Poor experience at Bo Lan
Was quite excited to try Bo Lan having trawled through their gorgeous website and read several glowing press reports about the chefs, attention to ingredients, etc.
In reality, it was one of the worst Thai meals I've had in Bangkok. I found the food to be rather strange and nothing stood out. Had the tasting menu; the prawns were fresh, the green curry beef is supposed to be made with quality meat but was nothing spectacular. Had a far more memorable meal at Chote Chitr the same weekend for a fraction of the price. For a high-end establishment, Basil at Sheraton Sukhumvit offers much better food than Bo Lan. My hotel concierge said I should have tried the fine dining restaurant near Ruen Nuad massage instead (but i was worried that was a tourist trap, dinner comes with a cultural performance).
Although i was a solo dinner, they gave me the bill for 2 tasting menus! and i had to highlight their 'mistake'. I've never encountered such an error in any other restaurant in Bangkok.
All reviews I have come across, from "real" people, have been negative. The raves have all read like press releases.
I am still quite surprised that so many people haven't enjoyed the food at Bo.Lan. I've only been there once, but I remember the food, atmosphere and service fondly. I particuarly enjoyed the naam and their salads, very fresh and well balanced dressings. In terms of the meat, I've heard similar complaints that the beef was nothing spectactular. Im wondering if they are opting for thai beef for the sake of keeping it more local or traditional? Either way, i dont remember the meat being bad though I agree that I dont remember being blown away by it either.
From what i understand, the restaurant is trying to cook traditional Thai food, which might result in something you consider strange or are not used to finding necessarily at street carts or run of the mill thai restaurants.
The overcharge is definitely a turn off....though i wouldnt be surprised if the same sort of thing happens at plenty of other restaurants in Bangkok. Thailand is known for its friendly service, not for its quality service....."fine dining" is a very new concept for thailand so it isnt easy to find staff that easily adjust to the new style of service.
Anyway, I really need to try out this place again to see if I totally missed something, but either way I appreciate what Bo and Dylan are trying to do. And hopefully they can work out whatever kinks seem to be bothering so many diners.
I wish i had spent more time researching Bo.Lan before going there - disappointed was our experience.
Not in any particular order, some of my thoughts:
* Our waiter's accent made it very very difficult to follow anything. I mean - taxi drivers in Bangkok are easier to follow. We asked for fresh pineapple juice - couldn't understand explanation given - and got a juice that was very sugary. We then ordered a second asking for no sugar - this one wasn't sugary, but so watery as to be almost bland. Still don't know what the answer was to our question - "is it fresh squeezed"
* Rice bowl wasn't provided on table so we could take rice when needed. That's fine - but then the waiter should be attentive enough to provide rice when my plate is empty. Didn't - and then forgot even after i asked. I didn't bother asking again.
* Food - ok, so I am originally from South Asia and my spice tolerance is definitely at the top end of the spectrum in my experience. The Tom Yam soup was so spicy I couldn't finish it. I was warned it was spicy - but I don't get the point of having dishes that someone as spice tolerant as me cannot enjoy.
* Nothing among the dishes really stood out as memorable. Ingredients were fresh - and the food was good - but not memorable, and not worth the THB 3000.
Anyway, chow rules and I am sorry I didn't do my research more properly. I only have time left for a lunch and a dinner in Bangkok this Saturday. Thinking of Krua Apsorn for lunch, and still undecided for dinner.
And remember - we had no alcohol.
I don't mind paying top dollar - $100 for 2, at the end of the day, is not much by global standards. But when am paying such prices, i expect a memorable experience - food + service + ambience. Bo.lan had great ambience, met the minimum in food, and fell short on service.