Elegant roof level restaurant at the top of the Lebua hotel, Bangkok
Bangkok received its first Michelin red guide in 2017 (not without controversy) and awarded two restaurants 2 Michelin stars of which this is one (the other being Gaggan). The 7 course only tasting menu at 6,500BHT works out at roughly £166 per head and on this occasion, I opted for the matching wines for an extra 3,900BHT. This is obviously expensive for Thailand, but understandable based on the experience and where it took place (at the rooftop level of a 5-star hotel as featured in The Hangover 2). It is innovative cooking with luxury ingredients and a couple of moments of note-worthy food but the award of 2 Michelin stars appears to be very generous to me and several of the dishes sadly did not work very well in spite of all the efforts to impress.
The meal began with a visually striking line up of canapes and amuse bouches including a refreshing cherry tomato with kegini crab, a green apple and tomato foam bite; a ratatouille with quail egg and balsamic pearls/gels, giving a strong hit of creamed oregano; smoked sardine croquette with spicy tomato and oregano which was was fair and a yellow tomato gazpacho with Iberica ham. These simmered at the 1.5 Michelin star level for me but obvious care had gone into their design. Seaweed butter to go with the bread selection was too strong but salted butter from Brittany was very well-sourced.
Shima-Aji (stripped Jack) “citrus cured” golden trout roe, fennel, lemongrass, mango & yuzu sorbet was the first course. This had a lovely yuzu sorbet to add sweetness but just overtook the roe a bit too much. It was certainly fresh and a pleasure to have as an able start. Overall a refreshing play of salt and sweet.
Vendee seared Foie Gras with pickled kombu (seaweed), shine miscat (Japanese fruit), ginger comfit, caramel duck jus formed the second dish. This was light and elegant compared to most, but slightly lacking in punch. If it wasn’t for the sweetened Chardonnay it would have been a little too bland, i.e. without a sweet component to balance. It didn’t need much acidity as it didn’t feel that rich; it just needed a bit more lift from sweetness.
Nova Scotia Lobster “spice roasted”, red capsicum bisque, chorizo, puffed rice formed the third course as per my choice. This was a sweet and well-done lobster, a reasonable bisque, what felt like polenta in the middle seemed to be a bland waste of time but thankfully the dish was salvaged by the thin and crispy/cooked chorizo which saved all on this dish. Ayu (sweet fish) confit, cucumber, green melon, sweet basil velouté was the fourth course and quite a chewy fish, wrapped in a light coating with a smooth fish paste – ultimately I found this a little bland. Intricate yes but sadly failed to get the mouth excited at all.
Poulet Jaune de Mille Etangs “roasted stuffed” édamamé, chanterelle, sansho pepper had chicken mousseline inside French chicken with chicken jus. The Sancho pepper has an almost aniseed quality to the supporting beans and causes the tongue to be a fraction numb. This was a fresh, different and clearly beautifully cooked dish, but somehow it was hard to have a love affair at the same time. The Yuzu gel and sake and Thai basil (a little spicier) interlude at the pass to wash the palate prior to the beef was a welcome and fresh herbal ‘mouthwash’.
Niigata Murakami Wagyu A5 beef grilled over binchō charcoal with potato, smoked eel, horseradish, watercress formed the main meat dish. This was wonderfully cooked, beautifully presented and the horseradish with it was a delight. Eel was a nice touch and gave a smokiness to the proceedings, but I honestly wanted to get rid of that in order to savour the A5. I honestly thought the quantity of watercress puree could be reduced as this gave the mouth too much with the jus – the beef with the jus and potato would have been exquisite and probably how the Sportsman would have done it.
An interlude was then offered with freeze-dried goats cheese ‘powder’ curry meringue, corn ‘milk’ (juice from corn). This was a pretty strange sour with sweet and initially, I was confused but I tried to remember that it was a cheese transition course. It was offered as a ‘surprise’, but it would have probably been appropriate to say it was a cheese course rather than a surprise but that is purely my thought.
Pre-dessert came as a green apple suducai (Japanese citrus) sugar crust with lime foam on top and this was utterly superb. The casing of sugar wasn’t too sweet, it had gorgeous like foam and lovely apple / suducai cold base. This was bubbly, fresh, had lovely textures, was light and utterly palate-cleansing – it was almost the perfect pre/dessert. Bravo Mezzaluna on this one as probably the most accomplished dish on the menu.
Phuket pineapple marmalade “dry and fresh” with suducai tarragon lime sorbet and tarragon meringue was the dessert. This was fresh, confit & dry, so it was completely refreshing but sadly far too acidic from the tarragon sorbet. Savoury and sour were mixed with the sweet for negative effect unfortunately on this dish. The meringue was actively unpleasant; as if it was a cold curry with some sweet things and was wrong to be even thinking like that for a dessert.
Sparking Japanese plum drink to finish (8%) served with well designed petit fours but again was sadly, overcomplicated (white chocolate casing with wasabi filling and delicate sugar crust did not work well). However, frozen kumquat petit fours was well done and rather like the dessert, sadly lowered the crescendo of the overall meal.
Some miscellaneous points struck me during this visit:
- The violin quartet playing in the corner was fitting for the setting and pleasant to see as has been a long time since seeing this – an overhead that perhaps only a grand hotel can put up.
- The beef itself was a reported €4,850 Euro per kilo of A5 beef and this would account for the small portion on the plate.
- Slick and attentive service was experienced the whole way through.
When all was said and done, this meal with all wines and service all combined together totalled £308. For what was had, this is not extortionate, but it is a shame that most of the effort lacked the intended impact. There is a high level of skill being displayed without question, but sadly it demonstrated innovative cooking focussing on the innovation first rather than the success on the palate which I would argue is more important.
Food Grade: 70%
Location (Click google logo for directions)