Côté Jardin  

French restaurant with the feel of a neighbourhood bistro

Neil Robinson
Before dining here the first time, I read an online review which described this restaurant as “very stylish,” “totally chilled” and with a “smart colour scheme.” When I arrived, I thought for a minute that I was in the wrong place. None of these adjectives seems to me to be appropriate. The restaurant appears to be aiming not at smartness, but at an unpretentious, friendly neighbourhood bistro feeling. It is set in a narrow garden with a fountain, in a quiet soi close to Thapae Gate, but so secluded that you would never know this. There is space for about 30 diners.
The menu is written on a chalk board, so it changes some from day to day. Both times I’ve eaten here, we were met and greeted by the chef who offers to explain all the dishes on offer. He did this in fluent English, but since he is half French and half Spanish, I am sure he could manage this in other languages also. There is also a Thai menu, but I have never tried it.
I sampled three of the starters, the charcuterie (400B), the terrine de chef (150B) and the salmon carpaccio (250B). The charcuterie, a good selection of sliced meats and sausages, was large and best shared by two. The terrine was a nice, rather solid, coarse country pate. My favourite starter though was the salmon, with excellent fish and a very nice herby flavour.
For main courses, we tried the terrine of crab (300B), couscous with duck sausage (350B), venison stew with a white wine sauce (450B), and white snapper in estragon sauce (350B). The crab terrine was two large crab cakes in a tasty, spicy sauce, served with vegetables. The dish was appetizing and well worth trying. The only problem was that the flavour of crab did not come through clearly – it might have been a tasty meat loaf rather than a crab terrine. The somewhat peppery duck sausages were accompanied not only by couscous, but also by a tasty vegetable stew, almost like a gumbo.
My favourite was the excellent ‘estouffade de chevreuil au vin blanc.’ This venison stew included really tender, tasty meat in an excellent sauce and was accompanied by delicious potatoes au gratin. This dish was an example of the sauce complementing the meat, but not overpowering it. The estragon sauce with the white snapper, on the other hand, was a less successful combination, with the sauce not allowing the delicate flavour of the fish to come through.
Afterwards, there was a choice of either a cheese plate (400B) or a Normandy apple tart (150B). We tried the tart, which was delicious, but not well described. It was not at all the classic Normandy tart, but much more American in style – there was even chocolate sauce in the pastry. The restaurant should keep offering this, but change the name, and offer a choice of real Normandy-style apple tart also. Finally, we were each given a rum and passion fruit drink, for a nice finish to the meal.
In spite of being close to Thapae Gate, you probably would not see this restaurant unless you knew where it was. It is worth finding though. To get to Côté Jardin from Thapae Gate, walk south on the inner moat road, Moon Muang. Pass Cosy Corner and turn right down the next soi, which is Ratchamanka, Soi 2. Walk a short distance and the restaurant will be on your right. The telephone number is 086-273-8675 (French) or 081-088-9418 (Thai). I’d like to hear from you on your experience of this restaurant. Please contact me at: cmmrev @live.com.


Pad Thai (Thai Stir-Fried Noodles)

Pad Thai is one of those Thai standards that you will get all over the world. Variations come from generations of Thai cooks who add their own signature to the dish. Basically it is a noodle dish (generally (large) sen yai), prepared in the wok, with whichever meat or fish/seafood you would like. Do not omit the roasted peanuts, an important ingredient. Other than that, you may experiment to produce your own variation.

Cooking Method
Boil noodles until just soft (1-3 minutes). Drain and place noodles in separate bowl. Heat oil in wok on high heat and add garlic, shallots, oyster sauce, pork and stir-fry until cooked. Add eggs and cook quickly, stirring in with the pork.
Add noodles, fish sauce, soy sauce, pepper and sugar, stirring quickly so that noodles do not stick together. Stir in bean sprouts, green leaf vegetables and peanuts.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Ingredients    Serves 4
Dried rice noodles        1 packet
Pork, cut into thin strips 100 gm
Garlic, chopped           2 cloves
Shallot, chopped                    1
Eggs                                    2
Oyster sauce              2 tbspns
White pepper                 1 tspn
Vegetable oil              4 tbspns
Sugar                        4 tbspns
Fish sauce                 2 tbspns
Dark soy sauce          2 tbspns
Green leaf vegetables,
cut into 2 cm strips        ½ cup
Bean sprouts                  1 cup
Roasted peanuts crushed ½ cup
Coriander, fresh, chopped for garnish