Scalini

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Breakfast joint in the morning and fine dining Italian restaurant in the evening, Scalini at Hilton Sukhumvit wears many hats. So many, in fact, that even the menu lists Italian-American favourites and the interior takes its cue from the wave of immigrants to the US during the turn of the 19th century.

The confusion aside, Scalini serves tasty food in classy surroundings that, given the location on the second floor away from the lobby, don’t feel too much like you’re sitting in a hotel. The floors are made of beautiful hardwood laid out in an eye-catching triangular pattern and one wall is a floor-to-ceiling display of the restaurant’s wine. There is a large mural of the New York skyline and the old Singer sewing machine tables and the ‘antique’ luggage give the room a nostalgic feel. The ceiling is made of dark metal panelling and seating comes in either soft couches or comfortable, round-back chairs.

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The kitchen is helmed by chef Egidio Latorraca, an Italian who grew up with a father from southern Italy and a mother from northern Italy who were always arguing about the merits of their respective regional cuisines. Latorraca says he has taken the best of both for the new menu at Scalini and adapted it to his current locale in the tropics making the dishes light and colourful.

As such the seared Tomino cheese with speck ham (THB530++) is inspired by lazy Sunday mornings at his Milan home when his mother would cook a hearty brunch of cheese wrapped in speck and grilled in the oven. In this particular version, the salt of the speck cuts well into the pungent richness of the Tomino cheese. The dish must be eaten while it’s hot so that the cheese can run into the salad leaves underneath.

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Another starter, the Mesculum salad and foie gras (THB650++) had less of the wow factor but is a decent foie gras, served with halved blueberries, steamed white asparagus and salad leaves. There was also foie gras sponge, which was more sponge than foie gras.

The risotto with white asparagus and roasted quail (THB800++) deserves a mention, made the traditional way with lots of detectable butter and here a dash of truffle oil to accentuate the mushrooms. The roasted quail leg was flavourful and gamey and a welcome ‘other’ to the creamy mass.

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One of the highlights was the oven baked red mullet (THB850++), not only incredibly pretty but also very tasty, the capers in the dish giving it a satisfying, salty dimension and the slight sour cherry tomatoes giving the dish some balance. It comes with slightly charred bread drizzled with olive oil to help soak up the juices.

The desserts at Scalini are the domain of Khun Gift and are made based on recipes from Egidio’s grandmother. The chocolate cake (THB300++) is layered with apricot marmalade, chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache while the lemon tart (THB300++) is made from lemons imported from Italy and mixed with sweet Thai mangoes to counter the tart fruit. Both excellent!

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Scalini is open for lunch between noon and 2.30pm and dinner between 6-11pm. During lunch, guests can choose from the lunch set menu (THB600++ for starter, main and dessert) and during evening service a new a la carte menu is available. 

For more information, visit http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/thailand/hilton-sukhumvit-bangkok-BKKSUHI/dining/index.html or call +66 (0) 2620 6666

Chef Hugues Pouget at Issaya Cooking Studio

Chef Hugues Pouget of the famed Hugo & Victor Paris will take the helm at the Issaya Cooking Studio from 31 July to 2 August. The chef has flown from Paris to conduct a dessert and vine tasting session where guests can try some of his signature desserts, including his financier. On 1 August, the chef will also teach an all day advanced level pastry class where students can learn how to make some of the pastries and desserts that has made Hugo & Victor Paris so popular.

On 2 August, the chef will host a Chef’s Table dinner together with the Studio’s resident chef, Ben McRae. The two will prepare dishes such as choux pastry with smoked salmon, goat cheese and dill; foie gras, pistachio terrine en croute; cognac prawns with Rouille;  and the famous financier, amongst others. 

Chef Hugues began his career at a catering school in Marseille. In 1995 he reached the finals of the French Desserts Championship after which he worked for a time at Laduree. In 1997 he moved to Le Bristol as assistant chef for Eric Frenchon and Gilles Marchal. In 2002 he joined the Guy Savoy Group as executive pastry chef and in 2006 he opened the Group’s restaurant in Las Vegas. Since then, Hugues has worked in Singapore, China, Japan and Brazil before returning to Paris to open Hugo & Victor.

