BANGKOK, April 12 — It’s not a sight you see every day: the head chef coming out of the kitchen and dropping by your table… with a barrel of butter.
The barrel in question is a wooden churn and the butter has been freshly made in-house. We are at Chef’s Table, a two Michelin stars restaurant in Bangkok. The Chef de Cuisine, Chef Vincent Thierry, oversees the kitchen and now he is scooping butter for us.
From churn to saucer, a perfectly smooth quenelle, to enjoy with petite sourdough baguettes or soft dinner rolls. It’s a bit of a performance, sure, but what a show of dedication.
We are seated at a table with quite a view, the entire Bangkok skyline sprawling below us. The Chao Phraya River winding elegantly around skyscrapers. Our fantastic vistas are courtesy of where we are: Chef’s Table is located on the 61st floor of Silom’s State Tower.
Consider this dining in the clouds, if you will.
This isn’t the highest we’ve been; we had been previously at State Tower for dinner at Mezzaluna on the 65th floor. But Chef’s Table promises to be an entirely different experience.
For one, their open kitchen concept truly takes it to the next level (no pun intended) as it’s shaped more like an island so guests are often invited to view the chefs prepping and cooking from a 360-degree point-of-view.
Form and function are perfectly matched here: a Molteni stove wrapped in Carrara marble; a brass-plated stainless steel hood, providing perfect ventilation so we are never exposed to any of the typical kitchen fumes and smells. To complete the picture, it’s all capped off with decorative rings designed by a Thai artist to mirror a Buddhist monument.
Every table appears to face this open kitchen. Except, unusually, ours. We have the aforementioned view of the city skyline and this gives our dining experience an added touch of privacy.
It feels like it is just us and the city beyond and the warm conversations of the servers when they appeared at our table to introduce each course.
And this — spoiler alert! — is what makes Chef’s Table that extra special: the care and concern of the team that waits at each table, ensuring everything flows smoothly (the restaurant is one of the best-paced I’ve been at; no unbearably long lulls between courses) and that we feel welcome.
Khun Gene started things off with a trio of Chef Thierry’s immaculately crafted canapés. She suggested tasting these from the more delicate to the stronger flavoured: first, marinated and smoked mackerel with jasmine cream and pickled cucumber; then a savoury button mushroom and hazelnut tartelette; and lastly, a mulled wine foie gras and sweet spices tuille.
Every bite a benediction, bestowing us with a curiosity for the courses to come.
For what does one expect from a chef’s table if not a Chef’s Tasting Menu? We surrender to Chef Thierry’s creativity and the fine work of his crew.
Given it’s summer, something chilled is a great way to revive even the most jaded of palates. A “tomato mosaic” with creamy burrata, vanilla and an aromatic consommé thrills. For something brinier, recalling the ocean, the Royal Oyster N°2 with Kristal caviar, hazelnut, shiso leaves and Nashi pear.
Seasonal delights next. Our friendly French server, Ms Louise Bourgeois, explained how the Scottish langoustine is paired with crispy sweetbread, fennel confit and shellfish emulsion, while the Loire Valley white asparagus is prepared two ways, with citrus, almonds and saffron.
Something from the land and something from the sea as Totto-chan learned in Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s The Little Girl at the Window.
A tiny bit of acidity can go a long way to balance even the richest of ingredients. Here the seared Quercy foie gras is lightened with elderberry, rhubarb and celery; the roasted lobster matched with beetroot, blackberries and hibiscus. Tart without being sharp.
The fish course is naturally more subtle but no less engaging. Line caught cod perfumed with black truffles, artichoke and wine sauce of Château Chalon. The wild John Dory is even lighter; how refreshing it is, with zucchini, cucumber and mint!
This sets us up for heavier fare in the next course: meat and poultry, both cooked medium rare. There are Middle-Eastern notes with the milk-fed Pyrenees lamb; this comes with tender eggplant, mild goat cheese and spiced with sweet harissa. The rice smoked Challans duck has more of a Chinese-Japanese influence with Sichuan pepper and edamame.
What a fine meal! But it’s far from over.
To smoothen the switch from savoury to sweet, the cheese course features a selection from Eleveur de Fromages (cheese farmer) Jean-François Antony. Khun Gene more than capably recites the provenance of each cheese, from the province where it originated to whether the milk came from cow, goat or ewe.
My personal favourite was the orange-hued Mimolette from Lille. A cow’s milk cheese, this has been aged 15-18 months, infusing it with butterscotch and hazelnut flavours. There’s a slight bitter aftertaste, which prepares my palate for the desserts to come.
Again, it’s a matter of preference: Are you a cool cucumber or someone who embraces the dark side of life?
The former will appreciate the green apple confit, buckwheat texture and apple basil sorbet; the Darth Vader believers will succumb to the Chocolate Experience, an airy soufflé and sorbet made with 80 per cent dark chocolate from Chiang Mai.
We won’t lie; the food was fantastic. Chef Thierry and his open kitchen team have outdone themselves. We wouldn’t expect anything less for a two Michelin starred establishment. But what caught our heart, what moved us, was how comforting Gene, Louise and their colleagues made us feel.
As though we were the only people in the room, with the city below us and the stars above. And for all the ways that it mattered, so we were.
Chef’s Table at Lebua
61st Floor, State Tower, 1055 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok
Open daily (except Mon closed) 5pm-11pm
Tel: +66 (0)2 624 9555
For more slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.