it would be wise to pay it a visit. We tried their (very delicious) fish laap salad; tasty holy basil fried chicken, and, after being told off by the chef/owner for not ordering it, also their super spicy and delicious fish roe dip ”jaew kee pa”.

Price: Slightly more expensive than other restaurants in the area, but still very affordable.

Five days of eating in Marrakech, Morocco

Just got back from a five day visit to the exciting and exotic Moroccan city of Marrakech.

For once, we had not planned that much in advance, leaving it to our at-the-time cravings what we were to eat.

We had a general idea about Moroccan food upon arrival, but in the end managed to eat both the obvious stuff such as tagines and cous cous; the ‘middle road’ such as the (in)famous bastilla pigeon pie, and more unique stuff such as old school berber food.

Read below about where and what we ate.

Riad Itrane (hotel)

Ultra-romantic setting by the pool.

The first night in Marrakech we had pre-booked a traditional Moroccan dinner in our hotel, or riad, which is a traditional style Moroccan hotel.

Moroccan salads started the feast. Carrots, beans, potato salad, aubergine, tomatoes and eggs. Also olives, harissa and fluffy Moroccan khubz bread. Delicious.

For main: the national dish of Morocco, tagine which is a stew that is slow-cooked in a clay pot named… tagine (or tajine), this one with chicken, confit lemon and green olives. Sooo good.

Nos nos (half half) with milk pudding, orange coulis, strawberries and mint. A little pannacotta-y.

Moroccan breakfast, also served at Riad Itrane. No buffet within sight, instead a lot of small dishes delivered to your table. Eggs with harissa and cumin, semolina pancakes, jams, dates, nuts, flatbreads and cakes. Each day the menu changed slightly which was nice.

Price: €25 per person for the dinner. Breakfast was included in our stay. Do note that the restaurant might or might not be available only to guests. Contact them in advance (they speak English and are friendly).

Website

Naranj Lebanese restaurant

Lebanese sandwiches, one taouk with chicken and one kefta with meatballs. Served with super-tasty potato chips and cabbage slaw. The (virgin) mojitos were nice too.

Meze platter. A bit small serving size on the dips, but good quality and very tasty.

The prettiest dessert in a while: Slillo cheesecake. Slilo or sellou is an unbaked Moroccan sweet usually served for ramadan. In this interpretation the slilo formed the bottom layer (ground anis, sesame, honey and almonds) and was then topped with a creamy, soft cheese layer and a final sprinkle of rose leaves. So, so good. And clever.

Price: About €45 for two with shared starter and dessert, two mains, two mojitos and a bottle of water.

Website: http://www.naranj.ma

Pepe Nero

Another super pretty location: Pepe Nero, one of Marrakech’s fanciest restaurants serving both Italian and Moroccan food. We tried the latter.

Extremely tender slow roasted shoulder of lamb.

Moroccan salads, including carrot salad, amazing texture (and flavour) baba ganoush, hummus, roasted peppers and potato salad. Enjoyed with local President rosé wine.

Pastilla: crispy Moroccan pigeon pie. Both sweet and savoury. Sounds weird, tastes delicious.

We finished the meal with a few Moroccan pastries and mint tea. The dessert was least exciting, but tasty enough.

The ambience is quite fancy and also quite touristy, at the same time service was so-so. Prices are high, but the food is tasty. And they have wine. So it wasn’t my favourite experience in Marrakech, but I don’t regret going either.

Price: About €95 for two starters, a shared main (serving for two) and a shared dessert with mint tea, as well as two half bottles of wine and water.

Website: http://www.pepenero-marrakech.com

Chez Brahim

We visited Chez Brahim since it was very close to our hotel and that it had good reviews on both Google and Tripadvisor.

While nothing spectacular, Chez Brahim offered relatively decent food for a decent price in the middle of the medina. The lamb meat was grilled and quite tasty, the fries weren’t that exciting and the rice thing was lukewarm at best.

