Relying on great ingredients rather than dining table showmanship
When Bunker was still in the planning stages two years ago, all I knew was that Eat Me’s famed head chef Tim Butler was involved, and that he and his collaborators were converting a multi-storied wreck tucked away at the end of Sathorn Soi 12.
In a bold move, they brought in chef Arnold Marcella—like Tim Butler, a New Yorker who trained in Michelin-starred eateries—to create the dining concept. Meanwhile designer Kelly Wheatley of Lump Company kitted out the angled cement rooms with his signature minimal interior architecture and original furniture designs of recycled wood and steel, and vintage textiles.
Besides installing a large bar downstairs, the team employed the considerable talents of Andreas Pergher, an American sommelier whose Argentine father immersed him in wine-drinking culture of Mendoza from an early age.
I enjoyed the impressive results of their efforts early in Bunker’s opening phase last year: simple, great-tasting dishes with a few sly twists but no forced mystery, a cuisine that relies on great ingredients handled extremely well rather than dining table showmanship. Being more of a Sathorn explorer than a Sukuhumvit zombie, I expected to become a regular but it wasn’t until the menu was extensively revised two months ago that I made it back.
Pergher arranged a wine pairing of six vintages, including an opening glass of Tattinger Champagne Brut NV to go with a dish of madai snapper in red kombucha—a very fine start. Scallops with coconut and coriander followed, mated with a nice, light 2014 Ca del Frati I Frati (Italy).
The next dish, simply called ‘Locally Grown’, was the first mind-blower of the evening. Carefully composed of 30 different seasonal roots and vegetables acquired through local markets, it felt like something I should be eating in a forest meadow, surrounded by a circle of elves smiling with approval.
“We have our own forager, a woman named Chin who also works for Chili Paste food tours, and she’s always bringing us great new stuff,” says Marcella.
At this point the dining experience morphed into a polyphonic thrill of sensually rendered familiar flavours, well-selected wines, and animated conversation. This is Bunker doing what it does best: seducing rather than challenging; engaging rather than stupefying; and bringing otherwise “serious eaters” together for a mutual buzz.
One à la carte classic still on the menu (but, according to Marcella, slightly reformulated) is Foie Gras Dumplings, with mushrooms, garlic froth, and scallions. Foie gras is often a bit rich for my tastes, but wrapping it in a dumpling counter-balances the fatty sweetness in a Soho-meets-Chinatown kind of way. And with it came the most interesting wine of the evening, a 2015 Rogue Vines ‘Jamon Jamon’ Orange (Chile).
Skipping ahead to the final plates, we’re smiling happily at the first fork-stab of a New York strip of Australian Wagyu in sunchoke purée and malted coffee. Pergher slams it home with a nice fat 2014 Achaval Ferrer Malbec (Argentina).
We finish with three amazing desserts from resident American pastry chef Elle Cowan. My overwhelming favourite, Banana Rum Baba, bolsters the classic French-style rum-soaked cake with candied puffed barley, banana toffee ice cream, and caramelized bananas.
It feels to me like the Bunker kitchen crew is just hitting its stride. I’ve already been back for a New York-style ‘Little Italy’ feast, and await other interesting turns in their strange and beautiful American highway.
By Joe Cummings/CPA Media
118/2 Soi Suksa (Sathorn Soi 12)
Tel: 02 234 7749
Open daily: 6 pm-midnight