SCAN­DI­NAVIA on the PLATE

THAI-BORN SWEDISH CHEF SAYAN ISAKSSON DEMON­STRATES EX­ACTLY WHY HIS STOCK­HOLM RESTAU­RANT EARNED A MICHE­LIN STAR

The Nation - - FUN PURSUITS - KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON

FOR THE last few days, the St Regis Bangkok has been cel­e­brat­ing the very best of Nordic cook­ing by host­ing a “Sim­ply Scan­di­na­vian” pro­mo­tion at all the ho­tel’s restau­rants.

The food is cooked to per­fec­tion by ac­claimed guest chef Sayan Isaksson. Din­ers have one last chance to savour his three-course set lunch and three-course set din­ner at the restau­rant Jojo to­day, though he will be on hand to serve up a Scan­di­na­vian Sun­day Brunch at Viu to­mor­row and lay the foun­da­tions for Af­ter­noon Tea at the Lounge and the St Regis Bar un­til the end of the month.

The Thai-born Sayan was adopted by a Swedish cou­ple as an in­fant and has spent his life in Swe­den. Now 44, he de­vel­oped a pas­sion for cook­ing dur­ing his teens and went on to work with sev­eral renowned chefs. He opened his Esperanto restau­rant in Stock­holm in 2005 and earned his first Miche­lin star in 2007, re­tain­ing it un­til the restau­rant closed ear­lier this year. Esperanto was also awarded the high­est food score ever, 40/40, by the White Guide, con­sid­ered the most au­thor­i­ta­tive guide in Swe­den.

He catered for the pres­ti­gious No­bel Ban­quets in 2015 and 2016 and is much ap­pre­ci­ated both for his tech­ni­cal ex­cel­lence and his com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity in the kitchen, re­fus­ing to dis­card even the hum­ble onion peel, turn­ing it in­stead into a savoury broth.

Sayan brought an ar­ray of Scan­di­na­vian spe­cial­i­ties to Jojo, where over the past week, din­ers have en­joyed not just the cui­sine but also mu­sic and cul­ture.

The din­ner menu starts with a se­lec­tion of Amuse Bouche fea­tur­ing smoke-scented pick­led quail eggs with chicken-in­fused whipped cream. The creamy yolk teases the palate with its sweet flavour be­fore giv­ing way to a de­lec­ta­ble smoky af­ter­taste. They’re fol­lowed by Ku­mamoto Oys­ter­shells topped with Osci­etra caviar in which the crispy edi­ble shells made to re­sem­ble oys­ters are matched with salty caviar. A dish of lightly grilled prawns in nas­tur­tium leaves brings the first part of the din­ner to a tri­umphant end.

Next on the menu are Ori­en­tal gar­den tartelette, but­ter­milk fro­mage blanc and Ha­machi im­i­tat­ing gravlax, in which the fish, usu­ally salmon, is rolled then smoked. Sayan adds to the flavour with Scan­di­na­vian dashi and horse­rad­ish, which he says has a kick sim­i­lar to that of wasabi.

One-bite flash-grilled dry-aged beef tar­tar is pre­sented along­side emul­si­fied oys­ters and crispy seaweed, bring­ing lots of dif­fer­ent tex­tures to the same dish. Per­fectly com­ple­ment­ing th­ese Asian-in­fused Scan­di­na­vian flavours is the mush­room por­ridge with grains, aged but­ter and yuba. Sayan adds a touch of vis­ual drama by pour­ing tasty tea soup in a sep­a­rate cup to in­ten­sify the flavour.

Soft­shell crab cooked over glow­ing em­bers with or­ganic-waste-XO comes in an at­trac­tive pre­sen­ta­tion with a piece of green leaf cov­er­ing the whole dish. It tasted goods too though I per­son­ally found it a lit­tle too salty for my taste.

The chef, who along with his team, is on hand to dis­cuss the dishes and how he pre­pares them, told The Na­tion

Week­end that he has more sig­na­ture tech­niques than sig­na­ture dishes. The cele­riac petals and white truf­fle is one of his favourites. It looks sim­ple but is ac­tu­ally quite com­plex, re­quir­ing the cele­riac to be sliced into thin pieces then crafted to re­sem­ble a rose. He per­son­ally slides in the white truf­fle in front of the guests to al­low them to ex­pe­ri­ence the full aroma.

For the main course, he served Black gar­lic pi­geon im­ported from France, en­hanc­ing the flavour with five Nordic spices – gar­nish, cin­na­mon, black pep­per, fen­nel and dried chive flow­ers.

The meal ends with his best-known dessert, “Au­tumn Leaves”, fea­tur­ing frozen sun­chokes and grilled ap­ple tea with ice cream made of po­tato. De­spite its veg­etable base, the icy de­light is sur­pris­ingly sweet thanks to the white choco­late and has a won­der­fully thick creamy tex­ture. The so­phis­ti­cated dessert is beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated with crisp caramel to re­sem­ble au­tumn leaves.

“In my line of work, I need to push the bound­aries and ex­plore within the realm of good taste. Of course, it’s im­por­tant to main­tain bal­ance and my di­a­logue with cus­tomers helps my cre­ativ­ity. I get en­ergy from cus­tomers – when they are happy, I am happy. I'm re­ally hon­oured and moved by this op­por­tu­nity to cook in my birth coun­try. My wish is to in­fuse Scan­di­na­vian flavours with the very so­phis­ti­cated and bril­liant food cul­ture of Thai­land,” said Sayan, who is de­ter­mined to learn more about Thai food and open a restau­rant.

The three-course set lunch at Jojo fea­tures ori­en­tal gar­den salad, but­ter­milk fro­mage blanc and a poached pul­let egg, fol­lowed by black gar­lic pi­geon, Nordic five spice, po­tato and herb bun­dles, and fin­ishes with Au­tumn Leaves.

Cele­riac petals white truf­fle Ha­machi im­i­tat­ing gravlax, Scan­di­na­vian dashi and horse­rad­ish

The el­e­gant am­bi­ence of Jojo’s Restau­rant

Soft­shell crab cooked over glow­ing em­bers, or­ganic waste-XO

Black gar­lic pi­geon, Nordic five spices, and dried chive flow­ers

Flash-grilled dry-aged beef tar­tar, emul­si­fied oys­ters, and seaweed crisps

Oys­ter­shells with Osci­etra caviar

“Au­tumn leaves” – frozen sun­chokes po­tato ice cream and grilled ap­ple tea

Ori­en­tal gar­den tartelette and but­ter­milk fro­mage blanc

Chef Sayan Isaksson

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