For more information about the events at Issaya Cooking Studio call +66 (0) 2160 5636 or booking@issayastudio.com

Eclair lovers take note

Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts has introduced a special eclairs menu in a partnership with pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. The eclairs are offered over the next 12 months, and are inspired by the destinations in which the hotel chain operates properties in Thailand.

Guests can savour the citrus-inspired eclair with mango, lime and ginger at Le Méridien Bangkok; the lemongrass eclair at Plaza Athénée Bangkok and the kalamae eclair at Le Méridien Koh Samui Resort & Spa, using the local specialty made from sticky rice, coconut milk and palm sugar. Those visiting Le Méridien Phuket Beach Resort can enjoy the banana and passion fruit eclair using local ladyfinger bananas and passionfruit and while in Chiang Mai, pop into Le Méridien Chiang Mai for its strawberry eclair.

In addition to the special eclair menus, the resorts also offer three signature flavours; coffee, chocolate and vanilla.

For more information visit www.lemeridien.com or www.facebook.com/lemeridien. 

A night with chef Matt Lambert at Alila Villas Soori

Those on Bali on August 8 should head to Alila Villas Soori for an evening with chef Matt Lambert of Michelin-starred The Musket in New York – the youngest ever restaurant in New York to receive a star just four months after opening in June 2013.

During the one-night-only event, the Auckland born and raised Lambert will cook up modern New Zealand dishes and new interpretations of his menu at The Musket Room. Accompanying the food will be a selection of New Zealand wines.

For more information and to reserve a seat contact Alila Villas Soori soori@alilahotels.com or call +62 361 894 6388

The Great Kebab Factory

With the likes of GagganMaya and Indus, it is safe to say that the Indian food scene in Bangkok has moved above and beyond the fairly monotonous, north Indian offerings of the mainly Nana based, modest outlets that used to dominate this particular segment of the culinary make up of the city.

And with the newly opened The Great Kebab Factory, Indian food in Bangkok has gotten even more diverse. Offering more than 450 different kebabs, The Great Kebab Factory promises diners a new experience every time they visit the restaurant, located on the ground floor of the Majestic Grande Hotel.

As with all concept restaurants, The Great Kebab Factory follows a strict code in terms of menu, interior and manners of the staff. The interior takes its cue from the name, resulting in a quirky, if not stylish, factory theme where the menu looks like a rooster, the staff are clad in overalls and the open kitchen designed to resemble an assembly line. When seated, the staff will come to your table and explain the concept: each day The Great Kebab Factory serve a selection of six kebabs, five of which rotate every day, three main courses, with two of them changing daily and always including one rice dish and one korma, and four desserts that also change.

A kebab on The Great Kebab Factory’s menu means a starter of sorts, a selection of meat or vegetable dishes that are prepared in a certain way. In fact kebab, the chef explains, is a way of preparing the food, either by grilling, steaming, shallow frying, deep frying, cooking in a tandoor or on a hot plate.

Diners can order as many times as they wish and the menu comes in a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian version. After the first few kebabs, the waiter will come back to the table and ask if the speed at which the dishes are brought out is appropriate and whether the food is too spicy or need more spice. The format may feel a bit stiff but at least you get it your way.

The only standard items on the menu are the Galouti Kebab, the restaurant signature made of very finely minced lamb cooked according to an old secret recipe that used no less than 123 different Indian spices! It is cooked on mahi tawa, a hot plate and served with a sweet Indian pancake, red onion rings and four types of chutney: mint, yogurt, tamarind and tomato. With the arrival of each dish, the waiter will recommend the best chutney to accompany the food. The other standard item is the Dal Factory, an aromatic black lentil curry served with freshly made garlic naan. The dal is creamy and comforting, the naan a bit oily.

The other kebabs on the day we visited were Punjabi Murgh Tikka, a tender piece of spiced boneless chicken, Maachi Amritsari, curry leaves flavoured deep fried fish and our favourite, Pudina Jheenga, mint flavoured prawns, Gosht Babari Seekh, minced lamb skewers covered in a thin film of eggwhite, and Lehasooni Chooza, garlic flavoured chicken on the bone.