What was quite delicious though was their khubz flatbreads with harissa and olives we got when we arrived.

Price: About €18 for two mains, soft drink and water.

La Vallé Atlas Ourika

The river along (or pretty much in) the restaurant is located.

Bonus mountain pictures.

While visiting beautiful Ourika Valley, situated in The Atlas Mountains we had lunch at La Vallée restaurant. Located on a sandbank in the river, location was stunning.

Food was quite nice with above cous cous served with seven kinds of roasted vegetables and chicken.

Berber chicken lemon tagine with a few fries. More of roasted chicken, less of stew than the other tagine we had.

Price: About €18 for two mains, soft drink and water.

Blackchich Café

At Blackchich café, we ate some of the most well-cooked food of the trip. The restaurant is Senegalese-Moroccan so they have both West African dishes such as Chicken Yassa or peanuty domoda stew as well as old school Moroccan berber dishes. They are located in the medina with three floors of seating, where the final one is an open roof top with very nice views of the city.

A minus for me though were that by some reason a pack of cats hung out there, standing by the table begging for food and actually trying to snatch some, so you had to watch your food which was annoying. That might have been a problem specific to just that day.

I had Rfissa, an old berber dish with slow cooked chicken and lentils in a rich butter sauce topped with quail eggs and served with steamed msemen crepes (latter being almost pasta-like since the msemen is cut into ribbons). Clever, tasty and very rich.

We also tried their meze platter with the usual suspects hummus, bana ganoush and Moroccan salads, which came with a fluffy flatbread.

Price: About €40 for a mint lemonade, coke, a shared starter and two mains.

Maison de la Photographie (House of Photography)

Another place with a nice rooftop is the Maison de la Photographie, a small photo museum in the medina. After admiring their old photos of Marrakech for a while you end up at their small café where you can buy both food and (non-alcoholic) drinks. Most people (and us) had a relaxing glass of mint tea before departing againfor the craziness of the medina.

Price: €2 for two mint teas.
Website: http://www.maisondelaphotographie.ma/

48 hours of eating in London

Except for Din Tai Fung Covent Garden, which I wrote about the other day, we visited a few other noteworthy spots.

Barrafina

One Michelin-starred Barrafina on Dean Street a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus delivered some of the best tapas I’ve had.

Cold meat platter. Everything extremely good.

Ham croquetas. Crunchy, delicious and perfect.

Best pan con tomate I’ve had.

A runny, perfect tortilla with peppers and prawns.

Morcilla; spiced Spanish blood sausage (similar to black pudding) with fried quail eggs, a crispy wafer thingy and a rich sauce.

Location: Dean Street, Soho.

Price: £80 for the above (and some more), including a glass of wine each.

Eve Bar (hidden in Frog restaurant’s basement)

It was nearly impossible to take decent pictures, but a staircase down from fancy restaurant Frog (by Adam Handling) is Eve bar. Get it, Adam and Eve?

Clever naming aside, Eve Bar was really my cup of cocktail with great cocktails, ambience, service and decent prices.

Location: Covent Garden.

Price: About £13 for a cocktail.

The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel

A 40 minute wait, £25 cocktails and lots of tourists. Could that be good? I’d say so! Friendly service, live piano music, free snacks and a hard-to-beat ‘old world’ atmosphere. As an extra bonus you’ll get access to their small museum, and can also sneak around the grand lobby (above) of The Savoy Hotel which The American Bar is a part of.

Location: Covent Garden(ish)

Price: ~£19-££££

Breakfast at Eggbreak

For our last meal for this time we went to Eggbreak in Notting Hill, after I read about their crab cake eggs benedict.

The coffee, a flat white, was, as the youth of today (I think as I’m old-ish) would call it: on point.

The star of the show: perfectly poached eggs on top of equally perfect crispy, delicious crab cakes. A few healthy spoons of sriracha-hollandaise sauce and some chives finished the decadent masterpiece.

