A diamond in the rough
Ben Reeves discovers a peak dining experience on Second Road
Pattaya’s Second Road is not known for its high quality cuisine. “Cheap and cheerful” is often the best way to describe the eateries along that particular boulevard. Adding ‘edible’ and ‘not particularly likely to do unmentionable things to your digestive system’ is preferable, but not guaranteed. Casa Pascal shines out like a diamond in the rough.
Located 30 metres off the road, just south of the Avenue, stepping into the restaurant is like stepping out of the jungle and into the Grand Palace. Even with the halls decked with boughs of holly (or, mostly, tinsel) for Christmas, the decor is tasteful and sumptuous, with Romanesque pillars, potted ferns, fine silverware, smart tables and comfortable seats.
The quality of the setting is supported by the quality of the food. Even the extremely simple aspects of a fine dining experience, such as the bread rolls, displayed a level of quality you would not expect to find on Second Road. Coming in three varieties, the bread has the softness and warmth that comes from being freshly baked and, rather than getting strictly one basket, you will be served the selection you request, with the option of replenishments later.
The serving staff dishing out this sort of simple pleasure are excellent. Friendly and polite and with a command of the English language which puts some English people to shame, they are often joined and helped by the owner - Pascal Schnyder - and his wife, Kim. Being served by Pascal is a particular pleasure as he is passionate about his restaurant and his food.
The salmon starter, Pascal said, uses a salmon which is widely considered to be comparable in quality to the absolute best of the best - Balik salmon. Indeed, the taste is excellent and splendidly subtle, combining with the other ingredients on the plate to make a symphonic flavour, unique with each forkful. For a starter - particularly one in a fine dining restaurant, the portion was by no means small.
On the premise that any item on the menu which the restaurant is happy to put their name to is likely to be their best (especially if they add “special” on the end, too), the sea bass certainly did not disappoint. It is quite a performance in itself. It arrived at the table having been buried in salt and baked. Kim herself chiselled off the encrusted case before expertly deboning it.
Despite how it arrived at the table, the fish was not even slightly salty. As with the starter, the flavours were quite subtle, meaning that no single flavour overpowered any others. A fork of sea bass, hollandaise sauce and rice tasted of exactly that, rather than just one of the above.
Casa Pascal is an excellent fine dining experience in a predominantly low cost and low quality part of Pattaya. It does make some token concessions to its location. The portions are not the size you would expect of haute cuisine. The prices, too, are quite surprising. You would certainly not be able to get a meal for 40 Baht, as you would down the road, but a filling and extremely enjoyable meal is not going to bankrupt you, either.
Casa Pascal is an almost entirely Western-oriented restaurant. There is a single page of Thai food in the menu, featuring the typical farang favourites. Very few, if any, of the available dishes are even faintly spicy.