Bangkok Post reviews
Say hello, wave goodbye
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: February 8, 2013 at 8:11 am
World famous hotel's al fresco Italian restaurant welcomes novel concept
Set to operate all year round, the recently relaunched Ciao boasts new visual and culinary concepts with a beachstyle cocktail bar next to the open-air dining terrace in front of the Author’s Wing mansion.
Until last year keen gastronomes knew they could flock to Ciao, the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok's outdoor Italian restaurant only in winter. Looking forward to the cool season, they came to take joy in Ciao's cosy cuisine, mostly comprised of pizzas, pastas and soups.
Yet, when the rainy season ended and the weather began to cool in November, regulars saw no sign of Ciao's return.
Indeed, they won't be seeing their old favourite again.
Opened just last week at the same riverfront space previously occupied by Ciao is the hotel's fresh dining establishment set to operate all year round. Boasting new visual and culinary concepts to pull in younger punters (young executives in particular), the restaurant, decked out in sleek shades of red, black and white with metallic touches, boasts an extensive, beach-style al fresco cocktail bar next to the 40-seat open-air dining terrace. The venue, however, is graced with the location's familiar long-loved label _ Ciao.
Ciao’s chef de cuisine, Luca Casini.
When we arrived early on Monday evening, the place was just starting to get busy. Customers were mostly tourists and locals in modish attire. Set against the setting sun with the beautiful illuminated Author's Wing mansion as a backdrop, the new Ciao was enlivened by upbeat lounge tunes, evoking an Ibiza club, but with the Chao Phraya rather than the Mediterranean as a foreground.
The restaurant presents modern fine dining by Ciao's first-ever chef de cuisine, Luca Casini, a native of Florence, who worked closely with the hotel's executive chef Norbert Kostner to create the new menu.
As a riverside bar, Ciao offers a nice selection of Italian tapas to be enjoyed with a wide range of fine wines and cocktails. As a modern restaurant, it also features a reservation-only chef's table experience in its all-chrome, air-con modern kitchen equipped with an eight-seat dining counter. Its seven-course wine pairing menu is priced 6,000 baht per person (4,000 baht without the wine).
Our two-girl dinner amid February's pleasant breeze kicked off wonderfully with a complimentary platter of chef Luca's home-cured giant olives that went nicely with the pink Ciao Phraya cocktail.
The evening continued smoothly with a photogenic plate of salmon tartare with rock salt, baked beetroot carpaccio and sour cream (380 baht). The rectangular heap of well-flavoured, neatly chopped raw salmon came with a garnish of pansy petals, microgreens, baked tomatoes and sour cream droplets.
The pan-roasted pigeon breast and stuffed pigeon leg with sauteed chard, shallot and coffee sauce.
For pasta, the recommended choice was homemade garganelli with rocket pesto and carrot puree (610 baht). Handmade by Luca himself, the thin, tubular pasta, which arrived neatly stacked and thoroughly tossed in green sauce, was cooked al dente to suit Italian teeth.
The garden green sauce was made with rocket leaves, which had been blanched to tone down the pungent mustardy taste, exhibiting an impressively light and fresh taste which intermingled fantastically with the rich and naturally sweet carrot puree.
Our two main courses that evening were from the Chef's Inspired collection. Made from Luca's own recipe combining traditional Italian cooking with up-to-date techniques, the first dish, pan-roasted pigeon breast and stuffed pigeon leg with sauteed chard, shallot and coffee sauce (990 baht) proved his ingenuity.
Yielding a characteristically firm texture with the bird's awesome rich taste, the pigeon breast had been cooked sous-vide before being pan-roasted to give a brown finish while retaining its succulency. The lollipop-sized leg was prepared with well-seasoned stuffing made with the fowl's meat and guts before being breaded and deep-fried to provide a crispy golden brown crust. The sauce was made with pigeon jus infused with aromatic coffee beans. Equally brilliant was the next dish, braised oxtail vaccinara and lentil stew (690 baht). With an immaculate taste and texture, the dish featured shredded oxtail meat conventionally cooked but innovatively presented on a veal bone that had been cut in half lengthwise. The meat, stewed with celery and carrot and offering a pleasant flavour and mouthfeel, was perfectly complemented by the soft, nutty lentils and crispy morsels of toast.
Ciao has an appealing selection of desserts. Some are all-time bestsellers, others are newly created but very promising. We started off with Ciao's classic tiramisu, which is served in traditional Italian style from a wide bowl. Each order (280 baht) features a pair of scoops of the delightfully fluffy, creamy dessert.
More memorable, however, was the panna cotta trio (310 baht). To be relished in a particular order was a line-up of slightly tangy strawberry-basil panna cotta, apricot-rosemary panna cotta and honey-caramel panna cotta. The first two presented magnificent marriages of fruits and aromatic herbs that resulted in awe-inspiring flavours. The last proved a great finale with a touch of bitter-sweet and balmy caramel.
Given the hotel's world-famous reputation, the service was exemplary thanks to the staff's conviviality and efficiency.
Presented in an innovative fashion, braised oxtail vaccinara features authentic taste.
The eight-seat chef’s table counter is set in the air-con modern kitchen.