Price: £45 for three coffees, two mains, a grilled grapefruit (also delicious) and a pain au chocolat.

Location: Notting Hill.

Din Tai Fung London

Just got back from a visit to London and the newly opened branch of my favourite restaurang chain in the world: Din Tai Fung.

Famous for their soup dumplings aka xiao long bao, Taiwanese Din Tai Fung has reached fame over the world and now have restaurants in Asia, the US, Australia, and, finally, Europe.

Our expectations were to say the least high, but fortunately not too high as the standard was as good as in Asia. Part of this might be due to that part of the staff have been flown in from Taiwan to work in the restaurant for the first year, to train the locals in the art of the 18 folds soup dumpling.

The usual suspects: pork soup dumplings. Delicate skin, a delicious “soup” broth on the inside and delicious minced pork. Too good.

Wontons in a spicy chilli oil, black vinegar, spring onion and garlic ‘sauce’.

Shumai prawn dumplings.

Premise-made perfect chewy, elastic noodles with a spicy sauce.

Noodles with a succulent Taiwanese pork chop.

Spicy cucumber salad.

Dessert bao buns filled with sesame, taro and red bean paste.

Location: 5 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.

$$ Price: We paid approximately £110 for the above and some more shared among three people, including a beer each.

Website (including menu without prices)

5 days in Amazing Palau

A Month ago we got back from a trip to Asia, that included a visit to the aaaamazing country of Palau.

Palau is located in the Western Pacific, a couple of hours flight time from The Philippines, South Korea or Taiwan, for instance.

We flew there with China Airlines from Taipei in a small Boeing 737-800, and left in a slightly larger Asiana Airlines A321 bound for Seoul.

We had read about having to pay both arrival tax and departure tax in cash, but did not pay any of them, possibly due to them being charged to airline tickets from the beginning of 2018 as we read somewhere as being planned.

We stayed our three first nights at the islands most famoust hotel, Palau Pacific Resort. While the hotel was way too expensive for what they offer, it was still really nice – and it comes with a huge bonus: its own beach, as can be seen from above. Our room was large and comfy, but dark and felt a little old.

Our first days we did not do much actually, we mainly lazed on the beach, did a little bit of snorkeling and read books.

The food at PPR, as it is locally refered to, was nice and of a relatively high standard. I like a club sandwich every now and then when I travel, and above had at PPR’s beach bar was really nice and came with a view over a passing cyclone out at sea, and a cold local Red Rooster beer.

Breakfast at the PPR was expensive ($25++) but nice.

Elilai Restaurant

A nice feature with many restaurants in and around Koror is that they offer complimentary transport if you eat at their restaurant. We used this with fancy restaurant Elilai, situated a few kilometers from The PPR. We sampled quite a few of their dishes, and whilst like much in Palau quite expensive (~$120 for two with wine) – it was also very tasty and came with a great view from Elilai’s hilltop location.

Mangrove clam risotto was delicious.

Taro leaf and mangrove crab sampler soups.

Fresh crusted tuna with wasabi.

Local crab cake, best crab cake I’ve ever had.

Koror

After a few days of desert island luxury at the PPR, we downgraded and moved to a location more in line with our usual budget.

As we were to spend a whole day exploring the famous Palauan Rock Islands, we felt paying $400 a night was a little steep, and hence the Cove Resort was our new home for the final two nights.

The Cove is located close to a few of the main diving and excursion companies; for instance Sam’s and Neco Marine (we used the latter), and hence you can just walk over there if you have a tour coming up instead of needed to rely on car transfers. There is also a supermarket with decent prices and a decent selection nearby, same goes for a couple of bars and restaurants.

The Hungry Marlin at Cove Resort Palau

The first night we were lazy and ate at our hotel restaurant; The Hungry Marlin.

