A few months ago I made a new friend while enjoying a Sunday Funday at Soei’s Restaurant. When I told her about my Chow Traveller blog she recommended one of her favorite restaurants, Cali’s Grill 23 (official Facebook page).
Of course I was intrigued as it’s the only Ecuadorian restaurant in Bangkok. It didn’t take much research for me to decide that this would be a great place to visit. But it did take awhile to finally give them a try. From the first bite to the last I can tell you it was worth the wait. As a bonus I got to spend the afternoon with the incredibly welcoming owner, Mauricio, and I received a private education in Ecuadorian and South American cuisine.
But let’s get straight to the food, shall we?
Cali’s Grill 23 serves HUGE appetizers!
There’s so much on the menu here that I wanted to try. I thought if I got a few appetizers to start with that might help me to get a nice range of their offerings to sample from. What I didn’t know was that their “appetizers” are massive. This is a place where you will want to bring a few friends, as these portion sizes are perfect for sharing.
Cali’s Grill 23 offers 5 different kinds of empanadas (chicken, spicy chicken, beef, shrimp, and cheese). A set of any 3 is 200 baht (220 baht if you include shrimp). This is a Mixed Empanadas set (spicy chicken, beef, and shrimp) for 220 baht. If you’re unfamiliar with empanadas, they are basically pastries containing various fillings.
If you went to Cali’s Grill 23 and completely filled up on these empanadas I would not judge you. They are delicious! The beef empanadas are filled with finely chopped ground beef, carrots, onion, and coriander. The spicy chicken empanadas are filled with tender shredded mildly spiced chicken, sautéed onions, and just a hint of lime (my personal favorite of the 3). The shrimp empanadas contain large whole tender shrimp with bits of carrot, onion, zucchini, and red and green bell pepper.
A different kind of “spicy”…
I was told that Ecuadorian food isn’t really spicy. But when it is spicy, it’s a “quick heat”, meaning it hits you with a bang (kind of like how wasabi hits you) then then the heat dissipates quickly. If you’re a person who learns by doing, this dish will teach this lesson.
The Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Peppers (150 baht) is 3 grilled long green chili peppers filled with mozzarella cheese and wrapped in thick strips of bacon. Biting into these you immediately taste the salty bacon and feel the crunch of the lightly grilled chili pepper. Then the spice hits you, and then it’s gone like magic. I think the mozzarella cheese center might help to temper the heat.
A trip down Memory Lane…
When I first tried these Llapingachos (150 baht) it took me right back to my childhood when my mother used to cook up potato pancakes with the previous night’s mashed potato leftovers. These taste just like that but with a bit more pizzaz. The potato pancakes are seasoned with savory achiote, spring onions, and chunks of molten mozzarella that string out with each bite.
This chicken is AMAZING!
Wow! The chicken in this Sudado de Pollo (250 baht) is slow cooked for 4 hours and is easily cut apart with a spoon. It’s so tender and flavorful. This is an item I would highly recommend. The perfect bite is a chunk of chicken on rice with a little broth and a bit of cool avocado. Try it. Your mouth will thank you!
Some solid Mexican food, too!
Cali Grill 23 has a new menu with Mexican fare as well. One of the recommended dishes was rather unique, Tequila Mushrooms (295 baht). These are mushrooms marinated in their homemade tequila sauce and sautéed with onions and house seasoning, served with tortilla chips and a side of spicy chili dip. The only reason I didn’t get it was because I already had WAY too much food. Next time for sure! But I wanted to try their Mexican menu so I opted to get the Tortilla Soup (120 baht).
It’s hard to see in the picture but this soup is loaded with shredded chicken meat, tortilla pieces, melty cheese, and spices. It’s mildly spicy, and absolutely delicious. If you’re a fan of tortilla soup, you will absolutely enjoy this.
Cali’s Grill 23 is also a bar!
Cali’s Grill 23 also has a fully stocked bar with beers on tap, and a variety of cocktails, Mojitos (200 baht) being the most popular. One noteworthy libation they serve is their own homemade Sangria (180 baht/glass or 850 baht/2L pitcher). It’s recommended that you order this in advance as it takes a couple of hours to make (and it’s best if they let it steep for overnight). So if you know you want some, give them a heads up!
A chat with the owner…
As wonderful as the food was during my visit, it was made so much better with the company of the owner, Mauricio. Hailing from Ecuador originally, he moved to Southern California at the age of 9 (hence the name Cali’s Grill 23). He’s lived in Bangkok for over 10 years and originally came to the Big Mango to work in the garment industry (he’s also done some teaching).
The garment industry can be a very demanding occupation and after awhile he decided it was time to retire. But he didn’t want to fully retire so he decided to follow his dream to own and operate his own restaurant business. As a result, Cali’s Grill 23 opened up in September of 2015 after some major renovations.
Mauricio is very proud of 2 things at Bar Grill 23. That the atmosphere of the place is so comfortable and inviting, and that their customer service is second to none. The current location of Cali Grill 23 used to be a massage parlor, and it didn’t have a working sewer outlet. Think about that for a bit. He completely gutted the place and started over rebuilding EVERYTHING from the subfloor up. If you see the place, you can imagine why he’d be so proud.
Expect AMAZING customer service!
When I asked him what he felt the best thing Cali Grill 23 had that customers loved he told me it was their customer service. I was guessing he would say “empanadas”. But that’s what he’s about. He’s all about the customers and making sure they feel like Cali Grill 23 is “their restaurant”. He told me that when it comes to his regulars he’s like their private chef and is happy to go off menu to satisfy their cravings. It’s why he has so many loyal regulars that will tell him if they’re going away on vacation so he doesn’t worry about them if they don’t show up for awhile.
Adorning the walls both inside and outside are murals that one of his previous students painted. Next to the bar is a beautiful woman with a banner containing the words “Cheerful, Alluring, Lasting, Inviting“. These are the words he wants customers to associate with Cali’s Grill 23. As committed as his regulars are to Cali’s Grill 23, he is equally committed to making sure they feel like it is their second home. In fact, the mural across from the bar contains 4 regular customers in it. Can you guess who they are?
I want to be a regular, where is it?
Cali’s Grill 23 is located about 500 meters up Sukhumvit Soi 23 on the right hand side past Whisgars and just a few shops before the first street intersection. It’s easily walkable from the Sukhumvit MRT or Asoke BTS stations. If coming by car, there is parking available at the Prasarnmit Plaza located at the intersection on the left.
It’s recommended that for Fridays you make reservations. If you’re a solo diner or just want to get a good sampling of their menu items without getting too much food, they have an excellent lunch menu Monday through Friday from 12pm – 3pm for 199 baht, That’s a great deal!