A Thai Chef and her Plancha

Posted on April 18, 2014

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Hole-in-the-wall tapas bar Taburete will have Catalan uncles feeling nostalgic for Barcelona. BY REENA KARIM

Kannika Kongkaew is used to the quizzical reaction from her customers when she introduces herself as the chef of her tapas joint. Even while living in Spain, she had contemplated opening up a tapas bar, only to be warned by her friends that her ethnicity could hinder the success of the place. But the young chef and her Catalan husband were determined to realise her dream and finally opened Taburete last November in Bangkok.

Taburete is not the first kitchen adventure for the chef as she was raised in a family that ran a Thai restaurant for years. Kannika took her passion to the next level when she specialised in Spanish Mediterranean cuisine at a culinary school in Barcelona. After that, she ran her own Thai fusion eatery in the same city called Tivoli Bistro.

Spanish for stool, Taburete is a no-fuss, eat-and-go place—typical of tapas taverns in Spain, where Kannika lived with her husband for 10 years. Even though the narrow room seats only 20 people, the area is well-planned and even includes a wine cellar and a small bar at the entrance. The exposed ceiling over brick walls adds an industrial touch to the place, while the windows bring in some natural light. Diners seated closer to the glass-partitioned open kitchen can watch Kannika in action—something she says helps her connect with the guests.

THE FOOD
We begin with milhojas de verduras (B195), neatly stacked grilled tomato and zucchini topped with grilled goat cheese. The light basil oil, juices from the veggies, and spices at the bottom of the plate are ample reason to order a second round of warm, freshly baked bread.

We also dive into their seafood menu, ordering the gamba con patata confitada, huevos fritos de codorniz y salsa de resto de tomate (B175), simply meaning pan-fried shrimp, served with potato confit, quail eggs, and tomato pesto sauce, with a light and flavourful aioli. Kannika insists we try Nuestra Fideua (B350), a variation on Spanish seafood paella with vermicelli pasta instead of rice, served with aioli on the side. Go easy on the mayo, though, as it makes the dish quite heavy.

The menu also has a small selection of cheese and cold cuts to accompany that chilled Estrella. I go for the Jamón Ibérico puro bellota (B880/50 grams), also called Spanish Pride. Kannika slices it paper-thin and replace the fat immediately after to keep it moist and serves it with warm bread. Traditionally the bread is rubbed with fresh tomato slices and olive oil. But at Taburete, it is served with a pre-made tomato paste, whose smooth texture and acidic flavour is a pleasant contrast to the fattiness of the meat.

Although we don’t order in any dessert, we do glance at some of the specials, such as chocolate fondant with vanilla and violet ice cream (B220) and crispy white chocolate with raspberry sorbet (B185). Kannika hopes to change the menu every four months and include a monthly special.

THE DRINKS
We wash the meal down with Taburete’s boozy sangria (B250/glass, B450/jug), and consider not going back to the office for the rest of the day—and that was after the first glass. They also have a small selection of Spanish, South African, and French wines (B200–240/glass and B1,400–1,900/bottle) and a sparkling brut (B1,100 for a bottle).

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Published in Masala magazine, February 2014

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Posted in: Dining