They have happy hour between (I think) 5 and 7 pm, with an American-ish bar menu and a good selection of drinks. We had their fish tacos, which (a little bit surprisingly to be honest) were the best I’ve had. Their Japanese fried chicken – kaarage – was also delicious. This was washed down with Hawaiian Kona beer, happy hour-priced at $4 a bottle. Not bad at all! After this it was bed time, since we had a big day coming up.

Rock Island Tour with Neco Marine

Palau is occasionally called the ‘underwater Serengeti’ due to its rich marine life. The country also works hard with conservation and to counter pollution and other things affecting the sensitive eco systems both below and above the surface. When you arrive at the airport, they stamp a “Palau pledge” in your passport that you need to sign to acknowledge that you will do your best to help keep Palau what it is.

Neither of us is a diver, and we usually do not even snorkel. But being the marine sanctuary that Palau is, we had to do some underwater stuff.

Our trip was a combo though, we paddled through the Rock Islands in kayaks, as well as explored them under the surface in three different locations where we snorkeled with our guide.

Delicious bento box lunch on the beach of a small island.

Rock Island scenery. The weather was quite bad in the beginning of the tour, but shaped up nicely towards the end. It really was an amazing day.

The famous Jellyfish Lake was open again, after being closed after being devastated by a cyclone in I think 2016. The tour company could not guarantee any jellyfish though, as they to a large extent sadly dissappeared after said cyclone. As there was a $50 per person extra permit just to visit the lake, we decided to skip it from our tour.

We paid ~$200 per person for the tour, with $50 being a Rock Island Permit that all visitors to the area need to pay.

Drop off Bar & Grill

Being our last day in Palau, and with our flight leaving for Seoul at 5 a.m. (?), we just had a few hours after the tour concluded at around 4 p.m. before it was bed-time.

The Tour Company that we used, Neco Marine, have a restaurant and bar, aptly named Drop off Bar & Grill. We had read some good things about the place, so we decided to have our final meal of the trip there.

Another “my best ever” was this spicy freshly-caught tuna poke bowl. Chunks of tuna; spicy sesame-y mayonnaise; scallions; sliced nori, and rice. Washed down with a delicious Kona beer while watching the sun go down over Palau a final time. Not. Too. Bad. Except for the fact that we were to board a plane a few hours later, that is.

Our trip to Palau was one of the best I have ever done, and I really hope that we will return one day.

7 really nice restaurants to eat at while in Santorini (and one GREAT bar)

Visited the amazingly pretty Greek island of Santorini a couple of weeks ago. While I’ve had plenty of Greek food in Sweden, there’s nothing like having a proper Greek salad with sun-ripe tomatoes, a juicy grilled souvlaki or a fluffy delicious gyros pita while soaking up the views of the deep blue Med, white chalk stone houses and steep cliffs.

For once, we did not have that much of an agenda on Santorini; the plan was pretty much to laze by the pool, read books, watch the view, and of course, eat a lot of tasty Greek food. Below you can find my favourites (in no particular order).

Argo (Caldera view)

Price for 2: ~ €70

Website

Argo is a sort of fancy restaurant that faces the Caldera in Fira (although the view at some tables is limited. We stopped by our first night without any reservation, but were given a table right away. The food was quite good, especially the tomato keftedes, or fritters made from battered battered local tomatoes. The fava bean dip was nice too with a nice splash of olive oil and warm, fluffy pita breads.

For mains we had a seafood spaghetti and a veal stifado, served with either fries or linguine. We opted for the latter, and hence both had pasta our first night on the island. Sorry Greek food. Oh well, both dishes were good but by no means fantastic. The seafood was well cooked and served in a sweetish “Santorini style” tomato sauce. It was nothing wrong with it, but at €19, I expected to be slightly more wowed. The stifado was quite nice, tender and well-seasoned but could’ve been served with something more inspiring than chips or spaghetti.

All in all though, service was nice, food good and the view nice. But probably stick to the Greekier dishes if you’re a pasta snob like me.

