Jun 28 2012
If you think about it, Bangkok and New Orleans have quite a few things in common. Both are hot, flat cities prone to serious flooding. Both are set along major rivers that feed into major gulfs, each of which are teeming with shrimp. Both are cultural centres and premier nightlife destinations. And, most importantly, both are among the world’s best food cities. Southeast Asia’s only Cajun-Creole restaurant, Bourbon Street Bangkok, adds a welcome dollop of New Orleans’ distinct style and flavour to Bangkok’s dining scene.
With grandparents hailing from New Orleans, I’m inherently a Creole-Cajun cuisine enthusiast, and I was excited to (hopefully) get a taste of the real thing when I stopped by imposing but cheerful Bourbon Street on Sukhumvit Soi 63 (aka Soi Ekkamai). I may have been greeted by a “sawasdee kha” rather than a “come on in y’all” or a “who dat?“, but the funky Neville Brothers track pulsing over the sound system was all the New Orleans welcome I needed.
The restaurant is large, bright and airy with rows of tables set along each wall and plenty of room for busting a move to that Big Easy funk. A full bar that mixes up hurricanes and other New Orleans cocktails is separated over to one side while a raw oyster bar serves a handful of varieties like “Calm Cove” and “Fine de Clair” on the half-shell. If you want to confuse the oyster bar with the regular one, go for the “oyster shooter”, which features a chilled oyster plunked in icy vodka along with lemon and cocktail sauce. Indeed, this place is not messing around.
After some intense deliberation I decided to pass on the oyster shooter, but I did select a few classic New Orleans favourites — crab gumbo soup (210 baht), andoullie sausage jambalaya (210 baht), boiled shrimp (195 baht) and corn bread (50 baht) — for a filling lunch. By filling, I mean I couldn’t eat for the rest of the day.
A big pile of jambalaya came heaped onto a plate stacked with real andouille sausage (delicious) and white meat chicken mixed into dirty rice with plenty of Cajun kick. I could have done without the soggy zucchini slices on the side (as if that makes it healthy), but a splattering of the real Louisiana brand pepper sauce that comes standard on every table was enough to bring back more than a few French Quarter memories.
The crab gumbo came stewed in the true New Orleans way, and its dark brown colour, thick texture and distinct mix of flavours was spot on, especially after dipping the fresh, crusty jalapeno corn bread in the bowl. The boiled shrimp was served Louisiana style — no frills — with heads still on and a side of cocktail sauce with a hint of Cajun spice.
While all three dishes weren’t in the same league as my favourite New Orleans restaurant or Grandma’s home cooking (nothing beats that of course), they were authentically prepared, and they exceeded my expectations considering Bangkok is literally half a world away from Jackson Square.
The extensive menu includes enough New Orleans classics to make you want to come back and keep sampling. Next time I’ll go with the southern fried catfish and hushpuppies, shrimp ettouffe, or one of the french bread “po’ boy” sandwiches. Sides like collard greens, fried okra and red beans are also available, as are a range of indulgent and generally adored-by-Americans options like the open-faced roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, Tex-Mex favourites like chilli con carne and chicken fajitas, bar food like buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks, and some burgers (your choice of Thai ribeye beef or Australian lamb) that look to be among Bangkok’s best.
There are also a half dozen types of pizza available, and the restaurant opens at the early hour of 07:00 to dish out their eggs benedict along with classic southern US-style breakfasts. Indeed, Bourbon Street is an optimal one-stop option for those experiencing rice and noodle soup overload.
The restaurant is open late, and they have a small but carefully selected wine list, as well as a miniature cigar shop in the back, so this is an excellent “let the good times roll” kind of spot. It’s not cheap, but all things considered, prices are right where they should be. And, if you suck down one too many oyster shooters, a tiny reception area and elevator in the rear of the restaurant can whisk you to one of their New Orleans themed rooms for rent upstairs.
Bourbon Street Restaurant and Oyster Bar
Sukhumvit Soi 63 (Ekkamai), Bangkok
T: (023) 816 8013
Open 07:00 to 01:00 daily
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