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Catalana: Start of the Bangkok Soi 11 Renaissance

*** UPDATE – CATALANA IS NOW CLOSED AS OF JUNE 2012. RIP ***

Catalana, a sleek new tapas bar on Sukhumvit Soi 11 across from Bed Supperclub opened this week.

With its prime location (on the ground floor of Prime 11 condos) and tapas focused menu Catalana could easily be categorized as a ‘pre-party’ destination for mingling and chomping on good eats before hitting the clubs. But co-owner Andrew is attempting the impossible – eluding labels.

“I’ve learned in Bangkok not to design a venue with a rigid vision of what I want,” said Andrew, also co-owner of QBar. “We designed QBar under the concept of top-shelf New York City bar, but our patrons turned it into a club.”

Catalana is one long room with an emphasis on curves: the aisle, the tables, the bar, the railing, the waitresses. Mesh dividers hanging from the ceiling provide the illusion of privacy; ownership is still working on sorting out the mood lighting. Though it’s not the first tapas bar in Bangkok, Catalana aims to emulate the European dining experience.

“If people eat dinner early, then they have nowhere to go because nobody goes to the clubs in the early evening,” said Andrew. “Our goal is to make it casual with small plates, that way friends can show up at any time and join a table and just start ordering more tapas. We’re not catering toward any specific demographic and Thais like to eat family-style anyway.”

The tapas are pretty damn tasty as well. The chorizo is cut in a different manner than usual, so the bigger cuts aren’t as dry and still have plenty of fat intact. The gambas al ajillo use big juicy shrimp and the garlic is thick cut and not minced, allowing you to vary your level of intensity. Asparagus spears wrapped in Serrano ham was probably KohSpot’s favorite, a salty crunch in each bite.

While red Sangria is more common, the white wine version here includes peach schnapps and really works well with Catalana’s seafood dishes. A glass is 150 baht and most tapas run from 160 to 240 baht.  A friend of the owners from Barcelona is coming soon to teach the kitchen staff how to make authentic paella, though you’ll have to allow about 30 minutes for it to be prepared. About 10 house wines are available, all for under 1,000 baht. A much larger wine cache will be offered once the staff are better trained on the subject.

Occasional service snafus of receiving proper orders on time are to be expected with the opening of any new restaurant, but one area where Catalana really excels is Western-style customer service. One of the owners is usually there making sure everyone is enjoying themselves, and if there is a problem they can troubleshoot quickly.

That tail end of the soi, which houses Bed, QBar and Nest, is poised to welcome a handful of new developments over the next six months: Fraser Suites, a new Ash Sutton bar, a Holiday Inn boutique hotel, and another bar right at the intersection. This has the owners excited about the potential of the area, as it could develop into a one-stop destination for living, eating and partying.

We still can’t figure out the name choice as Catalana signifies a breed of chicken.  Why not call the restaurant Catalonia, the epicenter of delicious tapas.  Awkward name aside, this place is definitely worth a visit the next time you are heading to Soi 11 to get down and dirty (not completely sold on this Soi yet). KohSpot will come back again after a few months to see how it all shakes out, but we fully expect Catalana to compete with Oskar as a pre-club hotspot.

Catalana
Location: 24/1 The Prime 11 Sukhumvit Soi 11, right across from Bed Supperclub
Mass transit: BTS Nana
Hours: 5 pm-1 am daily, with plans to open for lunch soon
Phone: 02-651-0220
Web: www.catalanatapasandwine.com

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