Enoteca - a fabulous Italian restaurant in Bangok!
Wanting tio go somewhere special, we chose this place because of its glowing reviews and stellar ranking on tripadvisor.com.
Across all categorties, it's number 2 of over 500 restaurants in the city! And I'm delighted to report that it lives up to its billing - and more. Never mind Bangkok, this is one of the best examples of modern Italian cooking you'll find anywhere. The technique is brilliant and perfectly judged, the ideas are ingenious and the service - conducted by a smiling, knowledgeable, young Italian maitre and a fleet of beautiful Thai waitresses - combines both friendliness and precision.
I don't normally go for taster menus but we took the taster route because there were so many delicious sounding things on the a la carte menu that we wanted to try. Portions were smaller than a usual main course, but we knew we'd eaten well and heartily by the end. (My date even mumbled something about being full and skipping dessert, but I knew she didn't mean it.)
I also took the manager's wine recommendation, so much on trust that I don't even remember what we had. But it was what he described as a "crispy" white and it served us perfectly well throughout all four courses.
I enjoyed this meal so much, I'm going to describe each course in detail. (Feel no need to read any further if you just want to know if the place is any good or not. It is!)
First up was a glass pitcher containing a layer of potato puree over a layer of impossibly tender squid in a highly seasoned black ink sauce. The manager advised us to dig right down and get a taste of both layers in each spoonful. The black and white made ravishing, swirling patterns on the glass as we ate it. And as well as being beautiful, sophisticated and witty, it contained one of the ultimate comfort food combinations - fish and potatoes. All in all, a triumphantly clever, exuberant dish.
The next course continued the comfort food theme with a ragu of duck with pappardelle. To make a ragu, you take a strongly flavoured meat such as hare, boar or venison and braise it forever, so the meat virtually tuns to crumbs. When made well, it's intense, dark, rich and satisfying. But a danger of long, slow cooking is that the flavours can sometimes be dulled. This duck was so ducky it was still quacking. It was perfectly complemented by just four or five ribbons of gloriously silky pasta.
Next came an illustration of the fact that in the kitchen, simplicity is king. Two chunks of sea bass, fried till the skin is crisp, sitting on a straightforward circle of boiled potato, with a vegetable broth and a few vegetables. That's all. At first taste, I might have asked for just another pinch of salt to kick it up a notch. But the more I ate, the more I realised the chef's brilliance in balancing this so that every single flavour tasted exactly of what it was: half a tiny cherry tomato, a couple of green beans, a couple of capers, half a black olive....total perfection.
20 years ago I ate something just as prosaically simple - poached chicken with a couple of boiled vegetables - at the world famous River Cafe in London, which I can still taste today. I know I will remember this sea bass dish as long and every bit as fondly.
Desserts were an unpretentious but solidly delicious chocolate mousse and a fabulous tiramisu with the all-important shot of espresso poured over it at the table.
All this, plus a couple more espressos, cost the two of us 6,600 baht. Stratospherically, almost guilt inducingly expensive for Bangkok of course, where you can by a perfectly good plate of noodles off a stall for 15 baht. But if you compare it to other restaurants of this quality around the world, it's an absolute, jaw dropping bargain.