The desserts consist of traditional Indian varieties that are all very sweet, except maybe for the Pista Badam Kulfi, which was surprisingly light, non sweet and the best of the bunch.

The Great Kebab Factory is open from 6pm to 11pm. For more information and reservations email info@tgkfbangkok.com or call +66 (0) 2262 2999

Whisgars Ploenchit open

Bangkok’s newest luxury whiskey and cigar bar, Whisgars Ploenchit is open for business. Located in the Mahatun Plaza next to Ploenchit BTS, it is the first franchise outlet of the Whisgars brand, which opened its first outlet on Sukhumvit soi 23 last year. The new venue is owned by Richard Gotz and takes on a New York-inspired interior with dark, maskuline features using wooden panelling and leather sofas.

Whisgars Ploenchit offers a large variety of specialised Scotch single malt whiskeys and hand-rolled cigars from Central America. It is part of a larger brand concept across Asia, owned by ChindAsia Capital Partners Limited, which also owns Whisgars on Sukhumvit.

Singapore gearing up for annual food festival

The annual Singapore Food Festival 2014 is underway in Singapore. Held for the 20th time, the Singapore Food Festival is a celebration of the country’s love of everything food, from its ubiquitous hawker stalls to its impressive fine dining venues.

This year’s festival is themed ‘A Walk Down Memory Lane’ and events include diverse dining experiences capturing the unique culinary tradition of Singapore, such as barbecues at Sentosa’s Palawan Beach, Peranakan fare at the Nyonya Mobile kitchen, common and less common Chinese specialties during the Singapore Chinese Dialect Heritage Feast, and Indian cuisine at the Suwai 2014.

For more information see http://www.yoursingapore.com/content/traveller/en/browse/whats-on/festivals-and-events/singapore-food-festival.html

Asia Eater does Thailand - Thai truffles

Hi, this is Sofie Lisby, the editor of Asia Eater. I’m currently travelling around Thailand doing research for Smag På Thailand, a book about regional Thai food that I’m writing for a Danish publisher. In this blog “Asia Eater does Thailand” I will share with you some of the amazing food I try, people I meet and markets I visit. Stay tuned!

In Thailand we have our own type of ‘truffle’. It’s similar to the European ones in that it grows underground during a special season, it’s highly prized (relatively speaking but not compared to the European version) and the taste and fragrance is similar. 

Small in size, the mushroom has many names including hed tob, hed pop or simply black mushroom. It has a hard shell and a soft middle but all of it is edible.

Namsaah Bottling Trust

One of Chef Ian Kittichai’s nicknames is Mue Tong, or Golden Hands, from his weekly, long-running TV show, Chef Mue Tong. And there’s something about it; everything that Ian Kittichai has opened in Bangkok over the past years have become almost instant successes, from the city’s first gastro bar, Hyde & Seek, to the nose-to-tail concept eatery, Smith, to flagship Thai restaurant, Issaya Siamese Club, and its accompanying cookbook, Issaya Siamese Club: Innovative Thai Cuisine by Chef Ian Kittkchai. This year alone, he has launched the Issaya Cooking Studio and Issaya La Patisserie in the newly opened Central Embassy and opened the doors to Hyde & Seek Peek-A-Boo at Central World’s Groove.

So when the news broke that the prolific chef had yet another venue in the pipeline, the only logical reaction was “Again?”

But Namsaah Bottling Trust is different. Artsier than Hyde & Seek, and edgier than Issaya Siamese Club, the Asian Gastro Bar, as it is branded, is a curious mix of the two, taking its drinks cue from Hyde & Seek and the Asian flavours from the kitchen at Issaya.

Just a stone’s throw from Chong Nonsi BTS, Namsaah Bottling Trust is housed in one of those buildings you never knew existed before Ian Kittichai, long-term friend and partner in Issaya, Frederic Meyer, and Justin Dunne of Bed Supperclub and later Ku De Ta, came along and painted it bright pink, gave it a curious name and decorated the walls with early 20th century French porn.

The building is from the early 20th century where it was the residence of a high ranking military officer before it become the headquarter of a bottling company (‘namsaah’ is an old Thai moniker for soda or sparkling water) in the 1940s. During the 1960s, the building become the headquarters of what is today the Thai Military Bank but after the economic crisis in the late 1990s it was allowed to fall into disrepair.

