Seasonal specialties enliven Bangkok’s fine dining scene
Wouldn’t we all want every restaurant to be like this? The food is much fancier than the décor, the creativity unannounced, the staff solicitous without being obnoxious, the chef humble and boyish or better yet, nowhere to be seen, the final result all much better in the tongue than they sound on the written menu, that menu so straightforward and unvarnished that one can’t choose wrong.
Le Du, housed down a Chong Nonsi alley in a 70s-style room with its low glittery ceilings most reminiscent of a failing hotel’s struggling lobby, sounds like a French restaurant, but in fact, it’s a play on the Thai word for “seasonal”—which is exactly what its dishes are.
While his empire has expanded since, and a planned second-floor for the place hopefully won’t cause the casual atmosphere to yield to unchecked ambitions, this is the first and favourite offspring of Chef Thitid ‘Ton’ Thassanakajohn, who returned from culinary school and apprenticeships in some of New York’s highest-ranked establishments (Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, etc.) to enliven and re-invigorate Thailand’s previously stuffy fine dining scene.
Un-stuff, he has, as first to last bite of his tasting menu reveals (B2,590 for seven dishes, B1,290 for four). But such a menu isn’t entirely necessary as the à la carte menu is laid out plainly through headings referring to main ingredients only: Barracuda (B400), Wild Mushroom (B400), Pineapple (B250) and so on.
Such simplicity is deceptive, however, which is perhaps the main aim of Chef Ton’s craft, as well as trickery. In the manner of haute cuisine’s main worldwide trend, that combination of inherited inspiration from Tetsuya to tapas, the handmade pottery dishes are small wonders of concentrated combinations: chili gel and spicy cilantro granite on a single, perhaps overlarge oyster, raw squid informed with Thai herbs and lemon gel, the aforementioned barracuda combined with pomelo bits and “Siam tulips”, whatever they are. A beef tenderloin (B1,290), already succulent, is actually improved by young coconut shoots and a hint of green curry. Here, the Thai-ness is brought out only when needed and not for the sake of bragging. Further details are probably not required, since the current offerings have no doubt changed, as they do often.
Oddly enough, it’s only with desserts that the Chef goes full-on. A pork blood pudding with basil ice cream? Even dill ice cream? Lychee panna cotta? Refreshingly, nothing about these menu items is a platform for showing off. It’s all for flavour, and to make best use of the seasons—such as they present themselves in Thailand to someone who knows how to carefully source.
This is not 101’s first review of Le Du, nor will it be the last. Instead, cooking like this deserves repeat mentions and visits.
By Johh Krich
399/3, Silom Soi 5
Tel: 092 919 9969 | Open: Mon-Sat, 6pm-10pm | www.ledubkk.com