When it comes to big occasions, Red Sky is never one to spare punches. Holiday meals and even not-so-big occasions earn grand treatment here.
So it’s no surprise that Red Sky really likes to go above and beyond for its annual New Year’s Eve gala dinner, cooking up perfect capstones for the year that’s passed. After getting an early taste of the NYE menu, it’s safe to say the last meal of an eventful year will be a celebration in itself.
We visit Red Sky on a cold, quiet weeknight at the tail end of rainy season. Outside, at dusk, the sky is less red than grey. Some foreboding storm clouds have formed on the horizon, their movement just about palpable through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows (fortunately, we’re seated indoors tonight).
But just as we’re starting to envision the flooded route we’ll have to navigate on our postprandial commute, we’re rescued from the monsoon blues by a man wearing chef’s whites, who introduces himself as Alan Kwan.
Still an hour before the dinner rush, Kwan is able to join us at our table, between the bar and the wine wall that links Red Sky with Uno Mas on the floor below – the very same wall that employees, fittingly clad in black, clamber up and rappel down, à la Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, to retrieve bottles of wine. Kwan is the new chief in town, an LA native with a soft smile, shaved head and calm demeanour.
As he talks about where he has worked throughout his 20-year career, he suddenly seems struck by the itinerant route he has traced to Bangkok, where he has assumed the title of executive sous chef at Centara Grand at CentralWorld.
“I’ve worked everywhere, actually,” he says with a laugh, pausing before he lists some of the stops he’s made – Bali, Beverly Hills, Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago, at the award-winning Gary Danko in San Francisco and New York, where he helped open Tellers Chophouse.
Kwan is of Chinese and Japanese descent, and while both sides of his cultural heritage are of course rich with culinary traditions, he says he long ago fell in love with French cooking – the craft, the precision, its complexities and aura – and pivoted away from the steady diet of Asian dishes he consumed as a child. Fair enough.
Canapés of beef tartare with black truffle, raw oysters with finger limes, a 30-gram portion of the aforementioned Oscetra caviar – even the small things stoke a sort of internal fire in the laid-back chef, who bows out to prepare the first course and presently returns with a vibrantly coloured salad of Alaskan king crab, green pea purée and black truffle aioli.
Competing elements – earthy, zesty, briny – combine in a dish that doesn’t alter any dining conventions, per se, but nevertheless serves as a solid foundation for the rest of the meal to come.
With his second course, Kwan again turns to seafood of a more decadent stripe, turning out a beautiful poached Brittany lobster that’s finished with a lobster beurre blanc.
Snap peas, potato purée and sautéed blue-foot mushrooms provide textural contrast for an otherwise classic dish that precedes a very French pairing of foie gras and red wine-poached pears, tied together with an almond cake and heady port sauce.
“For the John Dory [the fish main], I broke down clam chowder by its components,” he explains, ditching the technical details in a fit of emotion. “It’s one of my all-time favourites. I mean, who doesn’t like clam chowder?”
A perfectly sautéed St. Pierre filet, nestled against a seared and buttery Hokkaido scallop, both dressed in a leek and potato fondue as well as a chowder emulsion – the dish, almost frighteningly so, replicates the flavour and texture of a good Boston chowder, but one elevated to a higher echelon through ingredient quality and technique.
Perhaps more importantly, it represents a clever diversion from full-on French fare with a nod to the chef’s American roots.
But the clam chowder spinoff isn’t the only option for mains, and the other one will certainly end the year in style. A succulent A5 Japanese striploin, as marbled as the Siena Cathedral floor, accompanies mushroom cannelloni and sautéed asparagus.
It’s tender, the natural juices reinforced with a red wine reduction, and just the right size; any larger of a cut and the steak would cross the line from extravagant to overindulgent, owing to its high marbling score. It’s best paired with a French Shiraz kept in that action studio of a wine wall, a wine whose earthiness comes out when taken in tandem with the steak.
A Valrhona chocolate mousse inscribed with auspicious well-wishes for the New Year caps an evening that has been a welcome look ahead to the last meal of 2016. And, speaking of auspicious, by the end of the dinner, outside the rain has even slowed to a trickle. But while we had previously worried how we would get home through the flooded city streets, now we only wish we didn’t have to leave.
The seven-course New Year’s Eve dinner costs 15,555++ Baht per person and includes one complimentary bottle of Champagne per couple (half-bottle for one).
Runs from 7pm – 2am.