Smokin' aces

Quince's new chef, Steve Doucakis, refines the menu and his cooking

BBQ baby octopus.

Since chef Steve Doucakis has taken over the reigns at Quince, his cooking has gotten more mature, much like the chef himself.

"This pulls together everything that I've done my entire career to one place. I started out in fine dining, in three Michelin-starred restaurants, all that kind of stuff, which I've kind of gotten away from in the past couple years or so. I miss some of those finer points and touches. So, here at Quince, my menu is ingredient-driven," says chef Doucakis.

His menu, which changes weekly, is a special one and showcases his culinary skills to the max. "At Quince, I get to think outside the box, the spectrum is wider for me here where I can kind of go on one end or the total opposite. I love cooking with the grill and the wood-fired oven. It has a primal aspect to it. I get to do those really casual things but put a lot of nicer touches to it," says the chef.

Chef Doucakis' specials menu has dishes for two or three weeks and is much like a revolving door. There are a couple of changes from one week to the next, leaving the core menu unchanged for regular diners. My absolute favourite from this menu is the BBQ baby octopus, Jerusalem artichoke ajo blanco, chilli and garlic butter.

Grilled half scampi.

Pineapple crème brûlée.

I am also partial to the Beetroot salad with figs, smoked yoghurt and beet vinaigrette. The beets are roasted in the oven to char the outer peel and give them a smokey flavour. Buttermilk is mixed with ricotta and yoghurt, and is smoked. It is then hung so that the yoghurt drains all excess liquid and what is left is a delicious smoked yoghurt. Radishes, a little bit of sliced figs and pea greens dressed with olive oil, complete the dish. The smokiness of the beets really comes out and it is a sweet delight. Can you tell I'm a fan of beets?

The specials menu has dishes like Grilled half scampi from the Mediterranean, which has been grilled over a wood fire. Served with a burnt nam jim butter and chives. Delightful to look at and to eat! Another delicious shellfish dish is the Blue belly prawns from France. The shells are turned into a fragrant prawn oil, which is toasted with herbs like tarragon. A little fermented chilli vinegar and some smoked grapes complete the dish.

It's the season of Brussels sprouts and I love them. Here, chef Doucakis chars them with caramelised onion and garlic, balsamic glaze and pancetta. These are quite popular and may make it to the core menu so the dish can be enjoyed all year-round.

The star of the specials menu is the Pumpkin and lentils. The pumpkin has so much flavour from being charred in the wood-fired oven and pureed after that it has an unrecognisable texture but retains its smoothness. For the lunch menu, it's been revived as Puffed buckwheat and lentils served with bacon, pickled pumpkin with poached eggs.

Beetroot salad.

Charred Brussels sprouts. Siroj Pairomahakij

Chef Steve Doucakis. Quince – Eatery & Bar

Blue belly prawns from France. Siroj Pairomahakij

For main, chef Doucakis has specials like grilled venison from New Zealand. The deer meat sits atop a burnt pumpkin purée, venison jus and pickled pumpkin with walnuts. The pumpkin for the purée is burnt on the outside in the oven and is then blended to add depth of flavour and give it a rich colour. "This is a prime example of what we're looking to do with the seasonal specials menu," says the chef. "It fits the season and the weather, and highlights a product for a while."

Do try the Pineapple crème brûlée, which is charred pineapple, rum jam and sweet basil. The pineapple is scooped out from the middle, without leaving any holes at the bottom. It is then baked a little. The inside is grilled and barbecued and mixed it with a pineapple rum jam, that has plenty of spices, dark rum and Italian basil to give it a little lift. The pineapple "steak" is then filled with this and brûléed. Delicious!

If all this did not whet your appetite, do wait for a porky dish to hit the menu and your taste buds. And that's all I'm saying for now. #zipthelips.

Quince, 14/2 Soi Somkid, Phloenchit / Call 094-868-2639, email eat@quincebangkok.com, visit quincebangkok.com.

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