Saturday 9 February 2013

Water Library - Thonglor, Bangkok

Five things you need to know about Bangkok’s ‘Water Library’ in Thonglor?

1. Housed in ‘Grass’, it’s the sister restaurant to The Water Library in Chamchuri Square (See the Skinny Bib’s post here).

2. The kitchen team (which often outnumbers the diners) is led by Singaporean ‘celebrity’ Chef Muhammad Haikal Johari.

3. Chef Haikal Johari trained at Raffles, worked at prestigious restaurants such as: Ember, Les Amis and Pierside (and has completed stages at Joël Robuchon and Laurent Gras).

4. Its counter seats can accommodate a maximum of ten lucky diners, who are able to watch and interact with the chefs as they prepare and plate the meal.

5. The menu reads like a ‘Who’s who?’ (What’s what?) of some of the finest, premium ingredients sourced from across the globe.

After taking drinks and canapés in the downstairs bar, we were led upstairs to the dark, yet strategically lit, Japanese inspired dining space and chef’s theatre. The super-sleek black décor providing the perfect backdrop for vibrant pops of colour from pink orchids; the red wax seal of the menu’s envelope and ultimately the food…

Every dish was carefully prepared and expertly executed – where needed, flavour combinations were harmoniously layered but the ‘stellar ingredients’ were always allowed to shine. We were treated to:

Caviar – farmed Beluga caviar, Cadoret Flan, ‘Palamós’ Shrimp, Rice Broth. The meal started with what I think was my favourite dish, the most wonderful stately trio of Beluga Caviar; Oysters from Les Huîtres Cadoret and a tartare of Palamós Prawns brought together with the delicately smoky rice broth – absolutely sublime!  

Iwashi – Baby sardines, ceviche, Anjou pear, foie gras, plums, red cabbage. The presentation of the second course was absolutely beautiful. By now, I became assured that we were in the capable hands of a kitchen team that didn’t just have a copy of Modernist Cuisine and access to premium ingredients and fancy bits of kitchen kit - they had flair, creativity, an understanding of taste, texture and technique and an important something that can easily be forgotten by chefs in their exuberance to impress… control and restraint.

‘Cerises Jaunes’ Tomatoes – gazpacho, Manchego, Château d'Estoublon sorbet, micro basil. Served in a crumpled paper (china) cup this dish managed to capture the essence of Spain! Bursting with tomato flavour, from an intense tomato water jelly, a semi-dried tomato and a mousse made with yellow cherry tomatoes, it was completed with an indulgent Château d'Estoublon olive oil sorbet, star anise blossom and grated Manchego – muy fantástico!

Potato ‘muffins’ – potato bread, lardon, truffle butter. The bread came served in a mini flour sack, half filled with roasted coffee beans for their aroma. It was not just the presentation that was unique, made with sour cream and topped with a lardon glaze, cocoa and truffle butter, the flavour was pretty special too.

Kegani – Japanese horsehair crab, Kumara gnocchi, ‘buerre noisette’, Manjimup truffles. The first of three seafood dishes, this was perhaps this simplest in terms of presentation but there was no compromise on flavour. Generous use of the Manjimup truffles through the beurre noisette wowed without overpowering the sweet potato gnocchi and delicate Japanese horsehair crab.

Scallop – broiled fennel, olive jam, fennel flower. The huge scallop was delicious, perfectly sweet, succulent and topped with salty fish skin. A rich red wine jus, horseradish crème, olive jam, a luscious spinach sauce and fennel with fennel flowers completed the balance of flavours.

Langoustine – Scandinavian Langoustine, pork ears, onion sable, shallot jus. The pork, crisp pig’s ear and sweet plump langoustine were all delectable. Apple jelly and an apple gelée added an intense apply hit but this was the only dish that I felt could’ve done with a tweak with either something bitter or acidic to cut through the overall sweetness and fatty pork.

Quail – Loire Valley Quail, truffle cream, chanterelle mushroom, consommé, prunes. Delicious pink quail with truffle cream, puffed wild rice, chanterelles and a mushroom tuile was nothing short of ambrosial. A liquid gold, nectarous consommé with prunes and Earl Grey foam completed the dish.  

Le Boeuf de ‘Hiroshima’ – charcoal grilled ‘Hiroshima’ tenderloin, zucchini flower beignet, sauce poivrade. Starring a small but beautiful piece of high quality Japanese Wagyu in a rich peppery sauce with a subtle wasabi crème and capers in the beignet - another delicious dish.

Fourme D’Ambert – pear, cauliflower, caramel port wine. Dating from Roman times, Fourme d'Ambert is one of France's oldest cheeses. At The Water Library, they brought it bang up to date with a cauliflower, delightful shards of dried cauliflower, a port wine reduction and a sweet pear gelée – one of the finest chef prepared cheese courses I’ve ever eaten.

Blackberry – parfait, brown butter, yoghurt. All balanced with perfect synergy of flavours, textures and temperatures, Brown butter ice cream, blackcurrant sorbet, coconut gelée, berry parfait, sorrel meringue, baby basil and fresh fruits was the perfect, cool and refreshing way to end the meal before heading out into the muggy Bangkok night.

Petit fours and Jing Green Tea. 

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