Chef David Tamburini is beaming as he bustles about plating dishes – he now has a new stage to perform on at The Sukhothai Bangkok. Six months of extensive refurbishments has rendered a space that is light and contemporary, yet with a certain je ne sais quoi that exudes style, luxury and the promise of great things to come.
The time for a change at La Scala had most certainly come. Fifteen years of serving top quality classic Italian cuisine and bringing internationally-acclaimed guest chefs to the Thai capital to feature in its signature “The Art of Dining” series had made it a popular go-to with connoisseurs of the good things in life, and garnered a slew of awards. But in the continually evolving culinary landscape of Bangkok, a reimagining of the space and menu had become essential.
Drawing inspiration from its namesake in Milan, La Scala Version 2.0 models itself on what the stakeholders are calling “The Great Theatre for Marvelous Moments”, with Tamburini playing the lead role in a performance that engages guests in a full sensory experience.
Japanese design whizzes Spinoff, widely acclaimed for creating spaces that provide a calm, quiet atmosphere where people can feel comfortable amid a delicate balance created by carefully selected materials and thoughtful design, were tasked with reformatting the award-winning restaurant. And they certainly stepped up to the plate.
The Italian nuances of La Scala and the design aesthetics of Thailand’s 13th-century capital, Sukhothai, were harmonised by cladding the walls in the reception area with classic Bianco Cararra marble from Italy in a manner that emphasizes the perpendicular lines characteristic of Sukhothai architecture.
Shimmering mosaic tiles accentuate the new bar and the impressive wine cellar that spans an entire wall. The unique gold oval celling in the centre of the restaurant references the La Scala Opera, while the five black pillars upholding it connect it to the real-time theatre of the open kitchen. The fine interplay of the light and dark tones of the overall colour scheme, reminiscent of the famous theatre’s interiors, are broken by pops of colours from the tableware and the floral arrangements. A new addition is the private dining room, concealed from the main dining area by translucent screens for a space that is secluded yet light and airy.
It sets the stage perfectly for the Chef David’s production of inspired Italian cuisine. His prior credits include Giando (Hong Kong), Restaurant La Gazza Ladra (Palazzo Failla Hotel, Modica) and Restaurant Casa Grugno (Taormina, Sicily) – the latter two which both earned him Michelin stars.
The Tuscan-born chef’s menu also got an overhaul and carries the tagline “all new, still legendary”. It consists of traditional Italian recipes with unparalleled creative flair that capture the essence of contemporary Italian dining, we are informed.
Of the elegant opening acts, the Polipo e Patata is hands down the dish of the day. A potato skin is scooped out and fried crisp. The inside is turned into a velvety mousse before being piped back into the skin. It’s all creamy goodness made even better with tiny chunks of glistening octopus topped with green olive sauce.
The moreish Gallina Rifatta Al Tartufo e Vedure Invernall comes a close second. A lightly caramelised onion is stuffed with chicken terrine and braised autumn vegetables, morel mushrooms and a black truffle zabajone. It’s also hard to find fault with the Astice Alla Trapanese, blue lobster sautéed and served with panzanella. This hearty Tuscan bread and tomato salad – a light accompaniment to the luscious crustacean – is made from breadcrumbs and tomato tartare with almond curd.
Recommended by our waiter, the soups and the Mpepata di Cozze don’t disappoint either. Plump mussels and fine strips of zucchini are bathed in a rich broth of white wine and garlic, scented with lemon – the accompanying thick wedge of garlic bread on a bed of warm mussel shells mops up any of the soup at the bottom of the bowl.
The Primi Piatti section is short and sweet as it should be and includes such signatures as the Ravioli Rucola e Parmigiano Al Burro Bianco (24-months-old Parmigiano Reggiano, rocket ravioli and sour white butter) and Risotto Nero Trombette di Morto, Tartufo e Fegato Grasso (Autumn black truffle and trumpet mushrooms risotto with foie gras terrine).
Our choice, a pasta dish of linguine with langoustines, throws up clean simple flavours: the turban of linguine on the platter, cooked in lemon leaf and infused with fish essence, has a shiny coat of cheese made from almond milk and cocoa butter that is the perfect foil to the sophisticated sweetness of the shellfish.
With a nifty sleight of hand, Tamburini transforms premium meats and fish into masterpieces on the plate. Like the Sogliola Alla Mugnaia, the delicate flavours of sole highlighted by a symphony of accents from the accompanying mozzarella “milk”, citrus tapenade and toasted almonds. Or the Agnello Caci e Ova E Rapini Ripassati, roasted lamb saddle, spicy sautéed radish, classic egg and cheese “caci e ova” dressing with its requisite melt-in-the-mouth smoothness.
The well-curated wine list takes in both Old and New Worlds, but signature cocktails such as the Italian Mary (Vodka infused with olive oil, tomato juice and reduction of balsamic vinegar), Breakfast in Italy (Grappa, Limoncello, fresh lime juice and orange jam), Godfather Part 2 (Bourbon whiskey, Fernet reduction, Amaretto di Saronno and orange peel) are also worth a shot.
Good things always come to those who order dessert. The Tartufo when plated replicates a truffle found in the forest. It bookends a fantastic meal and I won’t spoil the surprise except to say it involves the smoky flavours of Lagavulin 16 years. Also holding its own and another reason to return is the Fichi e Gelato All’aceto; figs, walnuts and lemon leaves compote, and organic apple vinegar ice cream, an interesting mix of flavours and textures.
La Scala’s fabulous new look is matched by its cuisine, signalling a welcome return to the centre stage of the city’s dining scene.