Bangkok Spice was not so nice

We have a ritual here in San Diego to kick start the weekend.  We gather at Top of the Park, aka Inn at the Park, for cocktails before going out to dinner.  Friends were visiting from Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Francisco the weekend after Thansgiving for a wedding, which yours truly catered.  This became an extravaganza with personalities that matched all of Snow White’s seven dwarfs, and a little white dog too.  Imagine that!

Eight of us decided to have dinner at Bangkok Spice, on El Cajon, while the others went vegetarian.  We laughed at how miserable their dinner was going to be.  Lo and behold, ours was by far the less pleasant and more expensive meal.  Our review of Bangkok Spice is as follows: “Bangkok Spice is underwhelming, subpar, overrated and overprices.”  What we were served is the antithesis of Southeast Asian cuisine and lacked freshness and balance of flavors.

Bangkok Spice

The chicken satay was room temperature, dry, and rubbery.  It clearly had been cooked a long time ago and left sitting and I struggled with a piece like an accordion tug-of-war.   The calamari was heavily battered, dry, and old.  I tore the calamari rings apart and it was like pulling opaque string cheese.  Then their piece de resistance and highly recommended dish came, the sparsely filled and lacking in variety combo platter.  The curries were good, Waterfall Beef Salad and Drunken Noodles were decent enough but that Ka-no-moo Krob, Sautee Crispy Pork and Chinese broccoli with house sauce, was (inhale) disappointing (exhale).  The crispy pork bits were like pebbles and the sauce is nothing more than an oyster sauce base.

For appetizers, entrees, a round of beer, and gratuity of 15 percent, the meal ended up costing $28 per head.  I was clearly confused by my experience because the restaurant receives high marks and reviews on Yelp and Urbanspoon.  After further deliberation and discussion with friends about Bangkok Spice, we’ve come to two possible conclusions: there are two cooks, one good and the other bad, or one cook with the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Which ever it may be, it doesn’t speak well about the restaurant since quality control and consistency is paramount.  I still can’t get over the chicken satay being the first thing that was served.

*This is a joint review by Chef Shawn Sei and Johnny Nguyen.  Johnny is a foodie and self-taught cook.  He will be contributing reviews of restaurants along with Chef Shawn Sei.


Keeping Dessert Simple with Roasted Pear and Ice Cream


Have we talked dessert yet? If your meals are anything like mine, guests are full before the entree hits the table. So desserts becomes a burden and guests have to force themselves. In these situations, it is best to offer a small and light dessert like Roasted Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Image1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 firm pear, peeled, halved, cored (about 1 pound)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the pears in half and remove the core. Arrange the pears cut side up. Combine orange juice, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter in a saucepan and cook until butter melts. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake the pears until tender. Check with the sharp tip of knife and pierce the pear.

Place the pear and a platter and add a scoop of ice cream. Pour a tablespoon of liquid from the pears on top of ice cream and pears. Garnish with mint leaves.

Over the top Bacon and Parmesan Brussel Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are delicious roasted with a little bit of bacon. Topping it with parmesan will take it over the top.

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1/8 cup of brown sugar.
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of chopped bacon
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the Brussels sprouts by trimming the brown ends and cut into quarters. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Remove Brussels sprouts from the oven and place in a bowl. Add chopped bacon and parmesan cheese, toss again and garnish with fresh parsley. Sprinkle with more kosher salt before serving.

Awaken the palate with Apple Walnut Salad and Creamy Raspberry Vinaigrette

Make salads a natural progression in your menu and don’t let it be an afterthought. The plus side is salads are simple to make, adds a crunch and texture, and doesn’t take much preparation. You can impress your guest by serving them Apple Walnut Salad with Creamy Raspberry Vinaigrette.
Image3/4 cup sour cream 
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 firm, ripe apples 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup of walnuts
1 head butter lettuce, torn
1 small head romaine lettuce, torn
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup fresh raspberries


In a bowl, whisk together sour cream, raspberry preserves, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard. 

Peel the apple and cut into halves. Then cut the halves into thin wedges and brush with lemon juice to prevent discoloration from exposure to the air.  Arrange lettuce on 4 plates. Arrange apple slices over lettuce. Drizzle with dressing and garnish by sprinkling cheese, bacon, walnut, and raspberries.

Optional: Candied Walnuts, add 1/2 cup of brown to bowl with 1/4 stick of melted butter. Put the walnuts in the mixture and evenly coated. Put Walnuts on a baking sheet with wax paper and bake in oven at 350 degrees until sugar crystals have dissolved. Can substitute apples with pears.

Pumpkin Butternut Squash Soup: the true test of a good cook

Tis the time of year when the scent of pumpkin pies fills the air. I love pumpkin but have had my fair share of pies made out of them. That’s why I want to share with you a new way to use pumpkin: Pumpkin and Acorn Squash Soup. It’s delicious, vibrant, and satisfying. 
1 pumpkin 3 lb 
1 acorn squash 2 lb
4 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons honey
1 large onion
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
Garnish: thyme, parsley, pin nuts, croutons, Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Mix 2 Tbsp of melted butter, 1 Tbsp honey, and sprinkle of salt. 

Cut pumpkin and squash in half and remove all the seeds. Place the pumpkin and squash onto a baking sheet covered in foil. Brush the mixture of butter, honey and salt, onto the pulp of the pumpkin and squash. Bake pumpkin and squash at 400° for about 45 minutes or until tender (pierce the squash and pumpkin to test tenderness). Remove from oven when done and allow the pumpkin and squash to cool. Scoop out pulp of the pumpkin and squash, discard the shell.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender and translucent. Add thyme and cook for another minute. Stir in chicken broth along with the pumpkin and squash pulp. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir to quicken the cooling process.

Put the soup into a blender and process until smooth with the desired consistency. Pour the soup back into the pot; add the half-and-half, vinegar, ginger, nutmeg, and 1 Tbsp honey. Cook the soup over low heat until the soup is evenly heated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a thick slice of bread and garnish with croutons, toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Add color to the menu with Roasted Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are abundant around this time and is a good source of nutrients without having to add extra sugars and fats. Roasting it bring out the natural sweetness from within. Trying adding Roasted Root Vegetables to your menu if you haven’t already done so.

Image1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes
1 lb parsnips
1 lb carrots
2 large red onions, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Peel sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place them in a roasting pan. Add chopped onions and cranberries.

Whisk together sugar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Pour over vegetable mixture and evenly coat all the root vegetables. Cover and cook on 350 for 45min to 1 hr until vegetables are tender. Remove the cover the last 15 minutes to get a nice color on the vegetables. Toss with parsley just before serving.

Optional: add 1 lb of beets for color.