The buzz: Affordable French restaurants have been catering to the masses for a while now, and the newest eatery to join the trend is Chez Papé, a small, cozy Paris-style brasserie on the Soi 11 cul-de-sac where Cheap Charlie’s is. Menu-wise, it reminds us a lot of also newly-opened Le Petit Zinc on Sukhumvit Soi 23. But unlike Le Petit Zinc, there’s a lot of fun kitsch going on here: staff wearing berets and striped nautical shirts and a French cinema décor theme.
The décor: The place feels like a Paris brasserie in an old movie: chalkboards on every wall, high tables under faux 19th century chandeliers, framed prints of vintage movie posters and French film stars of years gone by. There’s also some interesting bric-a-brac around: a vintage single-speed cruiser bicycle, a patina-coated saxophone and (less charmingly) a plasma screen TV in the corner.
The food: Working your way through the selection of simple but hard to pronounce French fare takes some effort, but the payoff is dishes like jambon a l’os cuit dans son foin (slow cooked ham in hay, B185) and escargots en coquilles, farce Bourguignonne (snails in garlic butter, B185). They have a whole section dedicated to country-style food like pork tenderloin simmered with prunes (B260) and slow roasted lamb stew with garden vegetables, B335). To provide some balance there’s also a selection of seafood dishes such as slow-cooked salmon with rice and tomato (B350) and prawns in pastis and tomato over rice (B370).
The drinks: There’s a drink for every course here: opening with an anis aperitif like Pastis or Ricard (both B90) prepares your palette for sampling wine from a diverse selection. You have the option of three reds (B145-160) and three whites (B145-160) by the glass. The long and affordable wine list ranges from B890-2,250 and even includes some Rieslings.
The crowd: A solid crowd of homesick Frenchmen, with a few curious couples and folks looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Soi 11. Cole Pennington
Chez Papé is one of the most recent additions to a small but growing family of affordable bistro-style French restaurants such as Paris-Bangkok and Le Petit Zinc. As with the other two, the décor isn’t going for minimal elegance. On the contrary, it is what Parisian bistros look like in Hollywood movies: staff wearing berets and striped nautical shirts, framed pictures of long-dead comedians, chalkboards and old record players stashed above the bar. But Chez Pape, for all its cozy kitsch, is actually the real deal. Instead of the usual hodgepodge of somtam, pizzas and pasta that “bistros” usually serve in this town, you will here find a tight two-page menu of resolutely Gallic appetizers, mains and desserts, which the kitchen (and staff) actually dish out in the right order. Authenticity alone doesn’t make a restaurant, though, and we have a number of quibbles. For one, we’d recommend the chef put more (and better) butter in his snails (B185/260 for 6/12). And the oily salad with the very fresh goat cheese in a filo pastry could use another splash of vinegar to brighten things up (B160). The frog legs (B195) are on the bland side and the cassoulet stew comes out slightly dry, lacking the heaps of goose fat that make the dish (B470). These niggles aside, the food is close to the mark. In fact, good luck finding better French bistro food at these prices. The flank steak is amazing: cooked rare (whether that’s how you like it or not), and with great texture and flavor (the accompanying ravioli with goat cheese are bizarre companions, though, B450). More evidence for the quality of Papé’s meat can be found in the steak tartare, which comes very well-seasoned, with a creamy texture that shows a generous use of mustard (B350). Finally, we love their carefully curated wine list, the seven wines by the glass (B145-160), and the option to get carafes. (The free shots of digestif liqueurs at the end of the meal are a nice touch, too.) We don’t necessarily require that every trendy “wine bistro” opening in Bangkok these days follows this template, but a visit here sure wouldn’t hurt.