CONSIDERING THAT she had no background in the food business, Urairat Asvathitanonta has risen superbly to the challenges of opening a restaurant. Her Simply V Dine & Wine in Min Buri on Bangkok’s outskirts is a hit in the making.
Urairat’s area of expertise is actually fashion. Her family handles the Thailand trade in top clothing brands like Nine West, Karen Millen and Steve Madden. But they had supreme confidence in the culinary skills of her brother-in-law, Yannawit Watthanasin, and spent Bt40 million turning their one-rai property in Min Buri into a dining sanctuary with great Thai and Western food.
“There aren’t many good restaurants offering Thai, Western and fusion food in this area,” says Urairat. “We have it all, though, and a comfortable ambience, so there’s no longer any need to travel all the way into town.”
Simply V is a short walk from the mouth of Ramkhamhaeng Soi 187/1 and has a main dining area that can accommodate about 100 guests. The decor is appealingly “industrial”, with vintage-looking metal chairs and chains strung to partition off the areas and lend a sense of privacy.
Yannawit not only oversees the cooking but also came up with the interior design. Having studied decorative arts at Silpakorn University and weaving and textile design in the US, he picked up some discards from Urairat’s old textile factory and turned them into items for the restaurant that are as useful as they are decorative.
“The metal table legs came from looms and the tabletops were used in the factory canteen,” says Yannawit. “We brought in some of the factory’s wooden rafters, too, and I designed the textiles for the wall panels.”
Beyond the main dining area, there’s a wine and cocktail bar, a coffee corner with comfy sofas and a nice view of the garden, an al-fresco section that can seat another 20 people, and a private room that’s big enough to hold 50.
“The kitchen is in a separate building so the cooking smells and the smoke aren’t wafting through the dining areas,” Urairat points out. “The kitchen alone cost Bt10 million to ensure it met international standards, and we’ll soon have a separate bakery too.”
So far most of the dishes on the menu are Thai, but Yannawit will soon be adding what he learned about Western cooking while studying in Texas for a decade.
For now there’s a delightful American appetiser – chicken wings cooked either Southern style or East Coast style. Either way, the price is just Bt150.
The Texas BBQ Wings are sweet and intensely spiced, while the New York Buffalo Wings have a kick of their own in the red hot-sauce rendered creamy with butter. Both come with Alabama white sauce made with mayonnaise and apple-cider vinaigrette.
The Texas BBQ Pork Chop (Bt350) is a 300-gram slab served with green leaves and hash browns.
I also got to sample a full rack of ribs in barbecue sauce that’s not on the menu yet but can be ordered specially in advance. Make the call, because they’re terrific.
The ribs are rubbed with spices, salt and sugar and left to sit a full day before they’re grill-smoked over aromatic wood for five hours. (Now you know why the kitchen’s in a separate building.) Cut into the meat and you can see the smoky layer beneath the crust, sandwiching the tender pink flesh.
The other Western choices at the moment are a German-style deep-fried pork knuckle, Italian pasta with mussels and calamari, a smoked-duck salad with orange vinaigrette, and rocket salad with honey-roasted pumpkin.
The Thai dishes are equally tempting and extensive in the selection.
Smoke Pork Spicy Salad (Bt180) contains tender, flavourful slices of slow-smoked pork with a spicy finish. Stir-fried Duck with Thai Herbs (Bt280) has smoked duck presented with crisp-fried holy basil leaves.
Ideal for a group feast is Fried Sea Bass with Sichuan Sauce (Bt380), a whole fish, one kilogram in weight, topped with minced pork that’s been stir-fried with Chinese pepper and other spices to produce a slightly hot tang.
Among the soups, Gaeng Runjuan (Bt200) is fiery herbal pork broth with a shrimp-paste dip cooked infused with lemongrass, onion, holy basil, garlic and chilli. The Green Chicken Curry and Crispy Roti (Bt150) also packs an intense flavour.
For a little less spiciness, the mildly piquant and bitter Mee Krob (Bt150) entails sweet-and-sour crisp-fried rice noodles with shrimps and som saa (Seville orange). You get bean sprouts and Chinese chives alongside.
The Phuket-style Boiled Fish Balls (Bt200) are enormous and wonderfully chewy, and have no unpleasant fishy smell.
The desserts include Cake Lava with a choice of ice cream (Bt150) – vanilla, green tea, raspberry-blueberry, yoghurt or chocolate. The ice cream comes courtesy of local parlour Ampersand.
DINING IS DIVINE AT V
>> Simply V Dine & Wine is on Ramkhamhaeng Soi 187/1 off Ramkhamhaeng Road in Min Buri.
>> It’s open daily from 11am to 9pm.
>> Book a table at (02) 041 2016.