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
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
Flour 2 tbspns
Salt ˝ tspn
Black pepper dash, or to taste
Olive oil 2-3
Orange juice 1
Dried basil leaf
Red wine vinegar
Garlic, minced 1
Green onions, thinly sliced 6 to 8
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
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.