In a town that has become something of a nebula for feted chefs and restaurants, a new star is set to join the firmament, says Matt Wilde
Front Room, the signature restaurant at the recently opened Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, is the perfect venue for rising star chef Fae Rungthiwa Chummongkhon to showcase her innovative French, New Nordic and Thai-influenced cuisine, says Matt Wilde
After years spent learning her craft in the kitchens of multiple Michelinstar establishments across Europe, including Frederikshoj in Denmark and the three-star La Belle Epoque in Germany, chef de cuisine Fae Rungthiwa Chummongkhon has come home to helm Front Room, the signature restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria on Ratchadamri Road.
Born and raised in Chiang Saen in northern Thailand, Fae recalls that as a girl she was always thinking about food. “Not because I was constantly hungry,” she laughs, “it was because I was fascinated by flavours and how they worked in combination. I still am.”
At Front Room chef Fae deftly blends a mix of fine French cuisine with New Nordic and Thai influences. “I compose my recipes so that main ingredients are accentuated and then add notes from other cultures and culinary
traditions to surprise and titillate. I use Thai techniques in the preparation of traditional French and Scandinavian cuisine to create original visual and contextual flavours and impressions that are at once innovative and yet familiar to the audience. In this way I combine the new with the traditional and the West with the Far East.”
These sensibilities show in her imaginative tasting menu, from which guests can choose a seven or 10-dish meal. Some of the dishes also appear on her considered a la carte menu, which offers the choice of four appetisers, four main course dishes and four desserts, all of which change according to the season.
The tasting menu begins with Velkomen, an amuse bouche of five beautifully presented bite-sized morsels that include croustades with pomelo and shrimp, fish cracker with sweet-sour gel and sweet potato with peanut and green apple. The vibrant, tangy flavour combinations do a great job of warming up the palate for what is to come.
The Nordic influence in chef Fae’s cooking is apparent in an offering called Asia Pacific, a dish of thinly sliced smoked sea bass with coconut and broccoli. The flavours are delicate but punch is added through the smokiness of the fish and a zesty vinaigrette dressing. Next is Baking Beetroot, a visually striking dish of gelled and pickled beetroot, pickled papaya and caviar served with a beetroot sauce made with rich chicken stock. The natural sweetness of the beetroot combines with the saltiness of the caviar to give a subtle taste of the briny Nordic sea. This is followed by Mom’s Soup Memories, a homely serving of squid noodles in a thin but flavour-packed chicken broth. An extra dimension is added with a drizzle of garlic oil.
One of the standout dishes arrives next, Blue of the Sea, which comprises crab, celery crudité and a hollandaise-style yellow curry sauce that has a flavour and consistency not unlike the creamy mayonnaise-based sauce of coronation chicken. When the viands move to land we are served Raised in Chiang Rai, Cooked in Bangkok, a dish of deboned and re-stuffed chicken with black rice puree theatrically presented in a dome of smoke. Its tender delights are followed by an equally fine dish called The King of Beef, a seared piece of succulent wagyu striploin served with an oxtail and morel-enriched fumet stock.
To finish we enjoy the palate-cleansing dessert of Green on Ice—a refreshing basil and white chocolate mousse with mango and sesame—and a selection of chef Fae’s uniquely flavoured and beautifully presented handmade petit fours.
Front Room, Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, 151 Ratchadamri Rd. Open daily, 5:30-10:30pm. Tel:0-2846-8888 See dining.thailandtatler.com
PALATE PLEASERS ( Clockwise from top) Mom's Soup Memories, squid noodles in a rich chicken broth; Raised in Chang Rai, Cooked in Bangkok is deboned chicken with black rice puree, lemongrass and cress; Blue of the Sea features crab, celery crudite and a creamy hollandaise-like yellow curry sauce
visual feasts ( Clockwise from top left) Chef Fae presents her delightful petit fours in their special box; The King of Beef, succulent wagyu striploin; in the vibrant dish of Baking Beetroot the vegetable has been gelled and paired with caviar