June 22 – These Are Just Some of My Favourite Things
I slipped (when you’re as damp as I am, you slip a lot) around the corner of the Erawan shrine, and into the soft shade of the trees in front of the Hyatt. Just past there it was a brief dodge through the morning restaurant taking up most of the sidewalk, and there I was.
Back at the Four Seasons.
Once in the relative cool of the courtyard I was able to take a moment, compose myself, and then work my way through the greetings to my table.
Greetings can take a lot out of you. Maybe I could take up wai’ing as an exercise regime?
Now, while I enjoy a glass of champagne, let’s do a quick tour of what is on offer. We’ll begin inside of Madison’s, where I prefer to sit
Along one wall of the main room is the cold selection – vegetables, salads, smoked salmon, mushrooms, artichoke hearts,…..all the fixings for a good opening plate.
Then, on the perpendicular, there’s a selection of cold cuts and cheeses. I do love cheese, especially any that smell as funky as these. We’ll be visiting here later.
You head to the entrance to Madison’, but take a hard left past the private room. This places you in the kitchen. On your left is the cold seafood – prawns, crawfish, scallops, oysters, mussels, and crab.
As you leer at the cold seafood (which is where I spend a lot of my time), behind you the kitchen is hard at work. There’s a selection of fish and meat for you to order cooked to your preference. You just make your choice, and leave one of the chits for them.
I look at the kitchen, and I’m struck at how spacious it is. But then I remember spending a lunch in there with Nicolas Joanny some years back, and at the time it was all I could do to keep my stomach out of people’s way.
Oh, and there is some nice carvery to be had, too, if you don’t wish to wait for your protein.
Now, from the kitchen you come out and around the far corner, past the fireplace. This places you in the aisle running behind the glass doors fronting on Parichart Court.
Down the inside of this run is plate after plate of dessert.
I know some people who would be very happy just to stay here.
Past this are the baked goods, very fresh bread, and some nice pastries. But I know better than to fill up on such items.
And, at the door to Madison is the soufflé station, where they’re making chocolate melts and banana soufflés today.
There, that’s the first part. Now let’s step outside into Aqua, the Four Seasons’ bar placed in the courtyard.
To our right as we step back into the heat is an exotic selection of farang food. Ham, bacon, eggs. Hash browns. Hey, it may be mundane for us, but I’m certain some people quite appreciate it (and it can be hard to find nice ham).
After the breakfast standards there’s a station for pasta and risotto. Again, these are two items I do love, but I know that there’s a limit to my appetite, and so I restrain myself.
Past the Italians we find the Japanese, with grilled eel, shabu shabu, and a selection of sashimi.
Let us not forget the refreshments. Included in the brunch are a number of wines, generally Australian, although there’s a nice little Chardonnay from the Maipo that I’ll have to take a look at later.
There are also wine cocktails of different sorts, and a selection of martinis.
And, that standby of morning beverages, the Bloody Mary.
After the drinks, there’s a fish egg stand, built on a block of ice with by the fish pond. But this is primarily lump fish and ikura, and I just don’t find the flavour of ikura in Asia to be as good as what I have in Vancouver. But that’s just me.
We’ll leave Aqua for a moment (we’ll be back), and go to the other side of the door to Madison’s. First we find the Chinese station, with hanging meats and cheerful little steamers.
Beside this is the Indian station, doing tandooris.
And then we find ourselves at the entrance to Spice Market, the hotel’s Thai food. In front there is a grill going of different sausages, and just inside is papaya salad made to your taste.
Now we return to the centre of Aqua. Here, at the final installation, we find a selection of Mediterranean mezzes, a fine looking salmon that been baked in peppercorn bark, and then, my favourite…..
The foie gras station.
They do it four ways.
You can have it as a soufflé,
You can have it as a sausage,
You can have it as pate under a bit of jelly and some endive,
Or you can just enjoy it pan fried, which is my preference.
There, we’ve had a spin around the block. Now let’s settle down for some serious driving.
I opened with a cold plate to finish the sparkling wine that Reza, the manager, had sent over. It’s good when people know your habits.
