American chef Dan Ivarie was a pioneer in Bangkok. His menu at Jester’s in 1999 was the city’s first successful modern European cuisine and he followed with more of the same, opening the kitchens at Bed Supperclub. So it was a surprise when he launched Long Table with a Thai menu.
“Well, Thai cooking is fun,” he says. “But apart from that, in Bangkok you can be more easily progressive with Thai cuisine, because you’re working with dishes your kitchen staff already know. So, at Long Table, we have basically traditional Thai recipes, but often with classic European presentation or cooking techniques. It’s a melding of cultures.”
A good example is the green curry, where the chicken forms a traditional French ballotine, wrapped around spicy sausage meat. Another is the signature dish: the steamed seabass with ginger, mushrooms and herb jus (right).
He fillets the seabass, removes the skin and wraps it French style around a centimetre-thick piece of royal oyster mushroom, chosen because it will cook at the same rate as the fish. It’s secured with a cocktail stick. Then it goes for six minutes into a large, heavy-doored computerised steamer.
Asparagus spears complete the sculpture, which sits on a small base of pumpkin purée. The lake of jus made from a raft of ingredients including sautéed ginger, garlic, chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce and rice wine vinegar, is flecked with fresh coriander. Low on calories, the delicate, moist fish and light sauce are a perfect choice for the health-conscious.
Dan also cooks a special from next month’s Christmas menu: seared foie gras with green mango salad. As it cooks, he mixes green mango, coriander, shallots, ground prawns and ground peanuts into a bowl with sweet and sour sauce, and then pops the mix into ring moulds to make perfect circles.
“This is an imitation of exploded catfish salad,” he says. “I only want it warm all the way through. The moulds are great for volume. They make it quick and easy to control the salad and it looks really nice.”
The foie gras goes on top, and the tiny prawns traditional to Thai salads are ground into prawn powder and sprinkled on the surface. Dan drops a blob of salted, duck egg curry sauce on the plate and, with the back of a spoon, turns it into an arty smear. Then the lemongrass – mangled and fried, like exploded catfish – goes on the crown like an unruly haircut.
There are so many flavours – creamy liver, gamey duck egg, the sweet and sour, hits of coriander – they form constantly surprising combinations in the mouth. It’s just very good food.
By Howard Richardson