EATING OUT & KHUN OCHA'S COOKBOOK
 

Billy’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

Good value and friendly atmosphere: near Night Bazaar

By Brian Baxter

Last week, looking for a place to review, I went to a recently opened ‘bar and fusion restaurant’ near the Ping River. It took me abut five or six minutes to realize that it was a mistake, so my Thai friend and I politely extricated ourselves from the uncomfortable chairs and headed for a comfort zone, rather than a ‘concept’.

Something must have guided me away from the glossy place in question, with its zero appeal and unhelpful staff, into the complete opposite. A restaurant that I had –oddly - not been to for a while: Billy’s on Kampaengdin Road. Put off by artificial gloss my instinct was to head for the friendliness and honesty of this well established eatery.

Here was place where one could be assured of a warm welcome, professional behaviour and where the seats are robust, the tables decently spaced and large and the menu clearly given in Thai and English. Agreed the menu is quite conventional, no surprises although there are a few special listed on a blackboard.

It’s fairly basic Italian. A range of starters and salads, pastas, pizzas, fish and meat dishes, desserts. Good honest food, served in generous portions, steaming hot and at sensible prices. Is that a little old fashioned? So, it seems, by the same standards is expecting someone to evince pleasure at the arrival of customers.

You can keep your mimsy little chairs and tiny tables, or the offer of a sofa at which to eat a meal and the glossy bar stocked with choices few people will ever make. And the wildly different menus, one exclusively in Thai the shorter one exclusively in English. I’ll settle for an eatery without an identity crisis and pretensions.

At Billy’s you get what you see. It’s quite large with a kitchen and serving area to the rear and about 40 covers in the main restaurant and a couple of tables outside for those who enjoy the heat. Inside it was pleasantly cool. It is colourful and as already noted welcoming, with pleasant and unobtrusive background music. Previously it was small and rather cramped in a hole in the wall venue a little further along the road. Billy and his wife moved about a couple of years ago (and also produced a sweet baby, named Vino!, a few months ago) and expanded the menu.

Our meal was relatively simple. To begin a shared starter of a tuna salad, with garlic bread on the side. A carafe water was soon brought, with warm bread served with herb butter, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a large pepper mill. I had a glass of house white and Song a glass of their red wine. The large salad was fresh and well mixed with radishes, tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, two or three different lettuce and a few peppers and plenty of tuna.

For the main courses we opted for pasta: spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce and spicy sausages and for me fettuccine Napolitano, with plenty of olives, anchovies and olive oil. Both served in decent portions and al dente. The pastas are around 110 baht on average and only such things as a sirloin steak are somewhat more expensive option.

We ended with a shared two-scoop ice cream, vanilla and lemon, and the total bill including three glasses of wine and a tip came in at around 600 baht. Service was efficient and could hardly have been friendlier. Quite why I haven’t been there for a while I cannot say and I am only happy that the other place proved so off putting and propelled me to a happy dinner. This pizzeria is well worth a visit and opens every day from noon until 11p.m.You will find them at 42 Kampaengdin Road, Chang Klan. The phone numbers are 053 272712 or 081 288 1480.

 

Khao Tom (Thai Rice Soup)

This is one of the commonest staples in Thailand. Khao Tom (rice soup) can be found anywhere, and most city blocks will have at least one local ‘restaurant’ that specializes in this dish. Khao Tom is the base to which you can add chicken, pork, prawns, seafood, or whatever takes your fancy! The addition of the eggs is a personal one, depending on how the chef feels that day!

Ingredients                         Serves 4
Pork or chicken stock                      6 cups
Ginger root, minced fresh                1 tbspn
Shallots, minced and crushed          2 large
Lemon grass                  1 stalk (cut in two)
Rice                                              3/4 cup
Ground pork minced                       250 gm
Eggs                                                      2
Fish sauce                                   2 tbspns
Maggi sauce                                  1 tbspn
Scallion, for garnish                        1 sliced
Deep-fried garlic             1 tbspn for garnish
Coriander fresh, chopped 1 tbspn for garnish

Cooking method

In the wok heat the stock and then add ginger root, shallots, lemon grass and rice and bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soup is a porridge-like consistency. Remove and discard lemon grass. Add the pork and fish sauce and then break the two eggs into the soup, stir and then simmer five minutes more. Garnish with scallion, fried garlic and coriander.