Bangkok is full of expats who’ve fallen in love with Thai food; with its bold flavours, intriguing offsets and powerful combinations of spices, saltiness and sourness. To Thais who’ve grown up with all this, perhaps it’s a bit strange to see your homegrown cuisine have such an effect on so many newly converted connoisseurs.
At Hugo in Ekkamai, this dynamic is reversed – here, it’s western-style food served up by Thai restaurateurs for a largely local clientele. There are still plenty of Thai touches, of course. Indeed, it’s a gorgeous interior, the ubiquitous black wrought iron and dark wood finishes complemented by an interesting collection of arty bric-a-brac.
The food is a mixed bag; a few of the more straightforward dishes are unlikely to set expat pulses racing but there are still a handful of more imaginative dishes that stand out. For example, the calamari fritti (B235) is just too basic for a place that can afford to be more ambitious. The prawn mango and avocado salad (B265) is more like it, delivering a balance of tanginess and natural seafood flavour in each mouthful.
There’s some complexity there without being over-the-top – this is what Hugo does well. Equally innovative is the cornflakes salmon (B465), which combines the Norwegian produce with a crispy cornflake crust, served on a bed of creamy leeks and a ratatouille taken from the Pixar movie of the same name. There is a sense here of joyous experimentation; of fun food done well.
Hugo would be improved if they were able to pare their menu down to a handful of signatures like this rather than padding it unnecessarily with less memorable dishes. The duck confit (B395), for example, lacks the same zing. There’s a slight stodginess to the mushroom fritter, while the watercress and balsamic sauce don’t have the desired effect.
The duck itself is excellent, tender and moist, but that extra element required to further elevate the dish isn’t quite there.
Fortunately, the desserts are top-notch. The red velvet lava (B295) is a lip-smacking pile of gooey sauce while the half baked (B295) combines an oversized cookie with melting ice cream. It’s the kind of ending that engenders goodwill in customers and Hugo has plenty of that, even if the menu could be a little more adventurous in places.
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39 Ekamai Soi 12 | 02-713-1292
facebook.com/hugobarbkk | 11am-1am