Francophone gastronome second home

Le Cabanon hits the sweet spot with impeccably fresh imported seafood etcetera served in an unimpeachable French style perfected by its passionate patron and Parisian chef.

With a middle class residential location a brisk 10-minute walk from BTS Chong Nonsi and sparse passing trade, one wonders at the audacity of Le Cabanon French restaurant's prime instigator-navigator, Martine Pailloux. But if the name rings a bell it's because she's been through it all before, having helped seed the now vibrant dining scene in nearby Sathorn sois 10-12 with bistro-cum-gallery, Moko.

Now her lightning is striking twice tucked inside Narathiwas soi 15, as an eclectic rash of other restaurants increasingly reside in neighbouring similarly designer-renovated family "cabanons", or cottages, conveniently vacated for rental.

And why wouldn't it when the USPs range near daily deliveries of largely live seafood from France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Norway, USA, Madagascar, etc, melded with Martine's and Franck's impeccable gourmet instincts and quintessential casual chic courtesy of Martine's interior design background?

The Thai fetish for seafood is well-documented but less accepted is the primacy of product over recipe ethnicity. Substitute "house style" Escoffienne epicureanism for smoke ‘n' spice and suddenly local staples have serious competition.



Moreover, Le Cabanon's voracious appetite for cold water varieties – so precious they arrive in grandly embossed boxes or still swimming – takes the possibilities far beyond shrimp and seabass. All are wild and preferably line-caught – strictly no fillets or fallible farm produce. Back-lit front-of-house tanks cosseting enormous crabs and lobsters set the agenda. Or swipe the house iPad for photogenic pix of the day's earlier arrivals.

Some 20%-30% of seafood species revolves daily. Oysters may array Irish Aphrodisiacs (750/6pcs), Ostra Regal, Pleade-Poget, Belon Mont St Michel, Utah Beach Jean Paul, Gillardeau. Plus Manilla Clams (550/6pcs), Oscietre Royal Caviar (2,500/30g), Whelks Bulots, Bretagne Shrimp, Madagascar Shrimp. Not neglecting Baked Shells Beurre Maitre d'Hotel, hand-dived razor shells, escargots and mussels. Nor Britany Blue (4,000/kg) and Canadian (3,700/kg) lobsters and seafood platters.

Chef's pour commencer of creamy tuna rillettes-slathered buttery crostini strikes the keynote of generosity and flair.

"Sea" starters include Wild Sea Bass Carpaccio with avocado, herbs and pink pepper (750) add Oscietre caviar (1,100).

"Earth" selections range Green Asparagus (550), Frogs Legs to share (1850), and Duck Foie Gras Terrine des Landes (980).



We went for star performer Imperial Crab Salad (620), an inflated hockey puck of piquant local crab, avocado, chive, ginger, shallot. Plus equally toothsome Raviole Foie Gras, ceps consommé (750), white Alba truffle (1,250).

Main courses include Roasted Carabineros Shrimp (2,500/3pcs), Roasted Langoustine (2,300/3pcs) and Skate Wing (1,650 for 3-4 diners). Not to mention Britany Sardines and Monkfish, Atlantic Cod, hand-dived scallops, and Brill. Nor Turbot Pave and Clams (2,650), Dover Sole Meuniere (1,950), and Bouillabaisse Le Cabanon (1,850).

We chose an enormous portion of Sea Bass ‘Bretagne' steamed with Alba white truffle (3,050) or grilled (2,350) with sides of cepes and black trumpet mushrooms, Robuchon-resonating mash and extra sauce. Such a concentration of exceptionally palatable fish flesh sans skin and bone screamed "Cordon Bleu!".

Turf-wise there's Kobe Wagyu Tenderloin (2,050/200g), and Wagyu Rib Cote de Boeuf (6,800/kg). Vegetarian picks include White Truffle/Ceps Risotto (2,450).



For dessert we alighted on Escoffier's Pears Madelaine; poached  pear, fresh vanilla ice cream and thick French chocolate sauce, fully justifying the dish's legendary status.

Wines range Valee du Rhone, Beaujolais, Bourgogne, and Asoke Valley reds and Valee du Rhone and Bourgogne whites. Glasses are 300-320.

"Chapeaux de paille" sprout from a hat stand poised for Fri-Sun lunches on the terrace. Rose bud table centres, rustic white cloths and crockery, intoxicating post-colonial West African world music and other Francophone genres further elevate the thoroughly charming experience.