Elements combines the ingredients in covert, prestige style above Phloenchit
To truly live out the plot of an expat in a 20th Century spy novel, you have to have friends with strange connections (spies), mystery surrounding your past, and a penchant for hotel bars and gin & tonics. While none of these may have stood true for 30 years or more, the latter element can still give you credibility, depending on your hotel hangout of choice.
Adding to that choice recently is the Okura Prestige Hotel, which opened earlier in the year. It's a deluxe spread in the wai-shaped building that is the Park Ventures Ecoplex posited to attract the travelling business yen with premium outlets and prices to match. But a trip up to the 24th floor lobby suddenly transports you back in time to a previous life you led of espionage, political revolutions, and fine dining. The elements of a novel or the elements of a meal in Bangkok? The elements of a food review at least, at this point.
Hanging out in hotels has both good and bad aspects. On the plus side, you get to swan around the lobby, pretending that your suite is being cleaned. That is, until you realise that everyone in the lobby is actually staying in the hotel and couldn't care less about your presence. (And you're supposed to be a spy keeping a low profile, remember?)
On the down side of hotel dining, it is an aching reminder of how the other half live, although it's more like how the other five per cent of society live rather than 50. Hotel venues posit themselves as luxurious, indulgent and unattainable, and then swoop in at the last minute and make you welcome, particularly if you have a credit card ready.
Regardless of the tons of marble in the lobby, the strength of the hotel is indeed its spectacular views of the surrounding Phloenchit area and Embassy Row to the south. Floor to ceiling windows offer you the perfect opportunity to perfect your political conflict-riddled brow pose while you fetch the waitress for another gin & tonic. This vista extends up the sweeping staircase from the lobby to Elements, the signature western restaurant of the hotel. While many punters opt for Yamazato downstairs being in line with the Japanese demographic, Chef Cyril Cocconi is combining all the right elements upstairs - food, views, subtlety and substance (get it? Elements?).
The layout of the restaurant is a welcoming and spacious spread of tables among raw materials, charcoal walls and dark natural fibres. It's the handiwork of Bangkok design darlings PIA Interior who are responsible for Little Beast, Hotel Muse and just about every other happening spot of 2012. It all combines to offer a spacious and stylish spread, without the constraints of stuffy fine dining. The best spot in the room is at the eight-seating chef's table, seductively shaded by a translucent curtain but affording great views of the room, the vista outside and the kitchen. Your distracting angst of having your cover blown as a government secret operative dwindles as you sip on your first glass of grape juice from the visible vertical cellar.
Cod fish from previous menu & Berry dessert from previous menu
From the menu, items are available a la carte, such as Dive scallops and pancetta (B620, prices subject to tax and service charge) and Slow cooked Wagyu beef two ways combined (B1,200). But we recommend to dive in with a carefully curated set menu that come in three trajectories - Moments (five courses, B2,400), Inspirations (five courses, B2,100), and the Tasting micro experience (seven courses, B2,900). All courses are available with sommelier-suggested wines. A vegetarian option is available also (B1,200).
Beef fillet from previous menu & CO2 Gin tonic lime
Chef Cyril changes the menu seasonally, and it oozes consideration and care. When Guru visited, the Micro set was brimming with foie gras, cod fish and vegetables in season, with signature touches like sweet chlorophyll balls, smears of vegetables for colour and flavour as well as a resounding finish of a vile of berries poured over blue cheese ice cream. It's a gastro journey not for the faint-hearted, but rewards those with an inkling for textures, flavours and presentation extravagance. The current menu holds Foie gras, twice, Dover sole in vacuum 62 degrees, a delicious palette cleanser in the middle of proceedings called CO2 Gin tonic lime, and Iced goats cheese.
Is it alchemy? Is it an international conspiracy of flavours? Would Graham Greene have written such a dining scene into one of his narratives? No, no and probably not. Instead it's a modern day incarnation of the expat lifestyle - international, accessible and delicious. Just don't forget your non-traceable credit card and disguise.
Dessert favourite from previous Tasting micro experience set menu
Western 6-11pm 25/F, Park Ventures Ecoplex The Okura Prestige Hotel 57 Witthayu Road
About the author
- Writer: Richard Mcleish