September 7, 2023

Bangkok Hong Kong

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French cuisine is hardly ever a priority when I'm visiting countries like Thailand, so it should come as no surprise that, in nearly 40 years of traveling to the City of Angels, I've never once considered dining at La Normandie at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. This is why I've never experienced the cuisine of Chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier. I knew that he and Gaggan has a relationship as he left to set up Maison Dunand during the pandemic years, but he was still off my radar.

When I received an invitation to the four hands event between Chef Arnaud and Juve Fan, I didn't hesitate to say "yes". When I belatedly planned the quick getaway to Bangkok, I made sure that I would be back in town for lunch at Estro today.

As luck would have it, I was seated at the same table as the Great One, who left Bangkok a day before I did. It's been quite a long time, then...

So the way this menu played out was a little different from your run-of-the-mill X-hands. Each chef picked out three ingredients that the other chef would then create a dish around. That's a pretty nice challenge!

Blood sausage and green apple bon bon - I loved the blood sausage, of course, and the bon bon was full of apple juice.

Smoked eel and calamansi bricelet - with some acidity. Very nice.

Semolina cushion with raw spot prawn - some coral sauce and dill on top. OK la.

Marinated amberjack tart - with lemon gel, soy emulsion, and caviar. Love the acidity and citrus fragrance.

The usual bread basket, and I was pretty hungry so this was like manna from heaven. The problem was that in addition to just nibbling on carta musica and taralli as usual, I went for the other, bigger pieces...

Mackerel, tomato, eggplant, fig leaf, by Estro - we had slices of cured (and smoky) Japanese mackerel, sitting in a bowl of tomato water and fig leaf oil.

Under the mackerel we had a mix of diced mackerel and eggplant and dried tomatoes.

Next up was an extra dish we didn't really need. The menu is already sufficient in terms of the volume of food, but PR8 being PR8, he suggested that we should get an extra course of a Maison Dunand signature dish.

Caviar, potato, by Maison Dunand - this... look a lot like this dish that Hairy Legs has been doing...

...but with the addition of sea urchin. Although to be fair, Chef Arnaud has had some version of this dish since at least 7 years ago. Lots of acidity in the light, airy, and creamy Champagne sauce. A little bit of orange zest shavings on top.

Squid, lavender, chickpea, by Maison Dunand - here's a pretty flower made from bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ), garnished with dots of squid emulsion, with black garlic mousse infused with lavender, along with chickpea purée and some bits of chickpeas.

I liked that there was a good amount of acidity in the heavy-looking "hummus". Nicely balanced, I thought.

Crab, scialatielli, chili, Amalfi lemon, by Estro - a newer version of a familiar dish. We've still got the steamed Norwegian King crab on top, but now the sauce has changed to a crab/shellfish sauce which has a lot more umami and savory flavors. The Amalfi lemons still lent their beautiful fragrances to the dish, and the dish over still tasted relatively sweet on the palate. Nice one.

Eel, bell pepper, olive, oregano, by Estro - the eel was first steamed before grilling with charcoal. Still tasted the muddy flavors.

Bell pepper, Taggiasca olives, seaweed comprise the three different sauces for the dish. Not sure I liked the combination. I also didn't think that the "three textures of capers" added very much to the dish.

Pigeon, butternut, juniper, by Maison Dunand - yes... getting a Frenchman to serve pigeon was definitely a good call.

Very nice doneness... perfectly rosé while the skin was crispy.

We have minced pigeon leg with foie gras on the side with juniper, under thin discs of pumpkin.

Coffee, by Estro - lifting the coffee tuile revealed a brown butter cookie sitting on caramel cremeux, with coffee ganache on top. So, sooo good. I looooove desserts made with coffee, as I just can't resist the fragrance it leaves in my mouth.

Pistachio gelato

Vanilla tart

Tiramisu sphere

A very delicious lunch for sure, but I definitely probably maybe shouldn't be consuming this many calories so soon after my eating trip to Bangkok. Many thanks to the powers that be for this kind invitation.

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