#BarDUNKgulan: When Food Brands Throw Shade at Each Other on Social Media
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August 05, 2022
A 200-square-metre space on the upper ground floor of SM Aura in Makati is the latest stop of Greyhound Café, a Thai-based restaurant chain whose expansion spree has seen it open branches in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
Opened in February 2022, Greyhound Café at SM Aura banked on the one thing that forced many restaurants to shut down — the Philippines’ COVID-19 lockdowns. With strict border controls preventing people from flying out, many Manileños looked for ways to ease their longing for traveling. Greyhound Café found this an opportunity to bring Thailand — a favorite tourist destination among Filipinos — closer to Metro Manila even if it meant dealing with a highly infectious Omicron variant and a surge in fuel prices upon its launch. Less than six months since it opened, Greyhound Café’s own spin on Thai dishes and bold strategy appear to be working, with three more branches (The Podium, SM Mall of Asia, and Rockwell Powerplant Mall) slated to open this year.
Viva International Food and Restaurants brought the beloved Thai resto-café chain to the Philippine shore, borrowing tried-and-tested strategies from well-known labels under its belt such as Botejyu and Paper Moon Café. From the interiors down to its menu, the resto-café is in lockstep with its flagship branch in Thailand, replicating the same vibe back home and across its global outposts, according to Viva International marketing manager Ace Azarraga.
Mirroring the look of its sister branches overseas, the Makati branch does away with the traditional aesthetics involving colorful prints, weaves, and wooden furniture.
Neon signages light up the place, reflecting the blinks and bustles of Khao San Road and the rest of Bangkok at night. The most striking is the black-and-white tiled kitchen counter greeting you as you step into the restaurant, a signature centerpiece in all Greyhound outposts. An upside-down wine glass rack is mounted on a chalkboard signage, while servers and baristas keep the counter busy. “Bangkok Never Sleeps,” the bright cursive neon signage says, is one of the many festooning the funky walls of Greyhound Café.
We kicked off our Thai sojourn with a bar appetizer favorite, Greyhound Famous Fried Chicken Wing. The single-bone wings were bathed in fish sauce to allow its rich flavor to seep into the meat, while strips of pandan leaves were added for that sweet aromatic note. Deep-fried until golden brown, these wings are crunchy and juicy, and best eaten with bare hands.
In true East-meets-West fashion, Greyhound Café blends traditional Thai dishes borrowed from family recipes with quintessential street food popular in Bangkok and adapts them to the modern palate. Next on agenda was Pad Thai With Fresh Shrimp, a cliché option for a Thai feast but an all-important pick, nonetheless. Butcher this staple dish and you butcher everything else on the menu. Thankfully for Greyhound Café, this classic noodle item is given the right umami flavor with hints of sesame and lime for that sweet yet tart punch.
The cafe’s Light Tom Yum Soup takes you back to quaint shops along Khao San Road that look almost unnoticed if not for the beeline of customers awaiting tables to be vacant. Greyhound Café’s tom yum sees two gigantic prawns swimming in rich and slightly sour broth along with mushrooms and flat rice noodles. The soup is a nod to the tom yum sold at Bangkok’s street food kiosks, its creamy note squeezing out of the juicy prawn heads.
Greyhound Café’s take on “Thai food with a twist” is perhaps most evident in Weeping Hunters Steaks, a plate of nine-piece cubed rib eye perched on sliced cucumbers, spread with blots of spicy pesto sauce, and flecked with crispy holy basil leaves. The medium-well steak yields an aromatic and buttery flavor, with the fatty juice oozing out at each bite. The thick pesto sauce flirts with the rich taste of the beef, lending an herby note from the nuts, cheese, garlic, basil, salt, and olive oil.
Greyhound Café’s menu contains decent offerings for those who are scrimping on the meat. The Mixed Greens Salad With Scallops is a refreshing dish to indulge in, with the sweet-sour dressing blending nicely with the fresh and crunchy leaves. The scallops are an unpretentious addition to the salad, seared just right so as not to feel rubbery.
To round off our meal, we devoured a slice of Coconut Crepe Cake, the perfect dessert to complement the aromatic, herby, sweet, and spicy Thai cuisine experienced in the mains. Each layer has a generous amount of young coconut strips and thin sheets of crepe, all slathered with fresh cream for a dessert that is light yet fulfilling. Greyhound-shaped wafer-thin biscuits act as toppers, with their crunchiness offering a nice contrast to the almost cloud-like texture of the cake itself.
At first glance, Greyhound Café looks like a typical café’s layout with compartments between solo diners looking for a secluded corner spot and large groups that require bigger tables and spaces. But according to Ace, the café’s layout involved more strategy than that.
It is portioned into three sections: upon entrance are two-seater tables under white lights to capture Bangkok by day; busy booth sofas facing the bar to mimic Bangkok’s nightlife; and toward the far end, a courtyard-inspired space with faux air plants hanging from the ceiling, rattan chairs, and black curved sofas to depict the outdoor spirit of Bangkok. Expect young professionals spending their lunches and dinners during weekdays, and families and expats dining in on weekends.
A jetsetter who claims to be a foodie and has been in and out of Bangkok might argue that the authentic Thai food can only be found in the city’s night markets and not in airconditioned restaurants helmed by chefs, but Greyhound Café proves that is not always the case. Go here for authentic Thai eats made for the modern palate. We will surely come back for their Greyhound Famous Fried Chicken Wing, Pad Thai With Fresh Shrimp, and Weeping Hunters Steaks. For dessert lovers, their Coconut Crepe Cake is worth every cent.
This food review is based on a complimentary media tasting provided by Greyhound Café in exchange for a truthful review and no compensation. The opinions expressed within represent the views of the author. To know more about Greyhound Café, follow them on Facebook and Instagram or visit their website.
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