Alain Passard au Sukhothai, Bangkok
I’m not sure where I should exactly put this review. I happened to find the info about Alain Passard visiting Bangkok in early April and the schedule fit in nicely with my overseas trip. As I tried to book for dinner, I was told it’s full but fortunately since I would dine alone, the F&B director could squeeze me in. I was actually lucky because later I learned that the event was supposed to be held in November 2011, but had been postponed due to flood. Whenever Chef Passard visits Asia, I will try my best to attend the event. Previously in 2008, I came to his lunch event at Raffles hotel Singapore.
Food (and wine) – 95/100
Unlike the Raffles event in Singapore, the Sukhothai’s art of dining presented most of Alain Passard’s famous dishes. They tried hard to bring and prepare the exact same dishes that normally served at L’Arpege, the 3-star Michelin restaurant in Paris. Many of the ingredients were flown from France as well as Passard’s biodynamic garden (located in the north west of France). The dinner’s degustation menu consisted of eight dishes and for fun; I will show you also some of the dishes when they’re cooked at the Parisian kitchen
1st by now everyone should know that a meal with Chef Passard will always begin with his long-term signature dish: a poached egg served in its shell with xeres vinegar, maple syrup and a little salt as well as a layer of ‘sour’ cream. The dish displays an excellent balance of tangy vinegar and the sweet syrup; the egg was runny with velvety texture. There’s a nice ‘contrast’ of hot and cold elements from this dish – still my favorite egg dish of all time though it’s probably the 7th or 8th time I eat this
2nd Phuket lobster in sweet & sour dressing served with clear turnip and sprinkle of rosemary. I also had this dish with Maine lobster (during the Singapore lunch) and with Chausey Island homard (eating it at Paris – the best one). The turnip was crunchy and fresh; the sauce was well prepared – it had the right sweetness for my taste with a tad sour taste so not over powering. If there’s a ‘weakest’ link, I would say it’s the local lobster – somewhat very delicate (I prefer firmer texture) and not as sweet as the blue lobster type. Phuket lobster usually has thinner shell compared to its Atlantic version
3rd Pumpkin veloute served with speck ham and cashew nut. I’m never a fan of anything relates to pumpkin but since it’s served by Alain Passard, I know it will not be disappointing. And true enough, I enjoyed this creamy pumpkin soup (not too thick, rather sweet and not cloying at all). The bacon foam reduced the soup’s rich flavor; the subtle addition of crunchy chopped cashew was a smart combination for the dish.
4th Monkfish in yellow wine sauce served with smoked potatoes and cabbage. The only time I ate Arpege’s Lotte was during my first meal there and instantly it became one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten. The monkfish here is well prepared except the ‘side’ part was a bit burnt hence slightly bitter (you can check below when it’s cooked perfectly in Paris). Overall, the fish was meaty, juicy with firm texture. The sauce was fragrant and superb as I love high quality salted butter. The potatoes were a bit too dense (unlikely to be from his garden); the cabbage, grown via Royal project in Chiang mai, was sweet and tasty. All the elements worked nicely altogether – almost as delicious as the one below …
5th Chef’s vegetables arranged artistically served with Fine Semolina and Argan Oil. Many people visit L’Arpege these days for this dish. There are approximately 10 different vegetables (cherry tomato, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot; my favorite was the yellow beetroot) and each element tasted like how it’s supposed to taste or even better. The sauce was made of white onion, milk foam and some butter. The argan oil was nutty while the sprinkle of couscous gave contrast in texture. Among all the dishes in the tasting menu, I would say this dish resembled the most to the one prepared at L’Arpege except the portion was smaller. I was impressed with Passard’s ability to reproduce a delicious dish that’s about as good as its original version (given the vegetables would probably take a day or so to reach Bangkok from France
6th Duck from Challans served with Hibiscus sauce (cinnamon, cardamom and a special flower), yellow beet and ‘smashed orange peeled’. The duck was beautifully cut and tender; the only drawback was that it’s a bit dry. But the rich hibiscus sauce helped to moisten the delicious piece of duck breast meat. The beet root was still top notch
7th The end is near when the pre-dessert arrived. Another beet root dish – beetroot crème brulee to be exact. It’s very tasty and flavorful throughout, like it
8th Candied Tomatoes (pan fried I believe) stuffed with twelve flavors (some of the spices were ginger, vanilla, star anise, cinnamon, a few nuts, orange etc.) It’s accompanied by nice lemongrass ice cream with sprinkle to pistachio below. The caramelized tomato generated some sweet and sour flavor that was balanced by the smooth ice cream. I enjoy it more when the ‘tomato’ was more packed & dense
The tasting menu did a great job to show case Alain Passard’s talents and skills. There are, of course, much more delicious dishes that one should try in Rue de varenne. Overall, Chef Passard, with his 2 Arpege staffs as well as the assistance of La Scala teams, did a wonderful job for this event. It would be unrealistic to expect the meal to be at the level of Arpege Paris. I would give 95 pts for the food (2 ¾* by Michelin standard) – whereas my experiences in Paris usually comes close to ‘perfection’
I also had a wine-pairing with my meal here. The sommelier did a very good job generally. The most interesting pairing will be Arlequin of vegetables with 2005 Chateau Grand Mayne. I never expected the red wine to go along with veggie dish. The wine has classic aromas of blueberries, black currants & dried herbs; this fruit combination ‘matched well’ with many different vegetables flavors and aroma. The full-bodied and well-structured wine exhibits moderate tannin and overall harmony. Some other wines that I liked were 2007 Meursault Tillets domaine Verget and 2005 Muscat Grand cru domaine Zind Humbrecht.
Service (and ambiance) – 93/100
The special event was held at La Scala, one of the most respected Italian restaurants in Bangkok. The design is innovative with open-kitchen concept in the center of the dining room. It’s very fun indeed to see many chefs work live in their stations. Chef Passard didn’t do much hands on that night; he mostly supervised and often cut the cooked duck – in fact, he was a bit busy with his I-phone =) The inside dining room was full house indeed. Bangkok is actually a good market for fine dining places.
Like many other big events, there are more than enough staffs in the dining room. Sommelier, F&B director and restaurant managers were available to entertain guests. Even, a few of the waiters were Caucasians. There were all friendly, helpful, and seemed to enjoy their jobs. In Asia, it’s nearly impossible to have personalized service except if the managers or maitre d’ have worked at Europe’s 2-3 star Michelin restaurants. The napkin was not replaced even after you left for bath room twice. The dinner began at 7 PM and guests could go at their own pace. 1/3 of the diners in fact didn’t arrive until 8-830 PM. I was glad when Chef Passard greeted me, apparently he still remembered me from several visits in his Parisian restaurant some years ago. He looked slimmer and fitter nowadays. While his spoken English was rather limited (forget my French), Alain’s English understanding has improved a lot. When I got some chats with him before leaving the restaurant, the translator did not have to do his job. I was pleased to have the opportunity to savor his dishes once again and hopefully, I will be able to return to L’Arpege in the not so distant future
Pictures of the dishes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@...