Traditionally at this time of year, calorie-watchers worry about what they eat between Christmas and New Year. A better policy would be to worry about what you eat between New Year and Christmas, and leave this season for a dose of rewarding indulgence. Luckily for those fond of extravagance, one of Bangkok's best hotels has created a festive menu featuring the finest ingredients from every gastronome's wish-list.
Dusit Thani, the grand lady presiding over the corner of Rama IV and Silom, casts her December gaze over the lush greenery of Lumphini Park and perhaps imagines snow frosting the tops of the trees. Each of her restaurants has produced something special for this season of both goodwill and great food, and if you made a list of the top culinary delicacies - not only here in Thailand but also from all over the globe - there's a good chance that they're on one of the special menus at Dusit Thani.
From the best Wagyu steak to Maine lobster, from Oscietra caviar to truffles, let the Dusit Thani pamper your palate in style this festive season.
Once your hungry self enters through the grand foyer then the real decision-making begins; with so many options on offer, how does one choose? Dusit Thani has had eight of its executive chefs each prepare a special signature dish this December, and narrowing the decision of which outlet to pick is truly what the French could call 'un probleme de riches': the best sort of in that you cannot fail to make an excellent choice in this hotel. But, as the cuisine covers French, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and seafood, some focus is needed. For now, let's shine the Christmas lights on the western selections.
A fine place to start is the star at the top of the Dusit Thani Christmas tree. Take the lift to the 22th floor and the doors open onto the reception of the luxe French restaurant D'Sens. The charming staff will then take you into the restaurant proper, where the lights of downtown Bangkok shimmer like an Asian Manhattan. Follow the staff through the elegant yet modern restaurant to be seated and await Chef's special creation.
D'Sens chef Christian Ham has looked to traditional rural Brittany for inspiration for his Christmas signature dish, an area famous for its fresh and delicious vegetables which Chef Ham compares in quality to Thailand's Royal Project produce. Chef Ham has taken one of his grandmother's recipes and upgraded it for the delight of the discerning denizens of Bangkok. A triumvirate of French langoustines lay on a fine disc of cauliflower semolina, ringed by salmon pearls, and each pearl is tipped with a drop of Madras oil.
This dish is all about the balance of textures, from breaking the soft crusts of the langoustines to the finely ground and creamy cauliflower. The surprise is the popping of the pearls, releasing a small burst of seafood to mingle with the tiny tang of the Madras oil.
Staying in Europe, Dusit Thani's Italian restaurant il cielo features a fresh invention from Chef de Cuisine Daniele Bettini. While not strictly tied to the usual Christmas cuisine, Chef Bettini has used the festive reds and greens in his geometric dish of pan fried scallop in a squared sauce of roasted turnip and sweet pea. The star of the dish - the scallop - is as soft as expected, yet the top has a golden glaze of crispness. The supporting actors have all been chosen for their balance with the scallop: the turnip is roasted and caramelized before being twinned with sweet peas. A fish stock emulsion ties the flavours together and the whole creation is topped with a crimson curl of crispy roasted beetroot. The final touch is a perimeter of desiccated olive seasoning giving a saltiness to the taste and visual definition to the dish.
To the best beef and beyond
If you've spent the year wrestling with rib-eye or tussling with T-bone it's time to give your cutting arm a rest and try some soft Wagyu steak. Hamilton's Steak House is Dusit Thani's nod to 1920's New Orleans Americana, and is a nostalgic sepia dining-room of old. Here the beef is grilled over lava stones without seasoning created by Chef Veeravat Rodmanee: this is the pure Wagyu experience, spotlighting the quality of the meat. Famously the distinctive Wagyu marbling dissolves during cooking to permeate the meat, giving it that buttery composition and taste. On the plate the medallion of beef is paired with a humpback of soft and creamy mashed potato and resides in a rich and intense sauce of port wine. The crunch comes from a lattice of vegetables: carrot, turnip, pumpkin and asparagus.
So far so wonderful, but as yet not overtly festive. Should you be lucky enough to have some holiday time this December, and you fancy a drop of seasonal post-lunch tea by Chef Slawak Golaszewski, then take a seat in the Lobby Lounge and wait for someone to order the Christmas Afternoon Tea. You'll know one has been ordered when you begin to notice heads turning as a tower of treats is paraded across the lobby floor. One glimpse of the delicacies on board and you'll be summoning a waiter to place an order for one of your very own.
And so you should. The attention to luxurious detail in each of these amuse-bouches is marvellous. Starting on the widest and lowest level of the tower is the savoury selection by Chef Suraphol Mo-On. Each creation is a pairing of the finest ingredients, and your new problem is where to begin. Seafood fans might reach first for the poached lobster medallion with its crown of Oscietra caviar, or maybe the oyster gratinated with champagne sabayon. Fans of fowl would perhaps start with duck, either the duck liver terrine and pumpkin chutney or the smoked duck wrapped around a pan fried scallop. Finally, a festive staple with a luxe touch: sliced turkey on toast, topped with a sliver of truffle.
And that's just the lowest tier. Sweets appear above, with the ever-popular sugarcane macaroons, hazelnut chocolate mousse and a local favourite: a ball of mango on sticky rice. The pinnacle of the tower is bedecked with Santa muffins, ginger bread cookies and a last savoury interloper, a spoon of crab tartare covered in salmon roe.
But the best part of the tower? There's two of everything. You could, in theory, work your way solo through the entire tower, but the best festive idea is to share.
Festive menus served throughout December.
DUSIT THANI HOTEL.
946 Rama IV Road. Tel. 02 200 9999.
About the author
- Writer: Gary Boyle