The place is perfectly set at a cozy corner of block 26 of Dempsey Hill, characterized in red and a generous all round verandah leading to an extra seating corner out of it with a garden setting. Apart from the beckoning red, you could not miss it with those familiar laughter and smiles only Thai waitresses can deliver. This place is like a little piece of haven from Thailand, complete with the smell from the effervescence of German beers in the air. It is akin to a folky tavern as the live band from indoors was hyping up the ambience with fun mixes of Thai, Chinese, English & even Hokkien songs. The fun was almost contagious. All these taken in with just one sweep of breath & sight, before you easily find yourself taking the steps up to the verandah entrance of Tawandang Microbrewery – where authentic tastes of the eastern Thai feast soaked in German Oktober Fest.
The place is packed on a Friday night around 8:30pm, we did not make reservation but we still got a seat at the outdoor verandah anyway because the place is not exactly small and turnovers were pretty quick. The menu is comprehensive, with most of it packed with Thai food, a handful of German fare, and a little of Japanese. It took me a good 15 minutes before I finally decided what to eat. Here is a brief memory of what I have browsed in the menu and hesitated over almost every item – really, we were spoilt for choice!
As always the must-have item for me is the Tom Yum soup. I was told that the success of a Thai restaurant lies with the goodness in their Tom Yum soup. We ordered a small clear Tom Yum soup with seafood, good enough for 2-3 persons with a serving of about less than 2 soup bowls each. It comes in a steamboat-like pot, with a completely opened top and, so the soup gets cold rather quickly. The tip is to drink it while it is piping hot as once it gets colder, it gets more sour and too tangy for your taste. The seafood is fresh & the prawns are succulent enough. Mussels, squid, fish slices & straw mushrooms are in reasonable portions. | Damage: $18
We decided to go for the Spicy Mango Salad to prep the tongue for the main dishes. The mango salad did not disappoint. The serving was generous, but then for that kind of price, they have to be. Fresh strips of yet to ripe mango with dressing that is just the right amount of sweet-sour. The extra crunch from the peanuts and freshly sliced shallots & fresh prawns complete the whole savoring experience. It lived up to a true appetizer. | Damage: $16
The next dish is my favourite dish, largely because I am a sucker for Thai squids. Loved it since my very first Bangkok trip eons ago; the first roadside grilled squid the size of my small palm that sent that fat, juicy, chewy feeling inside my mouth is not that easily forgotten. So, Tawandang came with one whole squid, and I must say it is much larger than those in roadside Bangkok, was freshly grilled, cut open & laid flat with lattice cuts on it that make the squid curled up at some parts like a white magic carpet ride. Like all squids, the springiness & fresh juices of it is expected. What makes it better is the skillful grilling, that sets the edge of the squid body pieces as well as the rims of the suction cups of the tentacles slightly charred & crusty. As I chomp on each piece, the coal smells linger in the mouth, and I for one appreciate this taste as much as I appreciate tasting the oakiness of some old wines. This squid dish comes served with a special house sauce of chilli, lime & very finely chopped parsley & mint which gives it a beautiful emerald colour. As I have had enough of tanginess with my earlier dishes, I gave the sauce a pass. Nothing beats the original sea flavor of this incredible god sent. | Damage: $30
It is now time for fish. Steamed in traditional Thai style, the whole seabass comes in a hotplate with a fire starter below of which the waiter put a flame to it. The waiter went on to pour in more soup to half immerse the fish and then sprinkle on freshly sliced garlic, spring onions, red & green chilli, as if to tell us these garnishes weren’t meant to be in the soup for too long. Perhaps it was a clever move, as the first thing I usually do to steamed fishes is to stick my spoon in to try the soup. Indeed, despite the apparent spiciness, the soup tasted just the right degree of spice I like, quite similar to my earlier Tom Yum soup if not for that tad of sweetness coming from the seasoning of the fish. The seabass is expectedly fresh, and the flesh comes off quite easily from the bones, making it a rather easy task to eat. | Damage: $30
I usually wouldn’t comment much on beverages, much less juices or commercial beers as they wouldn’t taste much different anywhere would they. However since this is a microbrewery, I must give their house lager, their bestseller a try and share an opinion with you. Their house lager has a beautiful gold and is crystal clear under light. The smallest size, a 3 oz, costs $12. The white head it initially comes with disperses off rather fast, leaving only a film of sparse froth after a short while. Slightly bitter, gaseousness is a little weak for my buds, but all in all, it is a tasty, soothing beer.
My friend ordered a Pineapple shake. You must be thinking, what is there left to say about Pineapple shake. Well, let’s just say, Tawandang Microbrewery’s bartender really know how to make the perfect blend. It is really sweetness just right and lots of tropical fragrance. it is one of those drinks that you will go mm…mmph…! and your mind flashes Hawaii for a while. On first gulp, it is the fragrance of the pineapple that greets the back of your tongue first, and then the sweetness sets in before the coconut aroma conquers it all. For $6, this drink is worth making your night. Plus the raw pineapple is so edible!
I knew the food don’t come cheap before heading to Tawandang Microbrewery. However, if you have that extra cash at some point or have a good reason to celebrate an occasion for, this place is really not a bad option. Do not expect professional singing from the live band, as the main reason why they are there is to make you happy. The backups sang like they are in karaoke, sometimes overpowering the lead. The staff did not even think twice about setting aside their job to join in the train dance when the right music is on. The singers are all native Thais but they give you good entertainment by singing songs of other languages, yes, including Hokkien and some of which may even be far from current.
But hey, when was the last time you really threw your head back, laughed and had fun?