Gigantea: by Brian Baxter

An oasis of calm and quality food in the heart of the City

Recently I wrote about an Italian trattoria which I had resisted trying because of its location, only to find later how good it was. Sadly the same has applied to the Japanese restaurant Gigantea and only now do I realise what superb food I have been missing.
It is located in a rather less than salubrious and somewhat busy street opposite the moat not far from Thapae Gate with a burger joint on the corner. But enter their solid doors and a sense of calm and civility is immediately discernable. The shape is a simple rectangle, with just 30 seats arranged in tables for four, plus one of six in the centre. The walls are pale coloured and boast just a few works of Japanese art. There is gentle music in the background.
Take your seats at the generously sized tables and menus and small hot towels are immediately brought. No one hovers or makes demands on what you wish to drink. The menus – one based around sushi and sashimi and the other with more intriguing dishes – are clearly laid out. There are tourists and locals here but a noticeable and reassuring number of Japanese diners.
A local hotel owner and gourmet assured me that this was probably the best Japanese food in the City. My three companions and I can only agree. It is open at lunchtimes and there are sets at modest prices. In the evenings the a la carte menu is in operation and be warned this is somewhat more expensive. But the quality of the food, the ambiance and the service still make it exceptional value. Expect to pay between 500 and 1000 baht a head, depending on drinks. Rather more if you splash out on a good quality sake or other wines or spirits. We stuck to beer and they offer Singha (100 baht), Asahi and Heineken (both 120) and many soft drinks and teas apart from the more exotic listings.
What really impresses is – as it should be – the food, which conforms to the two main characteristics of this cuisine: freshness and quality. The vegetables are organic, the eggs free range, the meat carefully selected and organically fed, and the bread and desserts home made. Even the breadcrumbs for the deep fried dishes are from top quality bread. And the attention to detail is summed up with the rice preparation (see their web site).
They state that they bring the freshly milled rice regularly from Chaing Rai and then add Konbu from Hokkaido and bamboo charcoal to absorb any impurities and, in the case of a less good second harvest, they add a little honey. This does not just SOUND impressive- the reality is in the tasting.
We began our meal with a selection of sushi and these were superb. The delicious, whiter than white moist rice was topped with generous pieces of tuna or shrimp, the California style selection had fresh vegetables in with the fish and wrapped in seaweed. Soy sauce was on the table and plenty of wasabi was offered. These were either priced singly or mostly in doubles (120 baht).
Our ‘main course’ followed in an array of pretty dishes, often with intriguing little pots of condiments and sauces. Each selection seemed determined to out-do the previous one. We tried two portions of salmon fillet preserved in soya bean salted rice (180), four individually skewered organic leeks grilled to perfection (120), an intriguing plate of deep fried burdock ( this is a ‘composite plant’ according to my dictionary) which had the texture of parsnip and a slightly woody taste. Delicious.
We also tried the deep fried cheese croquettes, suitably crispy on the outside with runny cheese in the middle. Plus some eggplant, soya bean and nuts also deep fried.
We ended with mixed tempura, again beautifully served with finely chopped radish to go with the sauce. We were also brought ‘top salt’, delicately flavoured like the finest sea salt, to go with the tempura.
Despite other temptations this feast was more than enough and with four (or was it five?) large Singha beers we had enjoyed a substantial and leisurely meal with pleasant, attentive service which seemed remarkable value at just 750 baht a head. Please don’t tell me that this is expensive even for Japanese food because excellent though many other places are, in this case we are talking about superior quality ingredients, prepared with love and care and great attention to detail. For me it was the first ‘discovery’ of 2010 and one to return to before long.
Gigantea (I believe it refers to a large type of orchid) is open daily except Mondays from 11 AM to 2 PM and in the evening from 5 PM to 10 PM. You will find them at 300 Chang Moi Road and the phone number is 053 233 464.


Orange glazed pork

Sounds like something you would order in a high class fine dining restaurant, but is actually something any competent home cook can prepare. Preparation time is only 10 minutes and it takes 30 minutes to cook.

Ingredients                        Serves 4 to 6
Pork tenderloins, cut in 2 cm slices         2
Flour                                          2 tbspns
Salt                                               ˝ tspn
Black pepper              dash, or to taste
Olive oil                                   2-3 tbspns
Orange juice                                    1 cup
Dried basil leaf                               ˝ tspn
Brown sugar                                 2tbspns
Red wine vinegar                         2 tbspns
Garlic, minced                               1 clove
Chili powder                                  ˝ tspn
Green onions, thinly sliced 6 to 8

Cooking Methodd
Heat oven to 350° F.
Slice pork tenderloins into 2 cm rounds and gently, using the heel of your hand, slightly flatten each slice.
Combine flour, salt and pepper and coat pork pieces with the mixture.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the pork slices for about two minutes on each side, or until browned. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the pork (if your skillet is not ovenproof, put the pork in a baking dish first). Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until pork is glazed and mixture is reduced and slightly thickened.