COCONUTS HOT SPOT — If you are ever near Soi Cowboy (for whatever reason), where can you go for good food?
The options are you can head towards Asoke intersection and grab a handful of street food or cross over to Terminal 21 for one of those air-conditioned chain restaurants. If you know better, however, you will stick to this side of the junction and retreat back into Sukhumvit 23, which is practically Bangkok’s international food hub.
There is one restaurant I recently discovered that falls easily onto my exciting “eccentric food” list. It’s one food nationality that Bangkokians definitely aren’t familiar with — Ecuadorian food.
Let alone the cuisine itself, Thais hardly know anything about Ecuador and I imagine very few have actually visited the country. That’s all the more reason to visit Cali’s Grill on Sukhumvit 23.
Mauricio — the owner who is always at his restaurant — will give you a fairly impressive introduction to Ecuadorian Cuisine.
From his authentic Ecuadorian family kitchen, Mauricio serves what he thinks will bring joy to anyone who has or has not experienced local Ecuadorian cuisine. After one joyful meal here, I’m still no Ecuadorian food expert, but at least now I’m not so completely clueless about it.
The meal starts with a bowl of chips and a pair of salsas — one mango-based and one chili-based for the spice lovers. I was munching my way through half of the bowl when I realized these were no ordinary chips. The bowl is a mix of crispy banana slices and some unusually huge grains of toasted corn — the real South American “maize” corn, toasted but not popped.
To my knowledge, these grains are pretty much nonexistent in Thai markets, so yes, they are obviously super cool beans! According to the owner, I was lucky to visit the restaurant when they are available. A lot of the native South American ingredients served at the restaurant are highly seasonal.
Shortly after the round of chips and cold beer, I was blessed with a dish I had to pre-order one day in advance — De Pescado (THB220). The dish is mainly fresh white fish marinated overnight in a variety of citrus juices and fresh herbs. The result is a tasty bowl of bouncy yet tender fish chunks — untouched by heat, but made edible purely by awesome acidity and a skillful marinating process. Surprisingly, the fish doesn’t taste raw at all. It’s tangy from the citruses and fresh from the herbal greens. For Thais who cannot live without the sour taste of our local yum (spicy salad), this dish is a definite hit!
Moving on to the main dish, and on the table is a large platter of goodies including three sizable Empanadas (THB165), which are mimosa-like pastries, each stuffed with beef, chicken, and cheese fillings; three fat Llapingachos (THB135) — potato croquette-like patties stuffed with mozzarella cheese that literally oozes from the inside; and last but not least, two large Bacon wrapped peppers (THB120), which are super yummy with just the mildest of spiciness on the tip of your tongue.
The platter is just the right size to fill up two not-so-hungry stomachs. I suggest you don’t stop there though.
Bacon wrapped peppers
Sudado de Pollo
My friend and I decided to close this Ecuadorian feast with a final course of Sudado de Pollo (THB 225) — a stew of chicken served with yellow rice and avocado slices. For this one, you can expect the chicken to be so tender that every chunk almost falls apart once you scoop it up from the soup. The chef has done some serious marinating to make this happen.
The yellow rice was so aromatic it made me research South American food ingredients needed to give the rice such color and aroma. As it turns out, this comes from a South American secret spice called “Achiote”, which, according to the owner, is also used in a number of other things including the previously mentioned Llapingachose and Sudado.
After just one satisfying meal at Cali’s Grill, I had tried a few unique ingredients for the first time.
If you are always looking for new foods to try and absolutely love new gastronomic discoveries, Cali’s Grill is the ideal spot for your upcoming food journey.
And visiting the restaurant is definitely a better way to learn about this far-far-away country compared to a 40 hour flight and the expense of an air ticket. The meal was totally worth the hassle of spending an hour to get through Asoke-intersection traffic.
Hours: 11am – 11pm
Tel: 02 258 2428