Bangkok’s Italian restaurants have long touted the cuisines of Rome, Naples, and Sardinia, and now Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance, comes along with a nice surprise.
Chef Francesco Lenzi hails from the Tuscan province of Pisa, where he started to show a talent for cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen at the age of 12. When a stint in Rome with the Italian film industry – which included a job with famed director Bernardo Bertolucci – didn’t pan out, Lenzi returned to his original passion and completed a professional chef’s training course in the Italian capital. He continued to train in restaurants in Rome and Tuscany before traveling to Thailand for a vacation, where by happy circumstance he walked into a position cooking for Swissotel.
The young chef moved on to head the kitchen at highly acclaimed Opus Wine Bar, where his local fan base originally took hold. From there Hotel Muse invited Lenzi to start Medici, a new restaurant occupying the entire lower floor of the boutique hotel. While at Medici, Lenzi competed in the Thai edition of Iron Chef, which brought him to the attention of Thai gastronomes throughout the capital and beyond.
In late 2014 the 35-year-old chef partnered his father to open Lenzi’s Tuscan Kitchen, where he found himself in complete control of everything from the décor to the wine cellar. With the help of an Italian designer, he has transformed a large 1970s-era residence on Ruam Rudee Soi 2 into a refined yet comfortable dining haven of understated elegance.
A colour scheme alternating raw sienna and burnt sienna – originally mineral pigments named for the Tuscan province of Siena – combine with wood-plank floors, pillars and staircase to provide a warm, semi-traditional vibe. A lifelong movie fan, Lenzi says, “I want dining here to be a cinematic experience,” and to that end the restaurant’s spacious entry opens up with views of the bar, walk-in wine cellar, open kitchen, and dining areas to either side of the foyer.
Lenzi sources many ingredients from his native Tuscany, including fresh white truffles from San Miniato, when available in October and November. All hams and salami come from Antica Norcineria, a farm and salumeria founded by Lenzi’s grand-uncle in the Garfagnana region, just outside Lucca. Lenzi believes products from this farm include the best hams available in Bangkok.
Keeping that in mind, the Tagliere del Lenzi (B420 to B790 depending on size), a wooden cutting board heaped with ham and salami from the family farm, is the best way to start a meal here. The contents vary from time to time but may include biroldo (blood sausage made from pig’s head and seasoned with wild fennel and other spices), prosciutto toscano (Tuscan-style ham dry-cured with sea salt, pepper and aromatic herbs) and mortadella con tartufo (sausage dotted with cubes of fat and truffle). Wedges of pecorino, Tuscany’s semi-soft aged sheep’s cheese, and parmesan (the only cheese served at Lenzi’s that doesn’t hail from Tuscany) come alongside.
Another irresistible starter, Carpaccio de Branzino (B520), combines delicate slices of raw sea bass with pink pepper, smoked rock salt and mandarin orange.
Moving into the pasta realm, the dish of homemade ravioli (B520) stuffed with rich foie gras and ricotta and coated in a creamy truffle emulsion is delightful. Risotto aficionados will also rejoice in slow-cooked carnaroli rice (B490) with parmesan, prawns, strawberry emulsion and 12-year-old balsamic.
Agnello alla Rossini (B1290), medallions of lamb loin layered with San Miniato truffle and pan-fried foie gras, is easily the most sinfully exquisite main course on the menu. Meat-lovers may also enjoy Lenzi’s version of Florentine steak (B2400), a nicely grilled aged Australian T-bone served with roast potatoes. Pera Cotta Nel Forna (B280), pear halves poached in the wood-fired oven and served with a rich oval of chocolate gelato, makes for a decadent finish.
The walk-in wine cellar at Lenzi’s offers over a hundred Italian labels, including three whites and three reds by the glass. L’Ino San Patrignano (B1900), a beautiful Tuscan red made with 100 percent cabernet franc is excellent, as is Casanova di Neri Rosso di Montalcino (B2300), a more traditional Tuscan chianti made with sangiovese grapes.
Ruam Rudee Soi 2 | 0 2001 0116 | lenzibangkok.com | Mon-Sat 11.45am-2pm, 6pm -10.45pm