April 18, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 6: 3 stars in Bangkok

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We're off to Bangkok for the third leg of the tour, but The Dining Austrian had to delay his departure from Hong Kong by a day.  This meant that Hello Kitty and I would be on our own tonight... which kinda made it into a date night for the two of us before things get crowded over the next few days.

We arrived at our AirBandB serviced apartment after a smooth and comfortable ride in an SUV hailed with Grab.  Nowadays we are hailing rides from Grab instead of trying to grab taxis off the streets of Bangkok, because we've long come to the conclusion that BANGKOK TAXI DRIVERS ARE ASSHOLES.  They do everything they can to rip off tourists, from pretending not to know the destination to stopping short of the destination, and would often pretend they don't have enough change so they can charge more fare.  So we've decided to give them the finger, and would rather pay more and travel in comfort.

After a quick freshen-up, we headed for dinner at the new Chef's Table at The Lebua.  The restaurant has been open for just six weeks, and the kitchen is run by my old friend Vincent Thierry.  He has spent the last 5 years outside the kitchen, and indeed the last time he cooked a meal for me was at this dinner in Caprice - when we bade him farewell before he decamped to Bangkok.

Located on the 61st floor of the building, the place boasts stunning views of the city below.  There was a full moon tonight, and Vincent arranged for us to have the best table in the house - right in front of the fully-open cooking station.  The space is absolutely gorgeous, but Vincent admitted that this was a new experience for him - and a first among fine dining establishments, perhaps - where there is literally no barrier between the chefs and the guests.

Only a 7-course tasting menu is offered, but one has a choice from two options for each of those courses - other than the cheese course.  Being the pragmatic person she is, Hello Kitty suggested that we each take one of the choices and try each other's dishes.  That works for me, so she took the dishes on the left side of the menu while I took those on the right.

We also took the "premium" wine pairing choices.  We're in Bangkok and the duty on imported wine is ridiculous, so any decent bottle I would consider opening has been massively marked up on the wine list.  Taking the wine pairing - with a different wine matched with just about each of the options - downgrades the quality level for me but makes the pricing somewhat more palatable.

First, a few amuses bouches...

Lemongrass-infused cauliflower panna cotta and carabinero - what a delicious bite to start the meal with!  The lemongrass fragrance reminds diners that they are in Thailand, and the wonderful carabinero prawn - long my personal favorite - makes a bold statement about the premium, imported ingredients featured on the menu.

Gingerbread topped with duck foie gras terrine and pink radish - the flavors of the foie gras were very intense, and the horseradish garnish on top made things a little more interesting.

French green beans with tomato confit on Parmesan cracker - the haricots verts were wrapped in a crispy tube with some tarragon mousse on top.  The thin layer of tomato confit gelée worked nicely with the Parmesan cracker.

The bread looked familiar... and certainly measured up to our expectations.

The butter is local - made with organic milk from Khao Yai.  Very, very tasty... and Vincent made sure each of us had plenty.

The tiny oyster came from Brittany, and was served raw with pickled vegetables.  The oyster itself had a little hint of briny flavors, and balanced nicely with the acidity from the vegetables.

King crab tiramisu, marinaded tandoori fruits, Marscapone cream - et VOILA!  We start with one of Vincent's signatures, the recipe of which he contributed to The Great One's A Celebration of Food.  I've always loved this dish, and now it seems to have gotten bigger in size.  The crab was, of course, delicious.  But what worked really nicely was the acidity from the fruits balancing well with the rich and creamy Marscapone on top.  With coconut sauce, bell pepper sauce, and king crab bisque on the side.

Flat oyster, caviar Imperial de Sologne, green apple jelly - another familiar dish from the Caprice days.  The flat oyster came from David Hervé in Brittany, and naturally worked well with the caviar from La Maison Nordique.  The green apple jelly came with shallot panna cotta below.  The jelly as well as the pickles on the side delivered some refreshing acidity and balanced well with the treasures from the ocean.

Bollinger Brut Rosé - definitely tasted the pinot noir.  Richer, with more depth on the palate.  Paired very well with the crab tiramisu.

Scottish langoustine and sweetbread lasagna, tomato and fennel confit, light shellfish emulsion - and yet another signature from the Caprice days, although this has gone through some transformation.  Gone are the chanterelles, having been replaced by tomato and fennel.  The langoustine was soooo good... and it's interesting to find diced ham and fennel.  Of course, the shellfish emulsion was still as amazing as ever.

Morel mushroom and green pea fricassée, Iberico ham, toasted sesame - the toasted black and white sesame actually worked really nicely with the morels and peas, delivering additional fragrance as well as crunch.  Chiffonade of jamón ibérico came with the pea emulsion seasoned with a little wasabi, and there was a little quail egg on the top.  I found the dish a little salty, but very tasty with the jamón.

On the side there's a thin strip of toast - which unfortunately got a little soft in the middle - with morels, peas, jamón, and sesame.

2016 Joseph Drouhin Morgon - nice fruit, leather, lots of potpourri.  Later showed strawberries.

Foie gras seared, citrus mosaic, fondant carrot - what sorcery is this?!  On top of a well-executed piece of seared foie gras, we have this mosaic with pomelo, finger lime, kumquat, and diced green mangoes.  The fragrance coming from this mélange was simply amazing.  The carrot velouté came with an exotic kick of ginger.

We've seen chefs use fruits to deliver acidity and sweetness to cut through the fat of foie gras a thousand times, but this was magical!  I don't think this is something Vincent would have come up with during his time at Caprice.

