You may not be able to travel and eat at the world’s best restaurant right now but, as Prestige discovers, Côte by Mauro Colagreco is where you can sample the culinary superstar’s menu right here in Bangkok.
Davide Garavaglia is teasing tagliatelle-like strands of flame- seared squid into tight concentric circles on a plate as we chat in his restaurant kitchen. Then, satisfied with his handiwork, he spoons some artichoke purée and bagna cauda, a traditional dip from Piedmont made from garlic, salted anchovies and olive oil, all around it. His final touch is a topping of thyme tips and artichoke crisps. It’s pitch perfect – a wonderful interplay of flavours and textures: the chips and the warm sauce a perfect foil for the tender squid. It evokes much dialogue at our table when served.
“It’s a dish that was born out of an idea to present squid in a unique way, with a play on shape and texture,” explains Davide. “We serve it with sauce and purée, so you feel like you’re having pasta. For the squid itself, we simply used olive oil, lemon juice, and thyme, a very Mediterranean way of seasoning. And the contemporary touch is the addition of bagna cauda and artichoke chips. It’s a perfect marriage between the flavours and textures of the anchovies, artichoke, and the squid.”
It is also a delightful representation of the ‘Riviera to the River’ philosophy at Côte by Mauro Colagreco, the signature restaurant – headed by Davide – situated at the Capella Bangkok hotel on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. For those not in the know, chef Mauro’s restaurant Mirazur on the French Riviera holds the double distinction of being triple- Michelin-starred and occupying the top spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. With Côte he wants to embrace seasons, colours, textures and flavours, as the restaurant takes its inspiration from two of the world’s most desired destinations.
In a now much quoted soundbite, Mauro said: “When I arrived in Bangkok I fell in love. It is as simple as that. The passion for food and the culture and spirit – from the innate understanding of nature and the seasons to the history and flow of the river made this just the perfect place. Bangkok is an inspiration, as of course is the Riviera. Between them we will create a magical new dining destination, of that I am sure.”
And on Davide’s slim shoulders lie the monumental task of translating Mauro’s vision to the plate. “The idea is to show that we are not a mainstream ‘street’ French restaurant as the Riviera is closer to the French- Italian border,” says the former Mirazur chef de cuisine. If you are eating in Nice, Monaco, Menton, you’ll realise that it is not the typical French food that most people know of with cream, butter and other traditional elements. Here we let the concept of the Rivera shine through by using lots of shellfish and other seafood in our dishes. We also focus on cooking in a light way with much input from the Mediterranean using citrus.”
The classic dining room at the 60-seater Côte has the warmth and feel of a luxurious home, with luxe leather seats and floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the glittering river outside. Open for lunch and dinner, it offers both set and à la carte menus. The à la carte menu is a reinterpretation of the culinary heritage from Nice to Genoa. “We take the cuisine of Nice, in its traditional form, and focus on using modern techniques to create appealing platings,” Davide explains.
Curated by the chef from exceptional products, seasonal inspirational and the day’s best produce, the nine-course Carte Blanche menu is only available for dinner. And the definition of its name – to give free rein, to leave to the full discretion of… – offers a clue of what’s in store. It gives diners the “luxury of choosing not to choose, allowing the chef to present the best of his art”.
Davide says his menu changes often. “It can change every day – not all plates – due to many factors, such as the availability of the produce. Or, sometimes we try a plate that we ourselves really enjoy, to see how the guests like it and get their feedback. We also try to personalise returning guests’ dining experience as I’m not going to offer the exact same dishes on the menu to someone who was just here two days ago.”
A trio of amuse bouche items initiate you to this ultimate dining experience. It includes a mini seaweed tart with caviar and crispy puffed rice for texture, a Parmesan cracker with chestnut purée, and a light-as-air shiitake macaron with a black pudding terrine centre and a disc of green apple for tartness.
Restaurant manager Thibaud Charlemarty brings out on a wooden board a loaf sourdough pain de partage, and a poem by Pablo Neruda dedicated to bread. It’s quite literally breaking bread for sharing, made from an old recipe inherited from Mauro’s grandmother in Argentina. The crusty exterior and fluffy inside is the perfect mop for the aromatic peppery signature olive oil infused with Menton lemon and ginger.
The first course is ceviche of gambero rosso, plump citrus cured prawns paired with tartness of yuzu foam and sweetness of whole raspberries, served on a beautiful bubble platter. This is followed by the chaud-froid egg, invented by culinary superstar Alain Passard, who Mauro worked under when he was starting out. Also known as the ‘l’Arpège Egg’, it involves a lot skill to accomplish. The egg is decapitated, the white drained out, and the yolk in the shell is simmered in a water bath until just before it sets. At Côte, caviar is put on top of the yolk and the shell filled with an cold airy cauliflower mousse and horseradish foam. Dip your spoon for an exquisite interplay of the warm runny yolk combined with the cold nutty mousse and tickle ofthe peppery foam. All at once it’s warm and cold. Briny, sweet, and savoury. Delicious.
The aforementioned squid dish, another iconic Colagreco creation, is followed by juicy langoustine, its sweetness tempered by the delicate anise from rings of fennel and the citrus from the mandarin. Cod tripe and snow peas come together in big flavoured shellfish pil pil sauce, spiked with burnt garlic oil. White truffles are in season, and shavings of the earthy tuber adorn a firm textured chunk of monkfish, accompanied by a fragrant, grassy Hollandaise that has been infused with hay.
Anjou pigeon is the star of the main course. The luscious slices of breast meat comes blood red, cooked medium rare, and served with a coffee- based sauce. On the side is confit pigeon leg, the liver, and a chargrilled eggplant, all dusted in coffee powder.
When the cheese trolley is rolled out, it showcases as one would expect a remarkable selection of French and Italian cheeses. And then it’s time for a sweet ending. The pre-dessert is red shiso sorbet with mascarpone, followed by white chocolate with raspberry, coconut and rosemary. Light and delightful.
If one so desires there is a wine pairing at an additional cost curated by the affable Jay Bottorff, who spent the last two years building a cellar that specialises in vintages from Burgundy and Piedmont, Grower Champagnes, unique Mediterranean grape varieties, and organic and biodynamic winemakers.
While it’s nigh on impossible to travel and eat at Mirazur right now, Côte might be your best bet to sample Mauro’s signature dishes and get a taste of the Riviera.
To find out more, visit capellahotels.com.