Sunday, 28 May 2017

THAILAND: Gaysorn Village Has A Gourmet Choice

Gaysorn in the corner of Ratchaprasong intersection has long been known as a haven for shoppers who love luxury brands but despite being home to a selection of cafes and restaurants, it has never made it to the list of Bangkok’s culinary destinations.

That’s all about to change now that the shopping centre has been rebranded as Gaysorn Village with the existing eight restaurants, bars, cafes and tearooms soon to be joined by another five outlets, each with a sterling reputation.

Among the magnets opening soon is Thailand’s first Burger & Lobster – London’s hottest fast food restaurant since 2011 – and the new branch of Eric Kayser – known for its croissants – which will see its shop transformed into a mini factory for visitors to observe every step of the baking process.

“We want Gaysorn to be a place of style, experience and food,” says Gaysorn Village’s executive director Korakot Srivikorn.

“The dining and drinking venues have been selected for their heritage and because they offer a one-of-a-kind experience.”

The culinary journey can start at Thai restaurant Paste where ancient royal Thai recipes are brought back to life with a contemporary approach by experienced chef Bee Satongun.The eatery, which has relocated from Sukhumvit Soi 49, offers a range of signature dishes inspired by the Snidwongse family cookbook as a few other private sources.

They include Roasted duck with nutmeg, curry paste and saw tooth coriander served on rice crackers, and Watermelon and ground salmon with crispy shallots and roasted galangal powder.

From June 5 to August 5, Paste will also be offering a lunchtime sumrub, a set of dishes at Bt800-plus per person. I was lucky enough to be offered a pre-taste and started my travel back through time with an amuse-bouche of crispy prawns with roasted coconut and cashew nuts served on a bed of rose apple.

The amuse-bouche will change regularly based on what seasonal produce is available.

Few younger generation diners will have tasted tangmo pla haeng yet it is one of the most basic, but sophisticated and enduring of Thai appetisers. The fresh and sweet watermelon with a dressing of crispy smoked dried fish flakes is evidence of Thai cuisine’s loyalty to freshness and wholesomeness.

At Paste, salmon is used as a substitute for local fish and the presentation is artful and modern. Compressed watermelons are topped with ground salmon, crispy shallots, roasted coconut and salmon caviar.

Then there’s Canadian lobster dressed with kaffir lime juice, mandarin juice and buzz button flowers to which a crunchy texture is added with crispy seaweed and fried fish skins.

That’s followed by Southern-style yellow curry with crabmeat seasoned with black pepper, pennyworth leaves, hummingbird flowers and Thai samphire and a hot-and-sour soup of crispy pork leg with chargrilled shallots, jackfruit seeds and roasted peeled tomatoes in a smoky chicken broth that is best enjoyed with hot steamed jasmine rice and organic riceberry served together on a plate.

If you don’t want to go for a whole set, there are two new a la carte dishes that beg to be shared: the aromatic chargrilled organic pork loin glazed with wild honey and a side dish of smoked eggplant and tomato relish and fennel seed (Bt700).

Equally tempting is Northern-style curry paste made from tomato puree, garlic, coriander, baby anchovies served on top of fried mackerel and topped with fried fish scales (Bt650).

A favourite with wine lovers, Riedel Wine Bar and Cellar offers more than 200 labels and state-of-the-art wine dispensers that allow for a comprehensive tasting experience along with tempting Mediterranean tapas.

The showroom-cum-wine bar at Gaysorn is the German crystal glassware brand’s first concept store. Guests are given a personal card to enjoy a wide selection of wine by glass at the wine dispensers. Insert your card and select your preferred wine in one of three pours – 30ml for taster option, 75 and 150ml – with prices ranging from just Bt60 a glass to Bt2,500.

A row of Riedel glassware is arranged to match the character and body of each wine and in-house sommeliers are on hand to offer their expertise.

The food is orchestrated by Patrick Martens and on the day I visited, he was offering stracciatella (soft stretched-curd Italian buffalo cheese) with bottarga on toast, and chilli garlic prawns.

