Bangkok Post reviews
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: January 17, 2014 at 8:41 am
Karmakamet Diner exudes old-world charm with its ambience and decor, but what really stands out is its French-Asian fusion menu
If you haven't been living in a social media-free cave, you've probably seen this gorgeous full-blown rustic diner making the rounds on your newsfeed. In fact, the name Karmakamet Diner should ring a bell, as it's the same crew behind the glossy black boxes of Karmakamet aromatherapy products, which first appeared at JJ market.
Venturing to this well-hidden warehouse-like diner is akin to stepping into a secret world where time slows down. Exuding an Indo-Chinese, old-world charm with extraordinary rows of tin cans, glass bottles and old-fashioned medicine cabinets lining the walls, the ambience is reminiscent of the owner's Baba-Nyonya ancestry. It looks like a Chinese grandpa could have lived here _ one with great taste and an eye for details, such as placemats resembling vintage newspapers.
The eatery pays homage to the art of dining in a wondrously absorbing and magnetic atmosphere. Waiters are extremely courteous and in case you were wondering, no, the food does not taste like soap or smell of flowers like the brand's scented products. Peranakan dishes will come soon, but for now, French food with an Asian twist dominates the menu. The haute and decorative nature of French cuisine reflects Karmakamet's personality splendidly _ its philosophy of traditional craftsmanship means everything is created meticulously and by hand, one at a time. Chef Som, having worked at many hotels under the Relais & Chateaux umbrella, lends every dish a dreamy touch.
Serving French, it's a no-brainer that the menu includes wines from across the sea, but opt for Kidteung, a New Zealand white with a Thai label (1,550 baht per bottle). It's a fine Marlborough sauvignon blanc with easy-to-drink fruity notes.
Lamb rack red wine reduction.
Crab pouches (390 baht) are a must-try appetiser that will give a pleasurable kick-start to your meal. Thin and delicate, baked-until-golden pastry flakes hold together a filling of sour cream with remoulade and ample chunks of crab meat. The cream's buttery undertone gives a smooth mouthfeel, with lumpfish caviar topping three plump pouches, bringing a salty burst to this otherwise pleasantly mild dish.
The first main course to arrive was lamb rack red wine reduction (1,090 baht). While the grilled lamb was slightly dry, the cut was far from tenacious or coarse. You might easily overlook that, however, because the red wine reduction is memorably flavourful and tangy, with an almost fruity taste. What really steals the show though, is side of gratin dauphinois, or layered baked potatoes. Thinly sliced then stacked, oozing cream and butter, it's a perfectly seasoned bite that tastes divinely buttery and lightly salty. The gratin isn't overcooked to the point that it's mushy and it's soft texture will make you sing "Food, glorious foooood" in your head.
Stuffed coquelet (1,090 baht), a special of the week, landed on our table next, and was dotted with decorative (but edible!) berries of all sorts. Of course, they're not just there so you can prove to the world you take exceptional food photos _ it also serves as an acidic balance to the palate, as most dishes here have a rich, heavyweight taste. It may be a semi-grown chicken that looks small, but there's hardly a need for hogging because it's definitely big enough for two. The grilled chicken is also stuffed with a hearty homemade sausage and the berry jus sauce tops it all off quite nicely. The potatoes, albeit simply mashed to creamy smoothness with a touch of truffle oil, taste exquisite.
Don't forget to leave room for dessert, many of which have an enchantingly attractive dress of their own. The first dessert we tried was hazelnut mille feuille in orange tuile (390 baht). The pastry puff comes apart without getting messy and the hazelnut cream is evenly churned without any nutty chunks. It's hardly sweet, making it a complement to the coral-reefed textured tuile which swirls around this aesthetically-pleasing creation. The thin wafer is crunchy and brings the sugar count back into the picture for this dish.
The last object of look-at-my-pretty-food fascination is strawberry in the clouds (390 baht). Fine, we won't judge if you want to take a picture this time, but be quick before all the rainbow-hued cotton candy melts away. Inside the tall glass is a melange of fresh strawberries, vanilla ice cream, crumbles and shortcake at the bottom. Strangely, it tastes very real and organic, as their vanilla ice cream is home-made and aromatic and the baked goodies definitely have a robust weight to them _ which brings the back fond memories of old-school treats.