Salt and pepper, Fira (no view)

Salt & Pepper is a nice little restaurant, run by a husband and wife, where the husband works in the kitchen, and the wife service the tables. Service is not very polished, but quite friendly and the food is tasty. I tried their keftedes, Greek meatballs, and they were yum, so was the Greek salad. Save some space for dessert which was complementary.

Price for 2: ~ €45

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Lucky’s Souvlaki

Of all the places we visited in Santorini, the downright most tasty food was at Lucky’s Souvlaki, a small, quite unimpressive looking venue on the tourist street close to Fira’s bus station. What they do is souvlaki; meaning kebab-style meat skewers; gyros, which is shaved, döner kebab resembling pork or chicken shaved vertically from a rotating spit, and a few other foods, served fast food style, meaning mainly wrapped in fluffy pita bread, slathered in tzatziki and then washed down with a cold mug of Alfa beer. Or two.

Another great benefit was that it was not only the tastiest, but also the most affordable of all the places we visited during our week. A nice little lunch kit with two gyros (pronounced yeeros), fries and a drink was €9,5.

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Anemoloos

Situated a bit of a drive from central Fira, with stunning views of the non-caldera side of the island, Anemoloos served up some of the best dishes we had during our visit to the island. The restaurant served local dishes, meze style, meaning loads of small platters of extremely delicious food that we shared among the table.

Favourites were the Santorini style Greek salad with capers, grilled pork belly and the grilled sausage. Also deep-fried potatoes with shaved butter was (as you can tell) very delicious.

Price: Since we were part of a tour during our visit, prices were never displayed, but I’m guessing prices were affordable.

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Parea Taverna

In the touristy part of Fira, but lacking a caldera view. Food is tasty, without being spectacular. We had a very tasty moussaka, and nice, soft and crunchy-from-the-batter calamaris.

Price for 2: €45 with wine.

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PK Cocktail Bar

Towards the end of our visit, we found the not-so-hidden gem PK (Palia Kameni) Cocktail Bar. The place offers incredible views, incredible sunsets and incredible cocktails. The prices are relatively expensive, but not crazy expensive. To score a nice seat, you can pre-book spots for a €10 (online) or €20 (walk-in) deposit that is then removed from the bill. Cocktails starts at ~€9 and goes up to ~€20. We tried a couple and they were all great.

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Aktaion

Aktaion was probably my favourite restaurant in terms of food in Santorini. Unfortunately we showed up without a reservation and only got an hour to eat (totally our fault), they did their very best to accommodate us.

We had their fresh sea bream with baked vegetables and lime sauce; falling-if-the-bone tender slow-baked lamb shank with roasted mizithra cheese, and Ouzo-spiked mussels.

As mentioned the food was great. For once I felt like also trying a dessert, but no time unfortunately.

More than in any other place we visited in Santorini (except for Anemoolos which was similarly great in quality), you could really feel the love in the food at Aktaion. The quality was a notch up compared to the competition.

Very recommended, but make a reservation in advance. And then walk along the edge back to Fíra (there is a footpath all the way), amazing views.

Price was ~€50 for two with house wine.

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To Ouzeri

Our last meal was enjoyed at To Ouzeri, very close to the caldera view, but without the view. Food is wholesome and tasty, but not fantastic. We had a spicy feta dip, warm pita breads, Greek salad and soft meatballs in a slightly spicy cumin-scented tomato sauce.

Price was around €40 for two including wine, starters and two mains.

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My foodie happy place: Lau Pa Sat food market

Lau Pa Sat, also known as Telok Ayer Market, is a hawker centre that has fed Singaporeans since the 1800s. Situated smack bang in Singapore’s financial district, the classic building, filled with local eateries, is one of my favourite foodie places in the world. Just sitting there, sipping on a beer, smelling the grilled satay skewers from the “satay street” next to the market while waiting for what ever you’ve ordered (there is actually sort of table service with different vendors selling and bringing food to the table). Above is satay, grilled chicken, lamb and beef skewers with peanut sauce. There are different stalls doing different kinds of satay, but all I’ve tried has been really good.

