St. Germain des Pres :  By Neil Robinson

Enjoyable but sometimes frustrating French restaurant

St. Germain des Pres opened about a year ago. Shortly afterwards, it was reviewed here by Brian Baxter, who saw much potential in it. Since then, I have eaten there several times and I thought it was time for another review to assess what has happened in the last year. I have many reasons to keep coming back, including the excellence of some of the dishes, the good presentation of the food and the reasonable prices. So, why is it frustrating? Because, amongst the hits there are some wide misses. Even more frustrating, I always feel that, with a few changes, they could make these misses into hits – I like it enough that I want all the food to be as good as they are clearly capable of at their best.
The building, with its large windows, awnings and light, airy feel, is a bit like a simple, modern conservatory. On the roof is a stylish bar. Four of us, two Thais and two farang, went there for dinner recently. I sampled a little of what everyone ordered. Our experience shows some of the hits and misses here.
Before describing the food, I should mention the convenient way the menu is arranged. Starters and soups are all 195 baht, main courses are all 295 baht (except one or two special items), and desserts are all 120 baht. I usually go for the convenient “découvert” option, which allows you to choose a starter, a main course and a dessert, all for 575 baht. There is an extensive drinks list, including a wide range of cocktails. Corkage is 150 baht.
We tried a number of starters. Scallops in calvados cream sauce were served, very prettily, in a little crisp pastry bag, with slices of green apple. I found the flavours of scallop, sauce and the acid, refreshing apples to make a good combination. Tartelette Niçoise was well made and satisfyingly savory. St. Germain (green pea and ham) soup has never been to my taste, wherever I have eaten it, so I am not in a position to comment on how good it was here. The fish soup is the great bargain among the starters. A thick fish bisque, it is really the best part of a bouillabaisse, for considerably less than you would pay for a full bouillabaisse here. The only drawback is that it is so filling that, if you eat it as a starter, you may well have problems eating a main course!
The duck breast main course, served with honey, red wine sauce and onion jam was tender and aromatic. I had boeuf bourguignon, which is a favorite of mine. Tender beef in a rich, savory sauce, but which did not overpower the meat (as I have experienced elsewhere), was served with excellent croquettes, crispy on the outside and soft inside. So far, all hits. The sole, squid and shrimp casserole was a wide miss though. First, it arrived on the table with the fish not properly cooked. When we complained, it was returned to the kitchen. More important, there was little flavour of seafood and the sauce was so rich, apparently with cream or cheese, that my companion found it difficult to eat much of it.
We tried three desserts: apple tart, pineapple pancake flambé and lemon sorbet with vodka. Only this last, simple and refreshing, dessert worked. The apple tart had too little flavour of apples, was too sweet and was overwhelmed by caramel. The pineapple pancake was an adequate crepe, but again was overly sweet and the pieces of pineapple were so hard, some were inedible.
Overall, the hits are good enough to keep me coming back, but if only they fixed the misses, this place could be excellent. The address is 4/1 Ratvithi Rd. If you are on the inside moat road traveling north from Thapae Gate, you will see a Siam Commercial Bank on your left, at the corner of Ratvithi Rd. Turn left there and the restaurant is on your right, next to the bank. There is ample parking in the neighbouring lot. The telephone number is 053-289-557.
I welcome comments at: [email protected] There have been some questions about our review policy. We outline it periodically here. Reviewers normally eat at a restaurant anonymously. If it appears to be worth reviewing, we usually return for a second meal first. If the restaurant does not appear particularly worthwhile, we do not waste time returning and do not review it. We try many more restaurants than we end up writing about because we want to tell you about restaurants that we believe readers will enjoy visiting.


Thai eggs with peppers

This is an interesting derivation from Hungarian eggs, and is something that can be made from items found in most family fridges. These types of home cooking always reflect not just the tastes of the region, but also the most abundant and cheap ingredients. While the recipe calls for green bell peppers (capsicum), red or yellow can be used.

Cooking Method
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil and add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Sauté until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and simmer very slowly over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now add tomatoes and continue to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper to taste. Add eggs, mixing well. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve immediately.

Ingredients               Serves 4-6
Vegetable oil                         3 tbspns
Onion, minced                    1 medium
Garlic, chopped                       1 clove
Green bell pepper, chopped              1
Tomatoes, roughly chopped 2 medium
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coriander fresh chopped finely 1 tbspn
Eggs, lightly beaten                 2 large