By Frank Lihn
This elegant, five star Bangkok resort boasts multiple dining options…
catering to the tastes of guests from around the world. Two of those options satisfy not only those visitors, but also local Bangkok residents seeking fine cuisine and atmospheric dining in a restaurant on a roof-top 61 stories above the street.
Saffron, on the fifty-second floor serves imaginative Thai cuisine that reflects the restaurant’s modern décor. The first surprising touch to Saffron’s exceptional service has the wait staff gently pouring warm, scented water over each diner’s hands into a flower-filled bowl, then offering folded white drying cloths; a lovely touch to begin a remarkable experience.
Thai cuisine is spicy…
uncomfortably so for many who visit (too often tongue numbing and mouth searing hot,) thus Saffron tones down the spice for many of its offerings, such as Prawns in Yellow Curry Sauce, an utterly delightful and tasty rendition presented with accompanying sides of fried onion bits and cucumber-onion relish. A selection of rice was brought to the table on a pastry cart – my preference was saffron rice, although steamed rice, brown rice and red rice were also available for each entree. The curry was rich but surprisingly delicate while thick with vegetables, diced potatoes and huge prawns with the generous addition of saffron threads.
Fried Soft Shell Crabs in Tamarind Sauce (surprisingly light) was lovely, which was followed by Cashew Chicken in a sauce that gently reminded me that Thai food tends to be spicy; two lovely and satisfying entrees.
As it should, the final course – dessert, was a marvel of creativity – and memorable. Chef Toon is inventive, offering inspired and original presentations; her Mango with Sticky Rice (which is a street food staple in Bangkok with coconut milk) is but another example of how she elevates her cuisine, by serving the sticky rice in a fried eggroll artfully arranged alongside sliced mango sprinkled with black sesame seeds, and accompanied by a dollop of fresh coconut ice cream. Outstanding! And a visual treat as well.
For a different but no less satisfying experience, one needs only ascend to the rooftop, to Vertigo.
Open to the air and with an unobstructed 360 degree view of Bangkok, it makes one feel like a newly hatched eagle dining in its aerie.
It is a large, tiered, spacious, and bustling venue, but the hardy service staff master the many steps and staircases with aplomb, carrying tray after tray of covered plates and platters.
And when the service Captain uncovers those plates, one understands why so many wait for a table to be vacated.
Appetizers and first courses include perfectly seared Sea Scallops topped with Truffles, nestled on a bed of potato puree, lightly colored by the addition of puree of sweet peas which was quite nice, thin slices of well-marinated fresh salmon on spinach leaves in orange vinaigrette that was light, tangy and satisfying, then an excellent salmon tartar topped with red caviar, and my favorite, a lovely take on Italian Arancini – saffron rice mixed with parmesan folded around fresh mozzarella, shaped into a golf ball sized round, delicately breaded and fried. Served with a spicy tomato salsa, the combination was exquisite.
A savory and creamy Lobster Bisque was next, poured into a warm bowl over a generous lump of lobster claw meat (no searching in vain for a stringy speck of lobster meat at Vertigo,) a spot of caviar and fresh chives; it was smooth and delicious.
When the entrees were uncovered, there were murmurs of satisfaction around the table – Ribeye Steak and Rack of Lamb, both with Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce were exceptional, as was Duck Breast with a light Bigarade Sauce and accompanied by an unusual and unusually tasty couscous, generously larded with artichoke hearts, figs, other fruits and vegetables, and perfectly blended fresh herbs.
A delicate and light cheesecake topped with fresh mangoes in syrup ended our impressive meal on a sweet note.