We'llalways have Paris
Latest addition to the capital's Gallic dining scene inspired by the City of Light
It takes more than audacity and creativity for restaurateurs in a gastronomic cornucopia like Bangkok to come up with a successful new dining concept.
Occupying the hotel’s top-floor space, L’Appart offers diners the sophisticatedly intimate dining atmosphere of a 19th-century Baron Haussmann-inspired Parisian apartment.
Drawing plaudits from keen gastronomes requires a decent portion of charm _ good flavours must come with a smart complement of lovely ambiance, no matter how imaginative the place looks.
Meaning "the apartment" in French, L'Appart, which occupies half of the hotel's top-floor space, introduces diners in this tropical city to the intimate dining atmosphere of a 19th-century Parisian apartment.
With eating areas spread over three sophisticatedly decorated chambers that mimic a Baron Haussmann-inspired kitchen, lounge and library, the restaurant has a secretive yet very cosmopolitan feel to it.
Our party of four Parisian-wannabes chose to sit at one of a few bistro-style tables in the kitchen, which looked like a modern Provencal pantry rather than a restaurant's facility, right in front of a cooking station directed by three handsome French chefs _ great motivation, indeed.
The tempura spiny lobster with black ink risotto and capsicum coulis.
Adjacent was a spacious living room, which can seat up to 60 diners, comfortably clad with Art Deco furniture (low tables, upholstered velvet chairs, antique partitions) and hardwood chevron floor. The city view from the 32nd floor can be enjoyed from a limited number of glass doors that open to an expansive balcony.
For more privacy, the small library serves as a private dining zone with a seating capacity for eight.
The cuisine, under the direction of the restaurant's head chef, Jeremy Tourret, with the help of the hotel's executive chef Aurelien Poirot _ both from the City of Light _ is created to highlight the freshness of seasonal ingredients, local and imported. Meanwhile, French pastry chef, Olivier Paris (no need to ask where he's from), makes sure that the sweet offerings perfectly match the refined cuisine.
Though the restaurant possesses a slightly haute image, the management insist that it's no expensive dining destination. The menu is designed to be affordable with prices ranging from 80 baht (crispy river prawn tapas) to 500 baht (beef carpaccio starter) and 900 baht (steamed snow fish with seafood ravioli).
The casual "home-cooked" dinner started off nicely with a tiny platter of fresh goat cheese cream choux (80 baht per three pieces). The bite-sized puff pastries, packed with a mild milky-tasting cheese filling that intermingled perfectly with a small slice of dried fig, proved scrumptious.
The impressive meal continued with a great pick from the special seasonal menu (this particular repertoire runs until the end of July). Our parsnip veloute with crispy walnut and truffle foam (500 baht) presented a divinely delicious creamy soup cleverly leavened with brittle bits of toasted walnut in a martini glass.
Pan-fried lamb fillet with vegetables tians and capsicum coulis and curry mustard.
If creamless is your diet preference, go for the langoustine soup with kaffir, ginger and lemongrass (650 baht).
Arriving in a stylish round glass bowl, were three pieces of perfectly cooked Scottish prawn meat _ firm and naturally flavourful _ on a bed of julienned vegetables. The clear brown broth _ tasty and aromatic _ came separately in a glass teapot and gave nice flavour-enhancement to the prawn.
L'Appart's repertoire of fixed main courses featured the likes of pan-fried salmon, slow-cooked chicken breast, pan-fried lamb fillet with sweet potato and tempura spiny lobster with black ink risotto.
We had the lobster (1,800 baht), which came deshelled, coated with saffron-infused tempura batter, placed on the lobster shell and garnished with basil espuma and edible flowers. Supple, succulent and genuinely sweet, it was one of the most perfectly cooked lobster dishes I've ever had. The al dente black risotto and fragrant capsicum coulis added an impressive pungency to the dish.
For main meat course, I recommend pan-fried lamb fillet with vegetables tians and capsicum coulis (990 baht). In a portion large enough to be shared among two diners, two strips of medium-cooked, unseasoned lamb were accompanied by layered zucchini casserole and capsicum-curry mustard.
The meat was exceptionally tender and proved a good value for money. Each of us was served a shot glass of luscious strawberry cheesecake drink before we proceeded to the sweet ending, in which chef Olivier's almond biscuit with crunchy hazelnut praline, dark chocolate mousse and caramel sea salt ice cream (300 baht) was simply beyond criticism.
Over our Friday night visit, the animated and chattering Gallic restaurant, especially at the kitchen zone where we dined, was well-attended by the French manager and a team of fairly efficient Thai staff.
It would have been a perfectly memorable evening with improved kitchen ventilation.
The warm and homely Provencal pantry with bistro-styled seatings.
From left, executive chef Aurelien Poirot, L’Appart chef Jeremy Tourret and pastry chef Olivier Paris.