Vaucluse green asparagus, black truffle tapenade, egg mimosa - it's asparagus season, and these were certainly nice.  The black truffle tapenade came with cubes of egg white, and this spear was meant to go with turmeric sabayon.  The egg mimosa came with cubes of black truffle, and was meant to go with an asparagus coulis.

2017 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Bonnes Bouches - the nose was so tropical, peaches, big and flinty.

Normandy sole fillet black olives stuffed, artichoke, cockles, marjoram sauce - the sole came with cockles on top.  We've also got all forms of artichoke here, with artichoke purée as well as artichoke stuffed with lemon zest confit, cockles, and arugula.  The sauce was also made with cockles.

Interesting that it's stuffed with black olive confit, although years ago I did have a version stuffed with onions at the famed Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville with the late Philippe Rochat.

A very lovely dish.

Line caught sea bass, chorizo crust, smoked squid 'bouillon' charlotte emulsion - the sea bass sat on a bed of diced red capsicum as well as diced cubes of springy squid.  Served with a smoked potato emulsion with squid ink broth, and garnished with aromatic herbs like dill and chervil.

The most amazing part of the dish has got to be the crust on top, which was made with powdered chorizo.  It actually reminds me of the Chinese dish of cod with soybean crust (豆酥鱈魚), so while this was the first time for me to taste the dish, there was an instant feeling of familiarity.

Oh yeah, this was a damn good dish.

2015 Chanson Meursault - big nose of toast, ripe and sweet on the palate.  Paired well with the sea bass.

Duo of Challans duck, beetroot, celery, ginger sauce - served with radish, turnips, and gnocchi with celery purée.  Just look at the skin of that duck with all the fat underneath!  Beautiful.  And nice rosé color on the duck.

The parmentier made with braised duck leg and celery purée and diced celery was sooo heavy and rich, with lots of black pepper.  But it was sooo fucking good that I couldn't help but utter "Putain!" out loud.  Of course I told Vincent about my reaction...

Milk fed veal rack, garden vegetables, herbal mousse, natural jus - the only dish which I felt wasn't up to par, but only because it was overcooked for my taste.  For all I know the local Thai customers prefer their veal cooked this way.  With young vegetables, Jerusalem artichoke purée, potato wrapped with bacon, and green curry.

That green curry... Vincent said that he reworked the recipe so that it retained all the aromatics but without the heat.  I gotta say that the green curry made the dish, and I would spoon it on some bread or rice any day.  That's just one little gem that came out of Vincent's 5 years in Thailand.

2015 Delas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Haut Pierre - ripe, almost jammy.  Exotic with black pepper.

Before being served some cheese, we had a little bowl of salad with vinaigrette.

Cheese tray selection - I don't expect the cheese selection to be on the same level as when Vincent was at Caprice, but it's not bad.

Comté, 36 months - good to have it sliced so thin.

Tomme de Chartreuse - nice and creamy.  Good depth on the palate, and slightly bitter on the finish.

Abbaye de Tamié

2011 Carmes de Rieussec - marmalade, apricot, honey notes.  Sweet but with some acidity.

2013 Kirwan - exotic nose with coconut butter, minty, smoky.  Very nice.

Pre-dessert was sour cream sorbet with a strawberry salad and strawberry juice.  The strawberries were actually Korean.  A thin disc of meringue on top.  Very refreshing with a nice dose of acidity.

Petits fours came with the pre-dessert.
Coconut biscuit, coconut mousse, and raspberry jam - to my surprise, the biscuit was a little salty.

Palet breton with pear and yuzu - nice and exotic.

Almond tuile

Lemon vanilla sphere, crispy meringue, tarragon olive oil ice cream - with lemon jelly and shortbread underneath the sphere.  The ice cream was very tasty.

Tarragon lemon candy in the center, with vanilla mousse and a white chocolate crust, and meringue 'leaves'.

2017 Leon Beyer Riesling - nice nose of petrol, minerals. Good acidity.

Creamy dark chocolate 80%, soft biscuit, caramelized pecan nuts praline, Whisky ice cream - the chocolate comes from Chiang Mai, and the ice cream was made with Chivas 18.  Very nice, and the second night in a row where I'm having ice cream made with Whisky...

1994 Dow's - a little savory like salty plum.

Apparently this chocolate tart was pretty special, so even though we were very full, the pastry chef insisted on sending us a couple of slices.  Very rich, indeed.  And served with some Chartreuse marshmallows... so we were also served some Chartreuse on the rocks.

What can I say?  I knew that with Vincent getting back into the kitchen, the goal for Chef's Table is clear - they are gunning for three Michelin stars.  Mezzaluna upstairs already has two and is looking for their third, and clearly the hotel's management would like nothing more than having two 3-star restaurants under the same roof - like Four Seasons Hong Kong.

Admittedly, the cost of the meal is steep by Bangkok standards.  The tasting menu comes in at around USD 250 a head, and our premium wine pairing added another USD 200 per person.  I dropped a cool grand on dinner for two with wine tonight, which is nothing to sneeze at in any city around the world.  But with the use of premium ingredients - many of which were imported from Europe - I felt the pricing is not out of line.

Before I even left the table tonight, I started announcing to friends that this would be the first three-star restaurant in Bangkok.  Well, the truth is that I have no clue what Michelin inspectors are looking for, but I feel very strongly that my friend Vincent now plays at a higher level than when he was running the kitchen at Caprice in its prime.  Vincent also feels strongly that this is the case.

So we will see in about 7 months' time.  My feeling is that Chef's Table will grab at least two stars in the next edition, and if the Rubberman feels generous and decides to finally award someone with three stars in this town, this place would be a prime candidate for that highest honor.  Whatever the case, I wish my friend and his team much success, and Imma tell all my friends visiting Bangkok not to miss this stop while they're in town.

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