The latest renovation of the building has left it largely intact with beautiful wooden panels, hard wood flooring, shutters, high ceilings and original columns.

You enter the ground floor from a patio in front of the house and arrive at the former dining quarters where the bar welcomes you. To the right of the bar is the DJ booth, at the moment occupied by a mascot of sorts: a human sized figure clad in traditional northern Thai costume but later a space for live acts. The adjoining room, the former living room, acts as a lounge area with wooden chests as tables and plush sofas against some positively kitsch wallpaper. On the walls are old Thai posters of play acts and photographs.

The second floor makes up the main dining area. It consists of ‘The Red Room’ with the aforementioned 20th century pornographic posters and ‘The Blue Room’ where guests are seated under the watchful eyes of two original Chinese ancestral portraits.

The menu consists of an intriguing mix of Asian favourites; the Duck Confit Noodle Salad (THB395) is a take on the Vietnamese bun cha, its crispy-yet-juicy duck morsels a nod to that country’s French influence. Similarly, the Salmon Tartare Wonton “Tacos” (THB260) combine wonton with a tangy chipotle sauce and the Sai Oua “Haute Dog” (THB350) is a playful take on the popular Chiang Mai sausage, here expertly paired with pickled cabbage, ginger and shallots and a dressing of Sriracha-aioli sauce served on the side in a tube.

The drinks menu is similarly inspired by bold, Asian flavours. It comes with a set of ‘Ground Rules” which basically lists everything that’s bad and wrong with the cocktail scene in Bangkok. For the uninitiated, that involves a ban on jars, maraschino cherries and drinks with more ice than spirits. The last we can attest to, the Roasted Tangerine Negroni (THB290) with its Beefeater Gin, Campari, Vermouth and fresh tangerine juice and the Thai Basil Gimlet (THB290) both pack their fair share of alcohol.

Namsaah Bottling Trust is open Monday to Sunday from 5pm to 2am. The full menu is served from 5pm to 12am with drinks and nibbles from a bar snack menu being served until close.

Namsaah Bottling Trust 401 Soi Sirijullassayvok (Silom Soi 7) Silom, Bangrak Bangkok www.namsaah.com 0–2636-6622 

Akrame Hong Kong presents summer degustation menu

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Akrame Hong Kong, the newly opened sister restaurant to two Michelin star restaurant Akrame in Paris, is presenting a Summer Degustation menu throughout the months of July and August. Developed by Chef Akrame Benallal, who opened the Paris restaurant in 2011 at the tender age of 30 and gained a Michelin star within the first year and a second in February this year, the menu will showcase Chef Akrame Benallal’s talent for creative and innovative use of the freshest ingredients.

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Dishes will include white asparagus soup with almonds, orange blossom and smoked haddock, a reinterpretation of fish and chips with fried lobster, tartare sauce, capers and apple, and a zucchini crab with mayonnaise and brown butter, to name just a few. Those with a sweet tooth will be able to savour a spicy-sweet milk froth, ginger, strawberry jam and pepper, an enticing creamy milk chocolate and tonka, and the playful crisped rice and coffee ice cream.

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The degustation menu is available for lunch and dinner with lunch starting from HK$280 for three courses; HK$380 for four courses; HK$580 for six courses and HK$788 for eight courses. At dinner the price is HK$788 for four courses; HK$998 for six courses and HK$1,398 for eight courses.

Restaurant Akrame is located at Shop B, G/F, No. 9 Ship Street, Wanchai Hong Kong. The restaurant is open from Monday to Sunday from 12 noon to 11pm. For reservations, call (852) 2528-5068 or email contact@akrame.com.hk

Sundara to host Javier de las Muelas in July

Sundara at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay will host two culinary events on July 23 and July 26. For the events, the resort is brining back Javier de las Muelas of DRY Martini and Barcelona based cocktail bar Gimlet, as well as Michelin star chef Carles Tejedor of Via Venetor also in Barcelona.

During the events Javier de las Muelas will create a special cocktail menu that will showcase his talent and years of experience in one of the world’s most acclaimed bars. Carles Tejedor will put together a menu that will conjure up Spain’s best tastes and products.

