Farm-to-table fare with a Michelin star touch
Sunday, 6pm, at the beginning of the month, and there is a close-to-the-end-of-the-weekend lull even by Bangkok standards. Yet, as you round one of the many twists and turns along Soi Phrom Chit (off Sukhumvit Soi 39) lo and behold there sits Cocotte Farm Roast & Winery—just what the food doctor ordered!
Even at this early hour the buzz of happy dining is in the air and the tempo rises as joyful diners feast on tomahawk steaks and rotisserie chicken. For those not familiar with Cocotte, “yes”, it is absolutely fabulous and “yes”, you are missing out.
For someone in his early 20s, Executive Chef and Partner Jeriko Van der Wolf comes from good stock—Michelin star restaurant stock that is. Grand as that may be, what is more impressive is how this French gourmand has created dishes that are not in the style of a Michelin restaurant, instead putting comfort food at the heart of his menu.
“It’s difficult to do a tasty dish in a fancy way, and for the sake of flavour you sometimes have to present simplicity,” he says. “When you create a dish, 50 percent is visual but you have to be careful as the aesthetic can take over the taste and you lose flavour. When I first created the restaurant’s salmon and chorizo dish, I wanted to barbeque the ingredients, which means you cannot cut them into neat cubes. The dish kind of looks a bit messy, but you cannot compare the taste. I had to challenge myself and choose to change the way I cook. If I make a new dish, and it takes too long, then I do it again and simplify it. However, behind the simplicity there is sophistication too.”
The BBQ-baked truffle camembert, with truffle vinaigrette salad and char-grilled bread, is a head-over-heels love affair for foodies. Royal Project vegetables with truffle gouda cheese and roasted corn mousse—another appetizer—is a dish that brims with uplifting new flavours, while the side of truffle mashed potato is quite simply a sublime experience.
“Truffle is a signature ingredient mainly because Thais love it and also because I grew up in Perigord, the home of the truffle in Southwest France,” Chef Jeriko explains. “I also love to cook with my special ingredient, a charcoal Kamado Joe BBQ. You keep it closed and it smokes the food. It’s incredible!”
The locally sourced free-range chicken is perfectly prepared with a special marinade before being turned to crispy-skinned perfection on the rotisserie—tender and moist. Meanwhile the cauliflower cheese gratin and asparagus are satisfyingly moreish. In this restaurant side dishes are not merely main course support acts, but shine in their own right and are presented beautifully in little saucepans. The Stockyard Wagyu rump steak is as soft as expected, but with a wonderfully barbequed edge.
Whilst fusion seems far too “fussy” for Cocotte, the paella-style risotto with Hokkaido scallops is an outright standout—a stand-up-and-take-a-Facebook-photo dish that is better than paella and actually better than risotto too. The sum here is definitely greater than the parts.
Chef Jeriko cooks up dishes that are made with love, organic ingredients, a sense of fun, and some downright sophisticated understanding of what Bangkok diners want. The use of sous vide and complex techniques demonstrates the real cooking skill behind a menu that shouts “flavour, flavour, flavour”. The chicken, for example, spends six hours steeped in a special marinade before being dried and cooked, while the restaurant’s separate delicatessen open kitchen serves up the best Iberico ham.
“The farm-to-table concept is popular, and we source locally where we can, but we are not doing ‘clean food’,” he points out. “When you come to Cocotte we are not here to make you skinny, we are here to make you happy; to have a great time and relax in a more European style with good food and drink. Part of our philosophy is to create dishes that ultimately sell, that people want to eat, and to create an enjoyable experience as well as a great working environment for our team.”
Certainly, a 70 percent dark chocolate lava cake is not exactly a dieter’s choice, and yet Chef Jeriko’s mischievous insistence that it was the best he’d ever tried (a tribute to his former pastry chef) and it would be a shame to miss it, led to my sweet indulgence, with an exquisite banoffee pie chaser.
Cocotte can be a blow-out extravaganza, with some extravagant steaks and wines on the menu, however it is equally appealing as a casual drop-in spot (although you may want to book ahead) where you can chow down with good friends over a glass or two of vino. With an open kitchen, chrome stools, higher-than-high-ceilings and funky design details, the vibe is akin to a busy, hip Spanish bistro you might find in Madrid or Barcelona, with seriously excellent food prepared by a chef who is serious about being a fun-time-foodie.
Interview by Nadia Willan