It’s not uncommon for a restaurant to boast about where it sources its products. But how many can claim a chef who knocks on doors in Italy and makes friends with farmers in Spain to ensure he’s using only the finest ingredients?
After their success at Vesper on Soi Convent, the husband-and-wife team of Choti Leenutaphong and Debby Tang once again collaborated with Chef Luca Appino (La Bottega di Luca, Pizza Massilia) for their latest venture, Il Fumo, a contemporary Italian restaurant and cocktail bar located in a converted house on Rama IV. Odds are after one bite of smoke-laced Rubia Gallega beef you’ll understand just why the chef went the extra mile—make that 5000 miles—to get his mitts on the meat.
At Il Fumo (meaning “smoke” in Italian), the premise is simple: to get the purest flavours out of products using the oldest form of cooking—a wood-charcoal grill. Every day head chef Walter D’ambrosio and his team make their own charcoal, then using wood specially imported from Italy for cooking. Cherry for the meats, olive for the fish, and almond wood for prawns and other delicate items. That may seem excessive, but the devil is in the details. If so much care is taken in simply choosing the fuel for the fire, and such great lengths travelled to find ingredients, then the results are going to be worth it, right?
Correct. The 42-month-aged prosciutto di Mora Romagnola from the Ca’ Lamuco farm in Italy is testament to that (B990). As is the octopus tentacle, grilled over almond wood and served with a smooth purée made from potatoes cooked under the ash of the grill (B690). But really, it’s all about the beef. It’s hard to walk past the glass, trophy case-like meat chiller near the dining room without your mouth starting to water. Il Fumo proudly waves the banner as the first place in town offering Rubia Gallega, high-grade beef from Spanish cattle currently raved about in London restaurants, but long a secret of Spain (B490/100g prime striploin; B540/100g dry-aged prime rib). The depth of flavour is unreal. Kissed by flame and infused with charcoal’s aroma, it becomes truly special.
Choti is keen to reiterate that Il Fumo is more than just a steakhouse, and he’s right. Cutting through a fillet with a knife custom-made in a small town called Scerpia near Florence—a result of yet more door-knocking from Appino—not to mention experimenting with the four kinds of salt brought to the table with four different mustards, yet again proves that it’s all down to the finest grains of detail here.
The “Charcoal” end of Il Fumo’s arrangement is well and truly covered, but coming from the award-winning bar team at Vesper, they’ve got the “Cocktail” down, too. Clearly separated from the spacious dining room is an intimate drinking den. The focus here is on reviving forgotten gems. (For the wine inclined, there’s a large list of New and Old World labels, too.) Sitting at the huge marble bar, sipping on a Sazerac (B420) and perusing the encyclopaedia-like drinks list is like a trip back to the belle époque.
There are two sides to Il Fumo. Charcoal and cocktail. Go for the charcoal, stay for a cocktail.
1098/2 Rama IV Rd | 02 286 8833 | ilfumo.co | Mon – Sat 6pm–1am, kitchen open until 11.30pm
By Matty Dyas