The five hardest reservations to get in Thailand today
French, Italian, Spanish and Thai. Haute, neighborhoody, effusive and elusive.
Photos courtesy of Cote.
Chef Mauro Colagreco has three Michelin stars and is the reigning No. 1 in the World’s 50 Best for his restaurant Mirazur, in Menton, France. In addition to that perfect culinary pedigree, Cote is in the uber-luxury Capella Bangkok hotel, which finally opened October 1 after the whole city (and sundry others) spent a great long while champing at the bit. Toss in the fact that all tables overlook the river, and you’ve got the recipe for fully booked weekend nights. Mauro’s man on the ground is Davide Garavaglia, who was chef de cuisine at Mirazur, and who brings the air of the Mediterannean Riviera to the Chao Phraya with a simple, fresh, mostly seafood menu that surprises the palate without ever overwhelming it.
I can still taste every disparate note of the sublime chaud-froid egg with caviar, cauliflower creme and horseradish; I’d like a duo for breakfast daily. The lobster with hay hollandaise and black trumpet mushrooms vies with the squid in coconut ajo blanco, sea grapes and lardo for secondly sublime. Wines are brought to you by the passionate, playful somm Jay Bottorff, who spent the past couple of years pre-opening accumulating a heavy-on-naturals cellar with an astonishing number of grower-vintner champagnes. Ask him for a breather glass before the massive cheese trolley trundles out. Bonus points to these guys, by the way, for doing just one singular (in both senses of the word) dessert.
Photos by Diego Arenas.
True Spaniards, who prefer to dine closer to the witching hour, would be amused at how hard it is to snag a 7 p.m. weeknight seat at this raucous tapas roundtable. But even if the scheduling is off, the nosh and the scene can transport you to Madrid, thanks to native son Alvaro Ramos (that’s chef El Palanca to you). A crowd of happy hi-sos perch on high chairs elbow-to-elbow around the bar behind which a fleet of servers scurries to pour sangria and dole out paella, while an open-flame grill blasts in the background and an eminently singalong-able 90s and hip-hop soundtrack drowns out conversation. Get the hamachi collar with lime, which they set en fuego in front of your face; the garlicky gambas al ajillo; and, obviously, anything with Joselito Iberian ham. If chef’s feeling frisky (and why wouldn’t he? The man has eyelid tattoos)–or like celebrating the launch of his new funky yakitori bar next door–it’s tequila for everyone. Or, if you’ve got a spare Bt999, ring the bell and buy a round of shots for the whole place… the mandatory “La Macarena” soundtrack is a small price to pay for making a room full of friends.
Photos courtesy of Giglio.
Oh, how Thailand loves Italian. No wonder, while just as the country crept out of lockdown and so the rest of us looked on with raised eyebrows, Paolo Vitaletti of Roman trattoria Appia and Neapolitan-pizza empire Peppina merrily continued his jaunt around Italy with the opening of a fetching storefront focused on Florence. The menu by chef Manuelo Pintore brims with dishes you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere in this country, all of which you’ll immediately want to eat again after only one bite. The plump butter-sage-doused gnudi (ricotta and spinach dumplings) and the sausage-and-beans stew will more than sate the ketos among us, and that’s not even mentioning the #meatporn fridge of gorgeous aged beef staring at you from next to the classic bar. You also need the pillowy gnocchi and the perfect-spring-in-its-bite pici pasta. It’s not just because the place is so mini that it’s hard to get a table (plan your Fridays well in advance), but also it has swiftly become the local haunt for all its neighbors–the spot for birthday dinners, girls’ nights, romantic dates, and chefs after service. And that’s the highest praise, no?
I’d stop writing about Sorn if Sorn would stop being so superior. Not so much referencing the competition (though they’ve got two Michelin stars and sit at No. 16 on the Asia’s 50 Best List–no small feat when nearly no one can score a seat) as themselves: each menu has been better than the last, and even if you could manage to eat there consistently, no two meals are likely to be exactly the same since chefs Ice Jongsiri and Yod U-Pumpruk are always getting fresh catches-of-the-day–springy conch, for example–or random interesting produce flown up by their small-time suppliers in southern Thailand. Raw lobster with lime zest; grilled milk-fed beef; the one-two miracle of river prawn, rambutan and salted-egg doughnut… that’s not even half of the small bites, and they’re all amazing. And yet, it was the sharing mains that somehow elevated my most recent meal. They’ve made the smorgasbord of curries and soups lighter and better balanced, so that by the time someone rolls out the brand-new dessert trolley, you’re not irrationally mad at them for overfeeding you. I haven’t even talked about the wine, plates or claypot rice yet, but I don’t really need to. It’s still a catch-em-if-you-can in the first 15 minutes monthly bookings bonanza.
Photos courtesy of Blackitch.
Chef Black Bulsuwan is personally at the forefront of several of our favorite trends in eating right now. He runs a farm that raises rare-breed black pigs, which he serves along with only local produce and Thai proteins in his nose-to-tail, tiny 12-seat, serve-you-what-he-feels-like restaurant in Chiang Mai. He is all about seasonality, food equality and supply-chain fairness, fermenting, experimenting and elevating humble ingredients. On any given day, the nine-course Japanese-inflected menu might include: fresh-caught fish karaage with southern Thai pumpkin curry sauce; braised pork belly with a fish-organs-filled bread; or soy sauce grilled mackerel served with Thai tea-leaf salad. The local love for Black is strong; even without any international tourists, it’s a two-week to one-month wait for a ressie.