Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mediterranean Restaurant At The Swissotel Nai Lert Park In Bangkok

A Mediterranean restaurant in Bangkok is not a common sight but there are a few and the best one may be La Dolce Vita at Ma Maison. This restaurant has an interesting pedigree, starting out in the early 90s as a high-end French restaurant that for years was considered one of the top two in the city. Its present incarnation draws on that heritage as well as a strong Italian influence – hence the Italian name – to produce a dining spot that serves a mix of cuisines with the common thread being ingredients from Mediterranean countries.

A survey of the menu reveals exactly that: rabbit and truffles and gorgonzola cheese mix with olive oil, mussels and yellowtail tuna to offer diners an eclectic mix of dishes that is as varied as it is interesting to people with a real passion for fine food. The dishes themselves are mostly fusions of Italian and French dishes that are contemporary and innovative. There are also sections of risottos and pastas that are primarily Italian in nature.

On a recent trip I sampled four dishes that ran the gamut of the different styles and ingredients presented here. From the appetizer menu I selected a Caesar salad, even though there were many other interesting dishes in this section, primarily because I wanted to see it made from scratch at the tableside. This is something that few restaurants do anymore and it takes a good bit of training for a waiter to be able do it properly at the table. The waiter here was very knowledgeable and quite accomplished, creating a Caesar whose dressing had just the right amount of garlic, anchovy and mustard, at least for my tastes.

A black truffle soup, which leans far into French territory, was topped with a cannellini bean foam and a couple of slices of truffle, giving it both a lightness and yet a very rich flavor to top off the delicious essence of the soup. A spaghetti dish with Maine lobster and a tomato cream sauce was also successful, most likely because the acidity of the tomato sauce was softened by the cream and didn’t intrude upon the delicate flavor of the lobster as much as it might have otherwise.

My final dish was a veal loin topped with foie gras and, again, some black truffles that displayed the true richness of French cooking at its best. The thick, perfectly cooked loin was served on a bed of spinach with some other vegetables also. This dish represented the true roots of the restaurant – a pedigree of fine French cooking – that manages to co-exist with the lighter fare on the menu that uses Mediterranean ingredients in different styles of cooking. Uniting these styles together into a consistent menu is not an easy thing to do but La Dolce Vita at Ma Maison seems to have accomplished it easily ad gracefully.

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