The buzz: We’re excited that Aree seems to be moving away from the cute converted-house watering holes to honest-to-god dinner places, and Aree Alley adds its name to the list, emphasizing wine—the sure sign that it’s a grown-up place. The décor: Diners have their pick of a small, cozy indoor glass house with comfy orange armchairs or a sprawling outdoor patio. The space actually reminds us a bit of Alcoholiday which is right across the street. This is a slightly more sophisticated version, though, and with lots more tables. The food: The dinner menu runs into several pages, featuring over 100 dishes, most of them with a Thai fusion flair and smart presentation, such as the salmon and shrimp larb (B220), in which the raw salmon and chopped shrimp are served on the same long dish but in separate piles, to offer texture contrast, and the fried fish with spicy green apple salad (B190), a clever dish that seems to be inspired by yam pla dook foo. Also available are a small selection of mini pizzas (B150), whose crusts are slices of baguette and whose toppings include Italian sausage, Parma ham, mushrooms and more. The drinks: The emphasis here is on wine, so there’s quite an extensive list. Wine by the glass is B120, which is a good deal and there are several bottles under B1,000. They also do basic cocktails like black Russians, screwdrivers and martinis for B160. During the day, they act as a café and offer teas and espresso drinks. The crowd: The usual cross-section of Aree’s hip and trendy: thirty-something Thai ladies out with friends, farang NGO workers and a few after-office uncles.
Its unique glass house-style structure and quaint British-style garden might have generated plenty of buzz but we feel that Aree Alley still has a way to go in terms of food and service to quite deserve the hype. We love the chill setting and the bossanova band does a nice job of serenading you at conversation-friendly levels. But like many good looking dining venues in this town, the food doesn’t quite match the surroundings. In particular, the cooks are rather tone deaf when it comes to harmonizing their sauces. The spaghetti kee mao salid foo (spicy spaghetti with crispy gourami fish, B170) is overpoweringly salty. The chilli nacho with beef sauce and cheese (B250) suffers from a pedestrian beef sauce—despite its slightly hefty price tag and being a three star pick on the menu. The pork tenderloin roll (B290), too, is let down by a tasteless sauce, despite the soft and juicy meat. The creamy sauce in the tom yam hang seafood (stir fried chicken, squid and shrimp with chili paste, B190) is almost too sour but is saved by the fresh herbal notes. Drinks don’t really fare much better, with the orange juice (B89) tasting more diluted than fresh, though they do have a decent menu of wines by the glass (B220) and by the bottle (starting from B650). They don’t make their own baked goods, which are produced in a bakery in Siam Square, but their crepe cake is nothing to write home about anyway. On the positive side, and despite it usually being busy, you never have to wait too long for food. Still, while none of the dishes here are out-and-out disasters, neither are they amazing. It’s a shame—if they could bring the food up a notch or two then we’d quite happily return to enjoy the garden. Corkage B400.