Blackpepper crab and mantou. A really nice steamed crab, woked in a spicy blackpepper sauce. The mantou buns are sort of like deep fried bread rolls that you use to soak up the sauce. So good.

Hokkien Mee. A seafoody noodle dish topped with crispy pork rinds.

Carrot cake or chai tow kway. Not containing any carrot but radish and sliced rice cake in a omelette-meets-pancake kind of creation.

Murtabak. A pancake-like dish filled with spicy, fragrant sliced chicken. Dip in the accompanying curry sauce. Mmmm.

Meat-mayo-marrow mayhem at Burnt Ends Singapore

One of 2017s best meals was at Burnt Ends Singapore, sort of an Australia meats (sorry) United States-style barbecue restaurant – in Singapore! Ranked as 10 on San Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 best list, reservations is a must and we made ours a month or so in advance. We sat at the bar where dinner is enjoyed facing the open kitchen, and you are handed the dishes straight from the chefs while sipping cocktails and wine served by the waiters (that also serves food to the rest of the restaurant not sitting at the kitchen bar). A foodie dream more or less.

Above is the skirt steak with bone marrow and burnt onion. So rich, so good.

“Garlic shoots and gremolata”. A little bit like very thin asparagus served with a tart gremolata and a really nice mayo.

Burnt Ends’ Sanger with pulled pork shoulder, cole slaw, chipotle aioli in a brioche bun. Really decadent and delicious. Not very refined, but just plain tasty.

Beef marmalade and pickles”. Pulled beef-y marmalade with crunchy sweet and sour pickled cucumbers, on grilled sourdough smeared with mayo. So my kind of food and so delicious.

Price

Burnt Ends’ menu of the night to give you an indication of prices. We paid slightly over $200 (SGD) for two including a shared bottle of wine and water (there’s free tap water though which the servers ‘forgot’ to mention to us which was a bit annoying). Anyway, despite that a really nice dinner.

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Great lunch at Candlenut, Singapore

Before leaving for Singapore, I read at several places about a restaurant called Candlenut that serves Peranakan style food, sort of meaning Singaporean/Malay and some extent Indonesian food influenced and fusioned with the food of Chinese migrants. Straits-Chinese Candlenut themselves call it. They also have a Michelin star, naturally I had to pay Candlenut a visit.

As the headline implies, we went for lunch. To start we ordered their pork neck satay that came without any peanut sauce or similar. We ordered their housemade spicy sambal to have something to dip in though.

Next up was a delicious fresh, sweet, salt and sour crunchy salad with wing beans, fresh prawns, cashew nuts, lemongrass, kalamansi lime and baby radishes.

King Tiger prawns in a ‘gula melaka” coconut sauce with lemongrass and Thai basil. Giant juicy prawns and the most intense coconut flavour I’ve ever experienced. Totally delicious.

Rendang, or sort of a dry Indonesian curry, I’ve tried in both Indonesia and actually also at home trying to recreate our vacation favourite. It is a bit like pulled beef, to draw a similarity to a Western dish but with quite complex flavours of different spices cooked into the meat for many hours. Candlenut’s version with Wagyu beef ribs was very rich, for me almost too rich. But still very good flavour wise.

Last but not least, the buah keluak dessert that apparently is one of Candlenut’s signature dishes. Buah keluak is a nut from the kepayang tree and is in this dish made into a quite bitter cocoa-y ice cream. With it comes Valrhona chocolate, chilli and a warm chocolate espuma. I read a few reviews of this dessert and many did not like it. I did though. Actually, I really liked it, almost really, really liked it. A really cool way of showcasing a unfamiliar (to the Western palate at least).

What a lunch is all I can say to summarize our visit to Candlenut. Good efficient service; nice interior and ambiance, and of course great food.

Price

We paid roughly 140 SGD (including the ++) for food, a shared dessert and a cup of coffee each. We did only have tap water to drink, which was complimentary.

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