December is upon us – how did that happen so fast? – and despite the onset of the festive season the number of restaurants opening up in Bangkok continues to grow. There’s no let up to this eatery onslaught, which is great news for foodies as it means there’s always something new and exciting to please every palate. So, as you go about making your Christmas season lunch and dinner plans, we, as Thailand’s leading luxury authority, are more than happy to give you some insider recommendations.
Amongst the selection of what to choose from this December, the biggest buzz surrounds Blue, the new IconSiam restaurant which bears the midas touch of multiple Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. Another superstar international chef staking a place in Bangkok is Dharshan Munidasa, the man behind Sri Lanka’s infamous Ministry of Crab. Add to that some local talent finding new digs, a great new place for rustic Italian, and an old favourite given a new look, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble deciding where to go for those all-important holiday meals with friends and family.
If you’re a gastronome there’s no reason to be “blue” because Blue by Alain Ducasse has finally opened its doors, conveniently located in the Iconluxe section of the riverside IconSiam shopping complex. Alain Ducasse is an absolute legend in gourmet circles, having earned more Michelin stars than any other living chef. Blue is his first restaurant venture in Bangkok, and since opening this swanky, 84-seat fine dining establishment has been tempting gourmands with a jaw-dropping contemporary French menu personally conceived by Ducasse himself. To complement the exquisitely plated menu items the interior design — courtesy of the Jouin-Manku agency in Paris, which has designed all of Ducasse’s 3 Michelin-star restaurants — incorporates a blue and gold theme, filled with soft flowing curves and gorgeous lighting.
Located on Sukhumvit Soi 31, the newly launched Bangkok incarnation of Ministry of Crab is the 6th branch of the multiple award-winning Sri Lankan restaurant, which was first opened in 2011 by chef Dharshan Munidasa and his superstar cricket playing pals Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. The superstars of the menu, meanwhile, are the massive mud crabs that go by names such as ‘Crabzilla’; served whole, in a delicious signature black pepper sauce. Specialties such as the baked crab (a kind of crab risotto), the king prawn with garlic and chili sauce, and the crab liver paté are also recommended, while the coconut creme brulée, served in a coconut shell with plenty of flesh still lining the insides, is the signature dessert. The restaurant itself is sleek and stylish, but the vibe is definitely fun, so put on the special bib – things can get messy – and prepare to crack some claws.
Newly opened within the peaceful environs of Sukhumvit Soi 36 is L’Oliva Ristorante Italiano & Wine Bar, which serves up rustic gourmet cuisine from Italy’s Abruzzo region, the very place where co-founder Nicolino Pasquini was born and raised amidst vineyards and olive trees. The large windows on the façade of this charming two-storey house provide plenty of light to the front bar and lounge, the main dining room, and the glasshouse-style private chef’s table room that overlooks the quaint back garden. Order the Tronchetto Napoletano, a closed pizza stuffed with mozzarella, gorgonzola and emmental cheese topped with parma ham and rocket salad, and/or the recommended Pizza Mortadella with fiordilatte soft cheese, mascarpone, and pistachio. For pasta, try the lamb, veal and pork ragout served atop homemade “guitar” spaghetti (named for the pasta’s stringed slicing device). As for vino, a glass-windowed wine cellar brims with affordable, premium Italian brands, while for dessert the Cannoli Abruzzesi, with candied orange peel and pistachio, is to die for.
Chef Jay Sangsingkaew and her highly talented crew from the dearly missed L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon have launched Stage, a brand new, casual fine dining French and global-inspired restaurant on Ekkamai. And just so you know, that’s pronounced sah-taj, the short form of the French word stagiaires (“interns” in English). Any way you pronounce it, the dishes are superb; aesthetically minimal and understated, yet possessing deliciously intricate details. The ever-evolving 4-, 6-, and 8-course tasting menus feature such delectables as cavatelli pasta with smoked mushrooms, Wagyu rib eye with pickled girolles, and an exquisitely prepared mussel tart. The beautifully designed interiors blend the warmth of Scandinavian minimalism with the sophistication of Parisian chic, while sommelier Louis Pronritt – another Robuchon alumni – adds a different kind of warmth with a (mostly French) wine list of both natural and hard-to-find big name vintages.
The venerable Lord Jim’s at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has reopened to diners following a major renovation to the hotel property as a whole. Project designer Jeffrey Wilkes has incorporated a new Art Deco yacht motif into the restaurant’s interior, with many light-coloured wood and brass elements. Meanwhile, newly appointed chef Nicholas Gannaway – a half-Australian, half-Singaporean talent – focuses on premium ingredients from sustainable sources. Of course, the restaurant’s uninterrupted views of the Chao Phraya remain perfectly intact, so it’s still a wonderful place to indulge in a sumptuous riverside lunchtime buffet, or an elegant atmospheric dinner with an à la carte menu that includes prime cuts of meat cooked over a wood-fired grill. Add to all that an extensive wine list of new and old-world labels, and you’ve got plenty of reasons to make a return visit to this beloved Bangkok dining institution.