Duke, the speakeasy whiskey bar and cigar lounge- is hidden from view behind the shop. Once through the door, the 477-square-metre area that’s run by Water Library Hospitality Group combines contemporary art gallery, with a creative space for any functions, whiskey bar, and cigar lounge.

The artworks on display are curated by the editorial team of Fine Art magazine and rotate every month. Currently on display is the show “Plus Four” by Prahassorn Butphrom, Soomphong Ponradsamee, Manut Lao-on and Atchalinee Kesornsook. Art installations and sculptures are arranged around the remaining space.

“We are set to become the biggest cigar and whiskey lounge in the world,” says co-founder Attawoot Papangkorn with pride. “So far, we have about 200 labels and we intend to offer 450 by the end of this year.”

The cigar lounge has a wall hand-painted by noted Thai artist Alongkorn Lauwattana and another two private rooms for members only. These are decorated with works by such artists as Panya Vijinthanasarn and Alex Face.

The huge list of whiskey is divided into different categories based on region. Smokers will find an extensive list of cigars, plus suggested pairings with whisky. Only snacks and light meals are served here including a cheese and cold cut selection and nacho chips with tomato salsa.

Gaysorn is home to the world’s first and full-scale tea lounge belonging to German tea brand Ronnefeldt, which was established in 1823 in Frankfurt. The 1823 Tea Lounge by Ronnefeldt offers diners more than 70 distinct flavours together with afternoon tea sets, all-day light meals, pastries and an extensive drink list.

Two exclusive blends have been prepared especially for Gaysorn. The Bangkok Blend is Oolong tea blended with tropical flavours of papaya and pineapple while the Gaysorn Blend combines light flowery Pai Mu Tan white tea from Fujian with ripe mango and hints of citric notes.

The blends are best enjoyed as an afternoon set and tea master Rami Sambath recommends the Gold Indulgence set (Bt1,370 for two). These includes two pots of tea based on your choice and a feast of scones with jam and clotted cream, macarons, strawberry panna cotta, carrot cream cheese, green tea financiers, cucumber sandwiches, crab salad and salmon tartar rolls.

For something a little more substantial, check out matcha carbonara with truffle oil, a savoury matcha soba dish tossed in a classic Parmigiano and Pecorino cheese sauce with eggs, finished with crispy tea cured pancetta, poached egg and a drizzle of white truffle oil. Other option is tea rice with ikura and truffle made with signature Ceylon tea rice, lemon and a topping of ikura shoyuzuke (marinated salmon roe) and freshly shaved truffles.

Starbucks at Gaysorn is the country’s first Reserve Experience Store, offering a coffee bar with 15 seats for coffee lovers to enjoy a cup of its fine, rare beans brewed either in a press, as a pour-over, in a chemex and with a siphon.

The reserve coffees include one from Costa Rica with a citrus acidity and green apple, honey notes, Nicaragua Maracaturra, which boasts a red-apple sweetness with a hint of vanilla, and Nicaragua La Roca with hints of orange hibiscus and red-plum sweetness.

Store manager Wanchana Sakpratheepkorn offered me the Costa Rica beans with siphon brewing that uses vapour pressure and vacuum force to extract the coffee flavour, resulting in a clean and smooth brew.

“Costa Rica is known for producing full-body coffee and this reserve one was created with cherries from selected farmers using the yellow honey processing method – a technique that intensifies the coffee’s sweet and fruity notes,” says Wanchana.

“The beans are constantly roasted as they dry, with the pulp left intact. Eventually the parchment turns a honey-yellow colour as the pulp become sticky.”

Paste on the third floor is open from noon to 2.30pm, and for dinner from 6.30 to 11.30pm. Call (02) 656 1003.

Riedel Wine Bar & Cellar on the second floor is open from noon to midnight. Call (02) 656 1133.

Duke on the first floor is open 10am to midnight. Call (094) 647 8888.

1823 Tea Lounge by Ronnefeldt on the first floor is open from 10am to 8pm. Call (02) 656 1086.

Starbucks Reserve Experience Store on the second floor is open from 6.30am to 9pm. Call (02) 656 1008.

Find out more at www.GaysornVillage.com.