By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Nation Weekend
LAUNCHED ALMOST 57 years ago in Southern California and today boasting some 7,000 outlets across the US, Tex-Mex fast food chain Taco Bell has finally crossed the Pacific and arrived in Bangkok, opening its first branch late last month at Mercury Ville mall in the Chidlom area.
Queues are still long, particularly during the lunch and dinner hours as Thais rush to try such favourites as tacos, burritos, nachos and quesadillas customised to their personal preference with a selection of ingredients, dips and add-ons.
The American fast-food chain Taco Bell brings its TexMex favourites to Bangkok with its first branch doing a roaring trade at Mercury Ville.
The 60-seat, 215-square-metre restaurant has plate glass walls allowing natural light to stream in. It’s decked out with plank panels, high tables with stools, sockets to plug in mobile devices and a scattering of wood-and-metal tables and chairs for a retro vibe.
Built around Taco Bell’s iconic international design, the open kitchen allows customers to see their orders being prepared for them. A colourful mural by emerging local artist Sorncha Kidsanakaraket features iconic landmarks such as Wat Arun, the Giant Swing, a Tuk-Tuk and a skytrain surrounded by Taco Bell’s tacos, burritos and cheeses.
Named after its founder Glen Bell, the restaurant’s logo of bell is recognisable for its simplicity. In a nod to its name and that logo, a real purple bell is attached to a wall and customers are allowed to ring it though the loud noise will inevitably have everyone else in the store turning to stare at them.
The cloud-based jukebox allows visitors to play their favourite songs in the public space.
It also features a jukebox where customers can choose cloud-based songs from the playlist of the crowdDJ app. The app can be downloaded to mobile devices allowing diners to check out the store’s playlist, search for songs and then request tracks via the app. Just don’t expect to dine in peace – quiet it isn’t.
There are currently more than 450 Taco Bell restaurants across 28 countries outside the US and Thailand’s is operated by Siam Taco, a subsidiary of the Mahagitsiri family’s Thoresen Thai Agencies, which also runs Pizza Hut. The firm expects to open 40 outlets within the next five years and the second branch at Siam Paragon is slated to open soon.
Staff at work in the open kitchen
“Taco Bell is a successful brand under Yum! Group, which is also the franchise holder of the global Pizza Hut brand. It’s a well-recognised brand among foreign tourists, expats and Thais who have lived and travelled abroad. The dining scene in Thailand is increasingly vibrant and versatile and people today are more open-minded about try new things. The pungent taste of Mexican-inspired cuisine can easily please the Thai palate,” says Nan Chaiyadel, Siam Taco’s operations director.
The tortilla, pulled pork and sauces have to be imported to maintain the qualities while chicken and vegetables are sourced locally. No beef is available here yet and the menu is smaller than at US branches. On the other hand, Thailand does get the first “fire” sauce ever – everywhere else, the “hot” sauce is the spiciest available.
2Kickin’ Chicken Tacos
“According to our research, Thais generally love fried chicken so we have a special menu called 2Kickin’ Chicken Tacos (Bt158), which features two soft flour tortillas stuffed with crispy fried chicken seasoned with fire sauce and topped with lettuce, pico de gallo salsa and a blend of cheddar and mozzarella,” adds Nan.
“The health-conscious can ask for grilled chicken as a substitute. Our dishes are all made-to-order to ensure customers have hot, delicious and quality food every time.”
The classic Crunchy Taco (Bt69) is filled with seasoned ground chicken, fire sauce, lettuce and cheddar cheese. Customers can opt for pulled pork or grilled chicken or even soft taco if they want.
The unique hexagon shaped Crunchwrap Supreme (Bt119) has both soft and crunchy textures. Seasoned ground chicken, fire sauce, sour cream, nacho cheese, tomato and lettuce are first wrapped in a crunchy tostada shell then a second time in a soft flour tortilla.
The California Burrito (Bt129) features a wrapper of soft flour tortilla filled with seasoned rice, grilled chicken, guacamole, salsa, sour cream and creamy ranch sauce and lettuce.
Add an additional Bt50 to each price for a combo set with additional nacho chips or French fries and refillable soft drinks. Beers will be sold during the licensing hours.
Side dishes include Loaded Fries (Bt229) – French fries topped with pulled pork, creamy ranch sauce, salsa and nacho cheese – and Loaded Nachos (Bt199) – crispy chips topped with seasoned ground chicken, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and nacho cheese.
Mango Madness, Berry Blue and Tropical Punch Freezes
Perfect to cool down the summer heat is the Freeze – an ice cold drink available in three flavours – mango madness, tropical punch and berry blue (Bt60 each).
WRAP IT UP
Taco Bell is at Mercury Ville mall in Bangkok (BTS: Chidlom) and open daily from 10 to 10.
Check out Facebook.com/TacoBellTH