Andreas Caminada’s modern European comfort fare lures diners to his new nest. Story by Dr Tom Vitayakul
With the pandemic firmly under control in Thailand, diners are once again heading out in droves. Many restaurants have suffered this year, of course, but some are thriving in this new era of health regulations and social distancing. It is certainly not risk-free to launch a new brand in this economic climate, under the clouds of Covid-19. But shiny new things tend to attract Bangkokians. New fine-dining venues with Michelin-star distinctions and worldwide accolades are being ushered in during the last quarter of 2020. Although its inauguration was originally slated for March, IGNIV Bangkok, one of the fortunate braves, began welcoming diners in October.
Nestled in The St. Regis Bangkok’s cosy alcove, IGNIV Bangkok is multi-award-winning Chef Andreas Caminada’s first foray in Asia. After three Swiss strongholds in Bad Ragaz, St. Moritz and Zürich, this Michelin-awarded restaurant brand spreads its wings in this bustling tropical outpost. Igniv, which means “nest” in Romansh, is Chef Andreas’ plush new niche in shades of teal, decorated by world-renowned Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola and featuring items from IGNIV’s own art collection. Here Swiss-Argentinian pioneering eco-artist Vivian Suter, who lives in Guatemalan forests, shares the walls with Keiichi Tanaami, Japan’s first Pop artist known for his dizzying dreamscapes. Encircled by creative talents from Europe to Asia and South America, diners will discover a mélange of imaginative delicacies from various terroirs.
With a sharing concept by Head Chef David Hartwig and Sous and Pastry Chef Arne Riehn, guests are spoiled for choice, and both set and a la carte menus offer some surprise selections.
Chef David says, “With a structure and guideline for the concepts and creations, our menu starts with snacks, cold and hot appetizers, main courses, desserts and the Candy Store. We keep our DNA and flavour profiles while sourcing local ingredients and adapting our styles and techniques. Here we have the luxury of geographic locations, with exotic fruits and incredible herbs. We also use seasonal, organic, good quality produce from small farmers and producers in Thailand. However, we are not cooking Swiss food but Modern European, without heavy, starchy dishes like rich, strong polenta or potatoes. Only the cheese course is authentically Swiss. To keep it interesting, we constantly evolve with new and changing menus.”
Trained in handcrafted artisanal bakery, Chef Arne also has his hands full here. He adds, “The process of creativity can come from our memory, like something we ate or cooked before. We use traditional techniques based in Central Europe but make it light and modern. We have the basis, such as foie gras or a salad dressing, but we can decide to alternate produce or add other flavours. It’s up to us. What we want people to get from IGNIV is that it’s casual, relaxed and modern, not sticking to one country’s heritage—not completely French, Italian, or German cuisine, but inspired food.”
Fidelis Fäßlerr from IGNIV Zürich explains “We want our guests to relax here without having to dress up. Just come to enjoy the food. Sharing dishes takes away the stiffness. Thais already know how to eat and appreciate this style. IGNIV in Europe has become famous for this idea and guests have learned to embrace it.”
In the set menu, diners will savour 18 delectable morsels. After this curated culinary experience, one will feel like a well-fed bowerbird. Chefs David and Arne have incorporated their unique characters into the signature dishes from start to finish, such as Mango Cornetto, Chicken Nuggets, Chocolate Soufflé, and Shaved Ice. Chef Arne says, “Inspired by patbingsu, we serve jasmine tea-flavoured shaved ice dressed with honey from Chiang Mai and yuzu.”
Other highlights from this extensive episode include addictive almonds covered with liver and beetroot powder; well-balanced foie gras with duck mousse and jackfruit served with brioche; truly scrumptious beef tartare with sunchoke and hazelnuts; and simply executed Hamachi with celery and smoke. Pork with barbeque and plum bursts with robust flavours. Basil sorbet with white chocolate and lime is exceptionally refreshing among all the tasty desserts. Two surprise dishes of agnolotti in beurre blanc and truffles and eggs with truffles perfectly capture the added aromas.
Wine lovers are in for a rare treat with IGNIV’s wine list, proudly featuring Swiss wines from boutique winemakers in Bünder Herrschaft. This scenic wine-growing region is located in the northernmost corner of Graubünden, where Chef Andreas hails from. Its centre is the town of Maienfeld, home of Heidi, the world-famous children’s book character. Nothing is as indisputably Swiss as this. Its complex and refined Blauburgunder or Pinot Noir wines are excellent and popular. Various vintners let their finest wine mature in barrels and achieve top honours at international tastings. These labels are primarily for the European market, while only about 1% gets exported. Focusing on big bottles for the feeling of sharing, guests can try different types of good quality wine by the glass. Head Sommelier Yongyuth Udompat expertly recommends spontaneous, free-style wine pairing provisional to preference.
At the signature Candy Store, IGNIV presents guests with parting gifts. Oscar Wilde’s saying “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it” is the best way for grown-ups to behave before leaving. Just indulge in a bit of everything. Chef Arne’s wicked confections—including chocolates, fruit jellies, chocolate-covered hazelnuts, macarons, madeleines, canelés, and pan forte—will keep delighting diners in the comfort of their own nests.
The St. Regis Bangkok, 159 Rajadamri Road, Bangkok 10330, Tel: +66 (0) 22077822
Wednesday to Sunday for lunch (12 noon-3pm, last order 2pm) and dinner (6-11pm, last order 9:30pm)
A Bangkok-born and internationally bred aesthete, Dr Tom Vitayakul has written two columns for Bangkok 101: “Tom’s Two Satang” on Thai culture and society and “Now/New/Next” on global creative minds and artistic souls. In his epicurean nature and bon vivant spirit, he gets equally enthusiastic about fiery street food and the refinement of gourmet dining.