Restaurant Review

by La-Orng Davies

Face Bangkok

Face: it’s all about fitting in

And that’s exactly what ‘Face’ on Sukhumvit Road does. The discreet driveway entrance, a short distance down Soi 38, is not marked by any glaring neon signs or security guards armed with flashlights and deadly whistles. Instead, you pull into a cobbled driveway, where valet parking attendants will take care of your transport and usher you up the solid wooden steps into another time and place.

Once you’re out of the car and on two legs, you feel as if you have stepped into a tranquil rural setting in Northern Thailand, surrounded by lush vegetation and encapsulated in the grounds as a guest in the home of an extended family in the casual but elegant surroundings of this collection of multi level teak wood buildings, floral and aquatic features is like a contemporary version of a Caravansary on the silk route; a welcoming and secure multi cultural meeting place where travelers and traders could eat, drink and talk face to face.

The Face Bar is a great place to start an evening with an aperitif or end a meal with an espresso. People also find it easy to hang out at the bar all night with a progressive pace as the mood becomes upbeat and the crowds become thick.

The Face Bar is where clientele can sit back and get a feel for the place with low, candle lit tables and a very open feeling from large panes of glass between the thick wooden pillars; it almost feels like an open air bar, except you don’t have to put up with mosquitoes. Smoking is allowed in the bar area, even though it is air conditioned but the seating area is uncrowded and there is plenty of distance between tables, helping smokers and non smokers to get along with each other.

The Face Bar’s fusion of modern and traditional themes gives a very up beat feel that is done in such a way and down to the finest detail that everything is not only stylish but comfortable and practical. Even the sugar spoons have been deliberately chosen for their shape and weight, meaning all the grains in the spoon actually make it to the cup, rather than scattering embarrassingly all over the table top at the slightest quiver.

The rectangular bar of brightly coloured designer glasses hanging beneath an array of spirits and staffed with black clad assistants is adorned with a contemporary mixture of polished metal fixings, traditional wood carvings and Asian ornaments.

In the early part of the evening, the mood at the Face Bar is down tempo as small groups of people relax after a hard day’s work or go about business dealings in a more casual manner than they would in a more business like setting while contemporary chill out beats float over them. As the evening draws on though, the music’s tempo increases and the clientel gradually morph into a noticably bigger crowd of classy revelers beginning a night out of cultured hedonism.

Apart from the décor and ambience created by the music, the theme of fusion also carries over to some of the innovative cocktails that use herbs and natural ingredients to fashion mouth watering aperitifs that the barman will deftly prepare in front of you with a pestle and motar and crushed ice.

For the traditionalists, there is a choice selection of carefully chosen wines and champagnes that denote class and distinction. (The chilled display includes a couple of bottles of Veuve Cliquot Champagne at 8000 Baht a bottle.)

After a while in the bar, the senses begin to be enticed by the aromatic blend of Asian cooking and there is a difficult choice of deciding whether to dine on Indian or Thai food in either of the themed restaurants. The Thai restaurant’s name ‘Lan Na,’ Means, "Many rice fields" and is also an area of northern Thailand and everything from the classical décor to the traditional hospitality of the restaurant staff puts the dining experience into a cultural context.

The origins of the name and the restaurants’ distinctive symbol are rather interesting too. It came about by chance when a 2-meter square carving of a Buddha face was discovered in a woodcarver’s yard in Chang Mai.

This particular carving showing the serene curves of eyes and mouth had been earlier commissioned for a European client who had never returned to pick it up and so more than a year on, weathered and tired looking from its exposure to the elements, the elegantly carved face had an appreciative owner now and greets diners on the way up to the Thai restaurant.

The Indian restaurant, Hazara, gets its name from a tribal region of Afghanistan, where traditional cuisine is a mixture of healthy country style dishes and rich courtly cooking which was brought to Northern India by descendants of Genghis Kan and includes cooking with the tandoor oven.

The diversity of India’s traditions and influencers is represented in the Indo Chinese ornaments that surround diners and the choice of meat and vegetarian dishes which are complimented with a choice of two reds and two white wines, making the decision an easy one. This limited choice of carefully selected wines also means you are guaranteed to get a wine that is a suitable accompaniment to a spicy spread of dhal, curries, Nan breads and sauces like mango chutney.

n both restaurants, the dining experience is satiating to the senses and the stomach. The dishes are naturally flavourful but not overwhelmingly spicy and combined in a spread, they balance each other out. Sometimes, groups of guests might want to dine on a mixture of dishes from both restaurants and they can do this by booking one of the two hard wood paneled VIP rooms.

Visage is a quirky lower floor addition to Face where customers can relax over a coffee in the decidedly European setting of a pastry shop and café while admiring the delicate individual hand made pastries, breads and chocolate delights of Eric Perez, a pastry chef and chocolatier, previously to the French embassy and the Ritz in Washington D.C. His creations are freshly made daily and watching him work is a treat in itself.

The word "face" is a familiar one but one with many connotations. One aspect of the meaning relevant to the role of a bar is the other faces you will see there. "A bar or an inn is a meeting place where travelers seek security, shelter and the opportunity to meet and trade. It is this environment that we set out to create, a place to come face to face, come to understandings, friendship and trust." Faces first took root in Jakarta with their Indian restaurant, Hazara in 1993 and the first ‘Lan Na’ Thai restaurant in 1997. The concept was then carried to Shanghai with the addition of the ‘Face Bar.’ Faces Bangkok was the first branch to include a spa though. This is a small cultural addition that adds uniqueness to the premises and offers guests the chance to hang around and be pampered a little longer in such a wonderfully relaxing environment.

The Face Bar opens at 05.00 p.m. and closes at 01.00 a.m. from Sundays to Thursdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the bar stays open until 02.00 a.m.

The Thai restaurant, LAN NA THAI is open for lunch from 11.30 p.m. til 02.30 p.m. and dinner from 06.30 p.m. to 11.30 p.m.

HAZARA Indian restaurant is only open for dinner from 06.30 p.m. to 11.30 p.m.

VISAGE Pastry shop is open from 08.00 a.m. to Midnight.

The Face Spa is open from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. but treatments are by appointment only.

This month features
 Thailand and Asia
 phuket travel info
Phuket Travel and Tours
  Tropical Living Magazine
  Koh Samui
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 Benjarong Magazine - October 2005, Volume 8 Issue 10


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