The events will take place at different venues; on Wednesday July 23, guests will be able to enjoy various tapas such as whitebait, charcuterie Iberica and fideua fideua, which will be paired with DRY’s famous Pitcher cocktails at the Sundara Bar. The standing event will start around sunset at 5.30pm and run until 8.30pm. The price is Rp950,000++.

On Saturday July 26, a live cooking event will take place at the Sundara Meszzanine. There will be various live cooking stations showcasing Spanish specialties such as paella, a feira octopus and Iberian pork filet, prepared by Carles Tejedor. The event runs from 6.30pm to 9.30pm and is prices at Rp1.4 million++

For reservations contact +62 361708333 or email sundara.bali@fourseasons.com

Miele to host dessert workshop in Singapore

As part of an exciting demonstration of their PureLine appliances, German manufacturer Miele is hosting a Dessert Decadence culinary workshop with pastry and dessert chef Janice Wong.

Held on Saturday, 5 July from 2pm-4pm, the event is hosted at The Miele Gallery in Singapore. At SGD128 per person, participants will indulge in a number of tasty treats including a cheese soufflé, kaffir lime pistachio cake and Miele’s signature chocolate cake. In addition, participants will receive a copy of Wong’s limited edition cookbook, Perfection is Imperfection.

To sign up for this workshop visit: www.webshop.miele.sg/gallery
For any enquiries, email info@miele.com.sg

Mango Tree empire continues to grow with launch of Manila’s first COCA Bar

Almost six decades after the launch of the original Thai-Chinese restaurant in Bangkok, Mango Tree Worldwide continues to expand with their latest venture in the Philippines. 

Sharing an address with the already established COCA restaurant, the new COCA bar is located inside the SM Aura Premier mall in Taguig City.

The concept of the COCA bar serves a collision of culinary culture from Hong Kong and Bangkok. Unique tapas creations such as the shrimp sarong and basil pork frito are complimented with drinks such as the Black Mandarin and the Siam Sexy.

COCA restaurant has become respected for its tribute to Cantonese cooking while adding the freshest Thai ingredients, with items like live mud crabs and live sea bass. One of the restaurant’s signature items is the Pacific Sunset—a dish with crab, squid and fresh prawns mixed with an array of herbs and spices.

COCA Bar’s launch was foreshadowed earlier this year when Mango Tree Worldwide announced an ambitious expansion program to double its branded restaurants and cafes in the Philippines to 12 by next year. 

Thai foods meet Bento

Throughout the months of July and August, the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers is introducing a “Thai Bento Box”, a set menu served in a Bento box. The menu comes is two versions; one with vegetarian spring rolls, spicy BBQ pork salad, chicken or beef and steamed rice, while the other contains clear soup with tofu, spicy vermicelli salad with steamed pork sausage, stir-fried minced chicken, pork or beef with chilli and basil leaf and steamed rice.

The Bento set is available in the Loung Lobby on the ground floor of the hotel from 11am to 5pm and the price is THB450++ inclusive of one glas of draught beer or a soft drink. 

For more information and reservations call +66 (0) 2266 9214 or email events.rosh@sheraton.com

Korean celebration at Parkview Restaurant

Parkview Restaurant at the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel in Bangkok is hosting Korean celebrity chef Myeong Hyeonji for its Korean Food Celebration which runs from June 24-28.

During the promotion, chef Myeong Hyeonji, who has appeared on numerous TV shows and worked at the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, will present Korean specialties including spicy fried soft shell crab, stir-fired spicy pork, rice cakes mixed in hot chilli sauce, roasted pork rib, bi bim bab, which is rice topped with vegetables and meat and served in a stone bowl, mackerel boiled in soy and chilli sauce, beef short rib stew and kimchi cakes. Desserts include ginsing honey tea, iced yuzu tea, flower pancake and kyung dan, which is rice balls, amongst others.

The Korean food promotion is part of the Parkview Restaurant’s dinner buffet, which includes international and Thai dishes such as Alaskan kind crab, oysters and a large BBQ station. 

The price for the buffet including Korean food and Korean I-Cing Makkoli wine is THB1,600++ per person. For more information and reservations, call +66 (0) 2261 9000 ext. 5004