With the opening of URBANI TRUFFLE BAR & RESTAURANT, Bangkok welcomes the arrival of the city’s first truffle-focused, fine dining establishment. reena hallberg discovers what makes these fungi the diamonds of the kitchen Photography : kaan suchanin
what is it about truffles that makes them so coveted? Is it their deep musky aroma and earthy flavours that have the ability to enhance any dish they are added to? Or the fact that they are rare, and their scarceness leads to desire? These thoughts cross my mind as I ride the elevator up to the 39th floor of the Sathorn Square building to Urbani Truffle Bar & Restaurant, the flagship establishment of the world’s largest truffle purveyor, Urbani Tartufi.
Since its inception in 1850, the Urbani brand has become a trusted name in the truffle business, for sourcing and processing one of the world’s most expensive food products. Now run by the sixthgeneration, the family-owned company is venerated the world over for prized fungi, often considered the jewel of Italian gastronomy.
The stylish restaurant is divided into several sections, each with stunning vistas of the city. The bar area, located closest to the entrance, is a chic mélange of onyx glossy marble bar top, a cellar carrying over 250 curated French and Italian wines, premium spirits and Italian beer, as well as a section with Urbani’s premium trufflebased products such as oil, chips and chocolates – all made with organically-farmed ingredients. A selection of oysters, caviar and truffle sushi is available for diners to enjoy at the bar with a vintage of their choice.
Further inside, the sprawling dining area wraps itself around an open kitchen counter, where we get a glimpse of executive chef Gonzalo Ruis and his team working on creating haute cuisine with seasonal truffles. The restaurant also features a private dining area, suitable for events and celebrations.
The restaurant currently presents two, fivecourse and seven-course set menus – each course with two options – and an à la carte list of options that changes in accordance with the season.
“Given the brand’s rich heritage, it was natural for them to open a restaurant,” explains Roberto Ugolini, managing director of Urbani, as we partake in a spoonful of a tomato jelly caprese salad, dotted with mozzarella cheese; the amuse bouche for the evening.
Roberto informs that this project has been a dream for Olga Urbani, the truffle heiress who is intent on diversifying the brand’s portfolio.
In 2016, Urbani forayed into the US with the opening of Truffle Lab NYC, a hotspot for culinary events and tasting room for truffle lovers and food enthusiasts. In addition
to launching a fine dining outlet in Phuket later this year, plans to open restaurants in select cities around Asia and in St. Petersburg, Russia are in the pipeline, as well as a museum, where visitors can learn about the history of the family, while sampling food and drinks from an onsite bar and restaurant.
“Truffles have been quite popular in the US and Europe, and its only trending now in Asia. People know a little bit and are curious about the taste,” Roberto says. Just then we get to try our first course and sample Urbani’s famed black truffle in the form of homemade truffled foie gras terrine, which arrives ensconced in a pistachio crumble
and served alongside pistachio ice cream. Even though the summer truffle we try with this dish is subtle and less fragrant compared to its winter counterpart, it is still rich and woodsy in aroma with light hazelnut undertones, leaving a lasting impact on our palates.
Next, we indulge in agnolotti of wagyu-truffled ragout with a rich truffle béarnaise sauce. The combination and flavours of all the ingredients results in a dish so divine, that the only word escaping my dining companion’s mouth is ‘wow’.
For our third course, we enjoy a delectable serving of pan-roasted Spanish seabass fillet with roasted pumpkin squash, chorizo and almond croquette and tomato concasse with a hint of ginger. At first, the dish may seem complex with its multiple flavour profiles, but Chef Gonzalo thoughtfully pairs all of the ingredients while allowing the delicate flavours of the fish to shine. This is haute cuisine at its finest.
For our main course, we treat our senses to a stellar offering of lamb tenderloin. The lamb – prepared sous-vide and infused with herbs – is served alongside micro greens and truffle relish. The subtle smokey flavours of the lamb pairs beautifully with the earthy pungency of the truffles.
For our final course, Chef Gonzalo pulls out all the stops to present a decadent serving of a dome-shaped tiramisu, permeated with white truffle scent served on a bed of liquid nitrogeninfused biscotti crumbles – a delightful finale to a very memorable feast.
TRUFFLE FOIE GRAS TERRINE
AGNOLOTTI AL TARTUFO
WHITE TRUFFLE TIRAMISU
CHEF GONZALO RUIS