The asparagus here is something I look forward to now. I believe it’s coming from the Royal Projects, and is wonderfully crisp. The artichoke heart had the charm of pickling to support it, and the mushrooms are excellent, squeaky in texture, but having also benefited from a bit of pickling in the marinade. The salmon was good, but I am a Vancouver snob so I wouldn’t rant about it. And the Vietnamese spring roll was a little disappointing. Even with the plum sauce, there wasn’t enough herbal aromatics with it. And the whole point of a Viet roll is to give you an excuse to eat herbs.
Then I made a basic beginner’s mistake. I ordered too much, too quickly.
I picked up some eel (I’m still going through withdrawal pains from Japan) and while there ordered some sashimi as well.
My timing was horribly off. Rather than having enough time to finish the eel, and then refresh myself with the sashimi, I found both occupying the table simultaneously. Still, in a common theme I could cope. The octopus was particularly good, with a solid crunch as I worked through the exterior to the softer, wetter interior. And I had some sea bream, which turned out to be a very nicely textured fish. The tuna and the salmon were as you’d expect. But I must say good things about the wasabi, as I appreciate that they fresh grind their’s here.
Then things got out of hand. Some foie gras showed up. I just couldn’t walk by that table without ordering some. But this is hardly a complement of flavours.
I needed to slow down a bit.
A Bloody Mary can be a big help in this regards.
Under control, I next took some Chinese.
A little steamer of dumplings filled with fish and prawn mousse; some roasted red pork with a peanut sauce, and “Hong Kong style” sucklying pig, served over some steamed bread.
Then I had to have some Thai. The poo nim – soft shelled crab crispy fried, and served with a sauce of basil, chillis, and lots of green peppercorn. This was very much a study in rawn phed, where “peppery” is the target flavour, rather than chilli hot.
And I couldn’t pass up the sai eua. This was very good, having that bit of “pong” as tb86 said, the result of some fermentation being allowed to happen.
As a comment, the Bloody Mary, served here with a good peppery burn, isn’t a bad companion to Asian food, holding its own with the solid burn of Thai cuisine.
That had covered me for the opening act. Now it was time to get started. I switched from Bloody Marys (what is the plurar for that? “Maries”?) to a Blue Moon Shiraz from Oz. Then my next selection was delivered, one of each of the foie gras preparations, all served with a nice drizzle of truffle oil.
Of these, I stand by what I’d said earlier. The best for me is the pan roasted. The “soufflé” is very nice, very much like a tawanmushi, but the sausage and the pate don’t do very much for me. But a good slab of foie gras, that’s hard not to get axcited about.
Now it was time for some of that Maipo Valley Chardonnay and some seafood. I took the baby scallops, a few crab claws, and all the fin de Claire oysters I could fit.
I miss having oysters. I’d had a couple in Japan, but my last real blow out had been back in February, and that was a long time ago.
I love the brine from an oyster. But then, I’m a big fan of salt. This called for more oysters, and a vodka martini to go with them.
One of the nice things (there are many) about brunch here is that when you get old and lazy (like me) you don’t have to get up to go get things. The staff will take care of it for you. This benefits as well in that they’ll do things I wouldn’t, like adding some fried coconut, onion and garlic to the side of a plate of oysters. This, with the martini, worked very well.
I had some more crab, as well, and then contemplated my options. I was beginning to slow down, and I had been there eating for two hours now. I decided to take some cheese.
I concentrated on the ones that were runny enough that they could do a marathon. Of these the Brillat Savarin and the St. Mere were my favourites. The Talaggio was disappointing, being thicker in consistency. Good for others, but not what I was looking for.
With this I’d gone with another Chilean, a cabernet sauvignon this time. I finished this with the cheese and then looked back to the Blue Moon Shiraz for dessert.
Then I asked for a cappuccino, as jet lag was beginning to take hold, and tried a light selection of the sweets, taking a mango moose, and a few of the pretty little egg flowers (flecked with gold leaf), and some chocolate, and a chocolate truffle.
And then, to finish, the chocolate melt. Rich, sweet, and very hot.
During the course of this I wasted some of Reza’s time with idle banter, and did manage to get some idea of what’s coming in September with the WGF. But I’m sworn to secrecy on that matter (and you never know until the last minute for certain, anyways).
It was three o’clock, and things were beginning to wind down. While I was not the last table, there was a great deal of open space about. Cheerfully I paid, bid my fairwells, and started thinking about dinner.Next: Sing For Your Supper