Having people in the kitchen is what Tables Grill is all about. It has cooking stations around the room, so diners can get up close to the action, and it’s here that I’m meeting chef Michel Eschmann, between lunch and dinner service, so he can show me how to make Boston lobster bisque.
“We prepare it in the afternoon,” he says, “because the smell is too strong to have in the restaurant during service.”
He heats a spoonful of olive oil in a large pan and throws in chunks of lobster shell, tiny bits of flesh still attached. Steam rises as it begins to roast.
“Oil absorbs the keratin, which contains the red colour,” Michel explains. “Water won’t absorb it. And it also creates a nice roast aroma – the longer you roast it, the more flavourful the soup.”
Sticky bits are already forming on the bottom of the pan. The chef adds two-centimeter pieces of carrot and celery, and, after another minute, shallots and onion. “We cut them a little bigger because the soup must cook for several hours. With fish stock they would be smaller, as that only takes 20 minute. Any longer and the fishbone starts to turn bitter.”
After another three minutes, in goes chopped leek; then, a minute later, tomato purée and a single clove of garlic. Now Michel adds white wine. It sizzles as it hits the surface of the pan, and he starts to deglaze, scraping off all the tasty, sticky bits accumulated there. A caramelised aroma fills the air.
“When the wine has reduced,” he says, “we add tomato, fresh tarragon, bay leaf and fish stock. We don’t use lobster stock because the flavour of lobster would be too strong.”
After two hours simmering, Michel strains the soup, then binds it with a roux of butter and flour. The dish is finished in the restaurant during that evening’s service. The chef places two cubes of butter in a saucepan with salt and pepper and small pieces of pre-cooked lobster meat. Large flames leap from the pan as he pours on a large tablespoon of flambéed cognac. Now he puts in the stock. “It’s a little dark, so we add one or two tablespoons of cream, which also enhances the flavour.”
To serve he pours in another small spoon of cognac, not flambéed, then spoons the broth over whipping cream sitting in the bottom of a soup bowl. A quick sweep of the spoon leaves a surface swirl of cream. A garnish of chopped fresh chives, and it’s ready to eat.
It has lovely depth in the mouth: the velvety cream, a hit of alcohol, sweet meat and the intense flavour of lobster. The remnants of charring give an almost bitter edge and there’s the lingering richness of butter. A traditional dish, traditionally cooked, and such a pleasure to eat.
Grand Hyatt Erawan, 494 Ratchadamri Rd | 0 2254 1234 | bangkok.grand.hyatt.com
Mon-Sat noon-2.30pm, Sun brunch 10.30am-2pm, daily 6.30pm-10pm.
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