I am a big fan of a famous cooking show called Iron Chef, and I have been watching many versions of it, including Japanese, American and more recently the Thai version. The Iron Chefs and the challengers always impress me with their great cooking speed, superb skills and creativity, and beautiful food presentation. To be sure, every time I watch Iron Chef I am hungry afterwards but I often wonder how delicious their food actually is. We all know beautiful food does not always equate to deliciousness.
However, my doubts about any of these chefs’ talents recently disappeared, when we visited Enoteca where we had the pleasure to experienced Italian cuisine created by Chef Stefano Merlo, twice the winner of the famous Iron Chef Thailand competition. Chef Merlo’s food was creative, beautiful, and absolutely delicious. For the evening, Mr. Nicola Bonazza the owner greeted us with a warm welcome and helped us with our selections of food and wines. One of us decided to go for the grand gourmet degustation (2800 baht ++) and the rest order some selections from the a la carte menu.
We started with Italian white wine – La Ginestraia Pigato Riviera Ligure di Ponente, earthiness, refreshing with a hint of sweetness.
Our amuse bouche – Oyster paco jet. The oysters were transformed into a cold light mousse served with a dash of lemon and its peel. The scent and taste of the oysters were still there but the texture was completely different. It was an interesting dish from the start!
The second amuse bouche – eggplants parmigiana, with light foam of mascarpone. This dish was packed with flavors, salty cheeses and sweet eggplants.
Course 1 – Raw red prawns salad from deep sea of Italy served with diced apples, apple dots and flower. The prawns were very sweet and the presentation was gorgeous. We were told that the prawns were flown in frozen at minus 40 degrees and cost around 3,500 baht a kilo.
A la carte – Smoked sea scallops served with zucchini and mashed apples (690 baht).
Mr. Bonazza cut open the plastic wrap to release the smoke kept inside the serving bowl. The scallops were tender and luscious with nice smoky flavor.
A la carte – Pan fried duck foie gras served with berries, prosecco foam and gold powder (890 baht). Thick and sumptuous foie gras matched perfectly with the tanginess of the berries, while the gold power added an element of luxury.
Course 2 – Cuttlefish stewed until very tender served in cream potatoes with parmesan and cuttlefish ink. Inspired by a three star Michelin Chef Massimiliano Alajmo, Chef Merlo tried to create his own version. The dish has been extremely successful, as customers have come back for more.
We never had cuttlefish this tender before and the cream potatoes were silky, salty and absolutely delicious.
Course 3 – Veal tongue with charcoal oil vinegar raspberry foam onions and potatoes. The acidity from the framboise (raspberry) vinegar was a nice contrast to succulent and tender veal tongue.
A la carte – Handmade tortellini filled with pigeon gravy served with roasted pigeon breast and porto reduction (690 baht). Our server recommended that we have the tortellini and the pigeon breast in one bite. The bite was a burst of flavor from the gravy and the tender medium rare pigeon breast.
Course 4 – Biological spaghetti verrigni gold drawn with tomato water and burrata cheese. This simple looking dish was truly extraordinary. Enoteca uses special verrigni gold drawn biological flour spaghetti. We were surprised that the spaghetti was cooked very al dente compare to other pasta dishes we ever had but Mr. Bonazza told us that Italians usually enjoy even more al dente than this dish. We were also surprised with the concentrated flavor of the tomatoes water in this dish. If you try this dish blind folded you, would never believe that there is no trace of tomatoes to bare eyes. The spaghetti extra crunch with the tomatoes water and burrata cheese was a new and pleasant experience.
Course 5 – Beetroot sorbet risotto. The dish was visually pretty as the color of the beet root contrasted to the beige risotto. Using gorgonzola and blue cheese made this risotto very rich, velvety and flavorful. We enjoyed the cold beetroot sorbet with the piping hot risotto since it produced a nice sensation in our mouths and actually accentuated the overall flavors of this dish.
Course 6 – Wild caught dover sole imported from European waters served with baby brocoli crowns, brocoli cream and lemon sauce. The dover sole was steamed to perfection, luscious and tender.
2008 Pio Cesare Oltre Langhe Rosso, Piedmont, Italy. With hints of fruits and good acidity, this wine was great pairing for our upcoming red meats.
Course 7 – Venison served with mustard and pomegranate sauce and celery roots three ways: chips, puree and raw. The venison was almost rare but quite tender and gamey, the way it supposed to be. Nice textural and taste changes from a normal beef filet.
A la carte – Veal cheek braised in red wine served with Italian chicory and celery root puree (840 baht). The cheeks were braised for 4-5 hours until very tender. The red wine sauce became a thick glaze that added sweet and tangy flavors to the extremely soft veal cheek.
A la carte – New Zealand lamb chops roasted with garlic and thyme sprigs served with violet Italian eggplants (990 baht). The scent of thyme was very aromatic not only from the cooking but our servers brought out a bottle of thyme scent to spritz at our table. The smokiness of the burnt parts of lamb chops and vegetables also added more complexities to this dish.
The lamb chops were infused with the aromatic herbs and cooked to perfection, tender and juicy.
Pre dessert – false egg. It looked like a real egg but the egg white was yogurt and the yolk was mango, a nice palate cleanser.
Second palate cleanser – vegetable jellies: orange, beetroot, carrots and celery, all natural flavors of fruits and vegetables.
Course 8 – Tiramisu Enoteca’s way. Valrhona dark chocolate and the rich mascarpone were stars of this dish.
This did not look like a tiramisu at all but once the hot espresso was poured over the chocolate sphere, the dish came together nicely.
A la carte – Hot chocolate foam with rum ice crush (290 baht). This was most interesting hot chocolate we ever had since it was not just simple hot chocolate. The rum ice crush gave this dessert a nice kick and again the cold and hot sensation in our mouths made this dessert a winner.
A la carte – White chocolate canolli with pistachio and coffee ice cream (4 pieces – 340 baht). Normally made with mascarpone cheese, Enoteca intentionally made this canolli with white chocolate in order to avoid the repetition of mascarpone in its tiramisu.
Petit four to end our excellent meal: white chocolate with lime, macaroon, raspberry and raspberry coolie and soft caramel.
Mr. Bonazza’s great service mind has been the key to Enoteca’s success.
Enoteca is a relatively small Italian fine dining packed with superb qualities and full of surprises. One of the best things we noticed about Enoteca throughout the evening was the attentiveness of the staffs. Mr. Bonazza and Chef Merlo, in particular, are clearly passionate about their food and restaurant.
Experience traditional, authentic but creative Italian cuisine at Enoteca for yourself and you will understand the meaning of excellence. And of course you will know how good an Iron Chef winner is. While Enoteca is hidden in Soi Sukhumvit 31, we would not call it a hidden gem because it is always packed, even on weekdays. So, reservation is a must.
For more details contact: +66 2 258 4386 or www.enotecabangkok.com
From the left: Mr. Nicola Bonazza, Ms. Wannasiri Srivarathanabul and Chef Stefano Merlo