Bangkok Post reviews
Turning the tables
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: May 17, 2013 at 8:15 am
Hip hotel's dining venue offers gastronomic pleasure any time of the day
The 120-seat restaurant boasts an ample dining room stylishly decked out to reflect the hotel’s artistic standpoint—spruce yet snappy.
Named to indicate that it's a place where everyone can come and experience gastronomic pleasure any time of the day, the 120-seat Kitchen Table is the main dining outlet of the hip W Hotel.
Though its moniker may suggest genuine honesty with a hint of modesty, the establishment boasts an ample, multi-zone dining room stylishly decked out to reflect the hotel's artistic standpoint _ spruce and playful.
Meanwhile, the style of dining here is neither sluggish nor intimidating but sophisticated yet casual.
The menu has been designed to fit the restaurant's concept as a casual culinary hub. It combines Asian, Western and Middle Eastern fares, prepared with a fresh modern touch by Sarah Briegel, the only female five-star hotel executive chef in Bangkok.
A big fan of fresh natural ingredients, Briegel, who's from Perth, Australia, said she's very produce-driven and most of her dishes highlight the authenticity of the components.
The local favourite, steamed sea bass with lemongrass, chilli and garlic looks and taste world-class.
"I cook honest food that isn't fussy. I love the farm-to-table concept and enjoy using secondary cuts to maximise flavours and texture," the petite 40-year-old chef said. Vegetable ceviche (350 baht), the first starter to hit our table, was one of the dishes that best represents her approach. Appealingly served on a black stone plate, the ceviche featured a colourful variety of baby vegetables _ mostly root veggies and legumes, which had been flash-cooked to retain their refreshing crunch and natural sweetness, leavened with a pungent dressing made with coriander, chillies, tomatoes, lime juice, jalapeno peppers and olive oil.
Also reflecting her culinary style is hamachi carpaccio on asparagus (480 baht). Fresh supple slices of Japanese yellowtail came simply laced with thick miso sauce infused with yuzu orange to add a sweet-sour and aromatic citrus zest to the salty miso. With the small portion as the only minor drawback, the raw fish salad was truly addictive.
Our party of four proceeded with a parade of the chef's recommended entrees. It started with pla kraphong nueng manao, or steamed sea bass with lemongrass, chilli and garlic (500 baht). It's a dish no Thai would order at a dining outlet of a swanky hotel judging from its pedestrian description and easy availability at any seafood joint. Yet, as the management decided to make this tasty and healthy local speciality available for its guests, Briegel has made this popular dish look and taste world-class.
On a large white porcelain plate, two rolls of steamed fillets of fish wrapped around a bunch of golden needle mushrooms were served on a bed of fresh garlic and drizzled with spicy Thai-style seafood dressing.
I never thought I'd utter the word saeb, which we Thais often use to define the utterly satisfying pungent sour and spicy tang of a dish, at a top hotel restaurant. But after I took a bite into the delicate, soft and supple meat of the sea bass that was perfectly complemented by the mushroom's crunchiness and the sharp lime sauce, I couldn't help but admit that it was of the best quality and definitely saeb, and my companions concurred. Even after being left untouched on the table for almost 10 minutes (we were too engaged in chit-chat), the fish yielded no blandness or fishy savour at all. And it was perfectly enjoyed with rice (all orders of Asian entrees are served with an order of steaming hot jasmine rice on the side).
Reflecting the chef’s produce-driven approach, vegetable ceviche highlights fresh quality of natural ingredients.
Next up, lamb shank curry with jasmine rice (540 baht), was chef Sara's personal favourite. I guess it was because the dish handsomely married an Aussie ingredient with the globally celebrated Thai recipe. A huge cut of lamb shank, straight from her hometown, presided over rich massaman curry that tasted truly authentic.
The lamb had been slow-cooked in the curry until the meat absorbed the flavours of the sweet massaman curry and provided a perfect mouthfeel.
The Thai and Australo-Thai dishes were followed by a very delicious Arabic dish, a reminder of the chef's stint at five-star hotels in the Middle East. The chicken and black olive tagine (520 baht) may have looked unexciting (for some reason most people don't regard cuts of chicken as refined elements) but the dish, featuring chicken legs, tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives and potatoes, proved brilliant in taste.
Another of my favourites that day was grilled Western Australian lamb cutlets (800 baht). Accompanied by smooth green pea puree, house-pickled morel mushrooms and ravioli stuffed with finely chopped and seasoned sweetbread and shiitake mushroom, the perfect medium-cooked meat offered a pleasantly chewy and supple texture. Also praiseworthy was the lamb jus gravy, which was infused with vanilla zest, served in a tiny jar on the side.
Pizzas are also popular orders at Kitchen Table. We sampled shaved proscuitto pizza with artichoke, spinach and mozzarella (480 baht) and were gratified.
For the sweet ending, we skipped the likes of peach melba and strawberry cheesecake mousse, and settled on deconstructed carrot cake cinnamon panna cotta and walnut crisp (350 baht), Valrhona guanaja dark chocolate and caramel ice cream served with brittle cookie crumbs, candied hazelnut and chocolate tuile (350 baht) and Valrhona Majari Chocolate tart (300 baht).
The first looked great but tasted fair. The second, rich and milky with a mousse-like consistency, was super luscious. And the last, though simple in appearance, was simply divine.
Diners need not be seated at a kitchen table while dining here. Though there is one trestle table set with high chairs in the inner zone near the spacious open kitchen, there are other, more graceful, dining ambience options for guests to choose from.