Pasta Café:  By Brian Baxter

Spacious Restaurant Specializing in Italian Food

The simplicity of its name – Pasta Café - somewhat belies the overall feel of this well-established eatery—they have been in business for over four years— one of many off the Nimmenhaeminda Road, (Soi 5 in this case). It has the advantage of occupying a very large plot, with a pleasant surrounding garden and a decent sized area for parking. The result is a quite tranquil environment, enhanced by the quiet background music.
The actual restaurant divides into two main areas, an outdoor section flanked by the garden and an air conditioned dining room in two parts, one near the bar and a second, which I prefer, just off that. A restaurant for all seasons.
I’ve eaten there a few times over the past two or three years but for the purpose of this review I went back twice within a period of about ten days, once with an Australian and, for the second visit, with a Thai student. It allowed for a different dining experience and a choice of food, overall menu and wine.
On the first occasion I opted for one of the set menus at 250 baht. It went as follows: - bruschetta with finely diced tomatoes, (two pieces—enough to share), a mixed salad with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing, (the only dressing as far as I am concerned is a vinaigrette, not those thick ‘spreads’ so beloved by Americans), a pasta dish, a small ice cream and a choice of tea or fresh coffee, which I passed to my friend since I don’t enjoy hot drinks with food. He declared the coffee ‘excellent’. The salad was fresh, the pasta al dente with a spicy tomato sauce and the ice cream worthy of Italy and served with a small slice of warmed brownie. I thought the meal good value. With it we drank a half litre carafe of the basic house wine. This was certainly drinkable once the chill had lessened but it was not nearly as good as the ‘superior’ house wine that I had on the following visit. This was priced at 420 baht as opposed to 300 for the alternative and was well worth the extra 60 baht a head on the bill. There are, of course, innumerable other drinks on offer, including beers, soft drinks and other wines.
A week or so later we went for a choice of menu, (there are about four set ones), and I chose a ‘special’ from the regularly changing board. This was a salad with scallops, (160 baht). My companion went for the sautéed clams served with garlic bread. Both were pleasant and served in very generous portions. As a ‘main’ we naturally went for pasta – from a quite daunting array listed in the large menu. There are other choices, including a few fish and meat dishes but they seem somewhat superfluous as does the small selection of so-called Thai dishes tucked away at the back of the menu. Mine was penne arrabiatta with tuna and he went for the linguine with, (allegedly), spicy crab sauce. Neither was as spicy as indicated, despite that being checked on when ordering. This may hardly be a criticism for many people; nor, I guess, would be my comment that the portions are over generous. We each left about a third of the food, not because it was bad but simply because it was too much to eat. Memo – go when you are hungry! This did not stop us ending the meal with a delicious sorbet. As mentioned, we had a carafe of wine – a Chardonnay—and with the pasta I also tried a glass of the Shiraz from their ‘superior’ selection. Each showed that a little extra spent on wine makes sense, since the basic costs of shipping, marketing, etc are much the same and the extra cost is largely reflected in the quality of the actual wine.
The Pasta Café has comfortable seating and well sized tables, spaced apart. The staff are attentive and only the bringing out of the main course a little too soon showed that the chef was perhaps not busy enough on a Sunday evening. By the way, they are closed on Mondays. The range of pastas is impressive and if, like me, you enjoy Italian food as an alternative to Thai this is definitely one for your list. There are more ‘exciting’ Italian restaurants in town but they are in the main considerably more expensive and usually have more constricted space and a more formal atmosphere.
Pasta Café. Soi 5 off Nimmenhaemeninda Road.


Thai Potato Salad Recipe

Potato salad has probably been around since there were cultivated potatoes, and that is supposedly from Peru several thousand years ago. Over the centuries, home cooks have embellished the dish, and here is one with a remarkable Thai flavor.

Cooking Method
Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the potatoes (skins on). Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from pot and let cool enough to handle, but still warm. Remove skins and cut potatoes into 3 cm sized cubes.
Put potatoes in to a large bowl. Add the vinegar and then the finely chopped pickles. Now add chopped coriander, bell pepper (capsicum), celery, scallions and hard boiled eggs.
In a separate small bowl, mix mayonnaise with mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the dressing with the potato mixture. Again, salt and pepper to taste.
This is best refrigerated before serving.

Ingredients             Serves 2-4
Potatoes, mid sized                      4
White vinegar                      4 tbspns
Dill pickles finely chopped   3 tbspns
Coriander chopped                 ¼ cup
Red bell pepper chopped        ½ cup
Celery, chopped                  2 stalks
Scallions chopped                         2
Hard boiled eggs, chopped             2
Mayonnaise                           ½ cup
Dijon mustard                       2 tspns
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste