As far as pairings go, Wholly Cow attempts to match the timeless—red wine and red meat (and smoking, if you include the adjoining cigar lounge, Holy Smokes)—with the oh-so-hip bare bricks and black cast iron décor trend. Tucked away on Ari Soi 2, the restaurant says its emphasis is on affordable, mostly Australian steaks. However, while there’s much to like about the setting—a spacious, modern glasshouse structure with industrial touches—ultimately there’s far too much gristle to chew over for the experience to be at all satisfying. First off, there’s the scant, unhelpful menu. Ordinarily a page dedicated to describing the knives used to slice different cuts of meat would be charming; here, among the pithy listings (no foodie-friendly descriptions, no mention of sides), it’s needlessly showy. On our last visit, when we asked the wait staff what differentiated the recommended “melt-in-your-mouth” Australian tenderloin from the Australian Angus tenderloin (both B750 for 8 oz.), we received a blank stare and an explanation that it contains more fat. As it turned out, the steak was indeed very fatty, while it also felt heavily tenderized and was served cold in the middle. The artificial-tasting mushroom sauce didn’t help, nor did the water-logged mashed potatoes. The similarly fatty lamb chops (B550) were at least well-seared and tender. Too bad the fluorescent mint jelly is more sweet and dessert-like than properly tart, because the sides of al dente vegetables and homemade potato wedges (introduced as French fries) are simple but decent. Away from the grill, the scallops wrapped in bacon (B280) are pleasingly savory, if slightly overcooked and sinewy. The Caesar salad (B180) is that rarest of things, under-dressed; not unpleasant, but lacking the punch that some Worcestershire sauce would have given it. Desserts are a real let-down: the chocolate soufflé (B180) barely tastes of chocolate, and the panna cotta (B90) comes swimming in a sickly syrup. It’s a shame, because with its walk-in cellar boasting a decent wine selection starting from B750/bottle and B200/glass, and live music on weekends, Wholly Cow’s got potential, but for now it’s kitchen and service is not wholly there—not even close.
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