21 January 2019

  • reviewer's rating :
summary : Californian-style Mexican food that started out in Hong Kong and now has three outlets in Bangkok.

Cali-Mex serves the kind of Mexican food you find in California, which means quality ingredients sourced from around the world, large portions, gluten-free and veggie options, and a broad-brush menu that along with the burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas also runs to steaks, ribs, fish ‘n’ chips, and lasagne. 

The chain started out in Hong Kong, where it has quickly grown, and arrived in Bangkok only last year. The first branch is tucked into the ground floor of the Holiday Inn on Sukhumvit Soi 22, a killer site right on the corner. The second is in Silom (it is a Taqueria, which is a scaled-down version of the Bar and Grill), and the latest, which is the flagship and opened in December, is on Sukhumvit Soi 11, down near the T-junction, on the site once occupied by Bed Supper Club. The Soi 11 is the outlet we visited for this review.

A bar ambience is the immediate impression, for this ground-floor restaurant, with its big windows looking out to the street, has as its main visual feature a large bar. There are however plenty of tables, especially upstairs, where there is a large area. There is also an outdoor seating area, and in total the restaurant is larger than it at first appears, with about 150 seats. 

Low-level bar-style lighting and bare brick walls set the atmosphere. A very nice touch is the beer taps on the wall: these serve Asahi and Singha, and if you are sitting at one of the wall-tables you can help yourself, and be charged for each measure. The taps were custom-made in Canada, and the Soi 22 outlet has the same feature.

Chef in charge is Peter, a cheerful Lancastrian from Morecambe, and the menu is a single-sheet splash of colour, neatly illustrated. We kicked off with a mojito (229 baht) and then, in the California spirit, moved to glass of Beringer Main and Vine cabernet sauvignon (259 baht a glass). 

Food began with a baked lobster tail (499 baht), which had been grilled with a mound of spinach and a blending of cream and Parmesan cheese. Sweet tasting prawns (329 baht) had been cooked sizzling hot with garlic and chilli, and were served in a hot skillet with triangles of tortilla. A huge quesadilla (499 baht for a whole one, 299 baht for half) was stuffed with chicken and served with an avocado dip. Our Canadian lobster (699 baht) had been infused with mango and baked, and served with a dash of truffle and a small heaping of scrambled egg.

Cali-Mex is the kind of place you can visit any time of day, for it opens at 10am and goes all the way through to midnight. This is good value Mexican and Californian food. The franchise plans to grow in Thailand as quickly as it has in Hong Kong, with outlets already lined up for Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui, which will be a mixture of the Bar and Grill, and the Taqueria outlets.