Joan Tanya Dot talks with Keith McCarthy
Towering fifty-four floors above Rajaprasong junction, Uno Mas, the stylish tapas bar located atop the Centara Grand at CentralWorld, gazes out from soaring heights onto Bangkok’s upscale shopping and business district. And the man behind this sky-scraping restaurant’s authentic, kaleidoscopic menu—restaurant manager and Chef de Cuisine Joan Tanya Dot—couldn’t be more suited for the job.
The Catalonia-born Chef Joan’s lifelong love for cooking was cultivated in his native history-steeped region. He began his education in Barcelona, where he was certified a Master Chef by the renowned Escola Bell Art before moving on to specialist Mediterranean cuisine training at the world famous Escola Hofmann Michelin Star restaurant school. At Uno Mas, he has curated an impressively expansive and diverse menu of tapas and main dishes made with select, premium imported ingredients with which he has authentically recreated the rich culinary heritage of his homeland. As he tells it, “We want to make our guests feel as though they are in a small part of Spain, but right here in Thailand.”
Tapas, of course, are assorted traditional Spanish finger foods and light fare dishes favoured at informal social gatherings. But more than the food itself, tapas evokes a kind of diners’ camaraderie, a feeling of satisfaction that comes from sharing good food among friends, while the restaurant’s name itself is Spanish for “one more.” It’s in the spirit of this culinary tradition that I join Chef Joan for a sampling of his exceptional cooking skills, starting with the escalivada (B390)—crusty bread rounds topped with roasted vegetables and anchovy, and a trio of plump Tsarskaya oysters on half shell (B250/pc.) with condiments of fried onion, chilli paste, and Hendrick’s gin sauce.
The thinly sliced, exquisite quality jamón ibérico “Bellota Gran Reserva” ham (B940) simply melts in the mouth, and can be popped on top of the above-mentioned escalivada for an alluring flavour and texture blend.
Also worth mentioning are the traditional-style breads which serve as edible pedestals for the various morsels and dainties the chef produces, like the crystal bread that’s tucked beneath the tomato, garlic, and olive oil used in the pa amb tomaquet (B90), and the ceviche of king prawn (B390), with its delightfully tangy flavour that nicely punctuates the heavier dishes.
Along with these finger foods, Chef Joan introduces what he calls “a sort of ‘foie gras of the sea,’” a cod liver confit featuring a rich, smooth texture created by slow poaching the generously sized fish giblet in olive oil. In whipping up his version of the iconic rice-seafood melange paella (B1290), the Catalan cook reveals that he uses the stout, barrel-shaped, and unfortunately named bomba (“bomb”) rice for a practical reason other than its firm texture and great taste. “The bomba absorbs the fish stock [in which it is cooked] much better than other rice,” he says. Served the traditional way, in a large cooking pan, the dish combines picada sauce, almonds, garlic, chicken, cockles, scampi, mussels, and baby squid.
Another signature Uno Mas mains feature, “Conchinillo” suckling pig (B1490/half) is brought tableside by the chef himself, who in serving it indulges in a bit of Hellenic-style theatre. The tender pork is complemented by the perfectly browned, cracker-crisp skin, and comes with a variety of sauces, including Canary Islands specialty green mojo sauce, red paprika sauce, and Thai-style nam jeem jao. Wielding an ordinary plate, he cuts pork into sections before dramatically sending the plate crashing into a nearby wooden box. “This is not part of our tradition; I do it to show that it is a real plate,” he admits.
Despite the liberal use of typically strong flavours, Chef Joan’s creations are clean tasting, with subtle, uncluttered flavours derived from the same cooking elements used in the original dishes, which are individually discernible but never overpowering.
“Simplicity is the best approach—my aim is to introduce Spanish cuisine to local diners using the very best traditional ingredients available.”
These include hard-to-find, origin-sourced foods such as Arbequina olive oil from Catalonia; jamón ibérico from the world’s leading maker, Joselito; bitter and spicy Verona chocolate; pimentón de la vera from Spain’s renowned paprika-producing Extremadura region; and appellation breed Iberian roasting pig.
With its vast menu of palate-bedazzling Spanish specialties and unobstructed 54th-floor city vistas, UNO MAS offers an exciting, uncommonly real-deal Ibero-Mediterranean dining experience not to be missed—certainly not with Chef Joan at the table.
54F, Centara Grand @ CentralWorld, Rama I Rd | 0 2100 6255 | unomasbangkok.com | daily 4pm-1am
By Keith McCarthy