There’s plenty that appeals about Whale’s Belly, this modern European, seafood-heavy eatery up on the labyrinthine part of Sukhumvit Soi 39. The high-ceilinged interior is upscale without being unnecessarily formal, well-lit without stripping the place of all warmth. In light of this, the seafaring theme seems a little unnecessary, a gimmick for a restaurant that would do just fine without one.
There are times when the food raises a similar question: the produce and execution is excellent overall yet the temptation to go overboard sometimes proves irresistible. There is such a thing as modern for the sake of modern.
Among the starters, the Atlantic bluefin tuna tartare (B380) comes with apple jelly, horseradish mayo, buttered crouton, lime zest and a sweet and sour reduction. The pan-fried Hokkaido scallop with foie gras (B590) is served in black agnolotti with cumin-scented carrot puree, micro-greens and champagne sauce.
Both dishes deliver an impressive combination but are also examples of how dishes can be over-engineered, perhaps with one element too many. The high points at Whale’s Belly come when the dishes are pared down. The inventiveness and technique on show at Whale’s Belly is laudable but it’s when the focus is narrowed that it really hits its stride.
For example, the slow-braised Wagyu beef cheek (B850) is remarkable. Served with a black garlic puree and a side of mash potatoes, peas and pickled radish, this dish has less going on than some of the others but is exceptionally satisfying, the steak coming apart effortlessly, the sauce heightening rather than overshadowing its natural flavour.
Another highlight is the pumpkin risotto and duck ragout served with rocket – the stew is rich in flavour but the dish overall retains a welcome lightness. Again, brilliantly executed without a trendy spurt of foam in sight.
The seafood mains also worth exploring – the Chilean seabass (B890), which comes with an orange miso emulsion, sauteed black truffle and nasturtiums teriyaki sauce is the stand-out. And, for all our carping about the indulgences of modern cuisine, that orange miso emulsion is a revelation. Just this once, we stand corrected.
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2F 39 Boulevard Tower, 41 Sukhumvit Soi 39
02-160-0333 | whales-belly.com | 5.30pm-11pm