Bangkok is, naturally enough, best known for its Thai food, with other Asian cuisines not far behind. But these days, European food – French or Italian – is booming, particularly when served with a twist. It’s almost as though taking these old-world staples and dropping them into an Asian culinary hub has given restaurateurs licence to experiment, update and adapt. So it is with Scalini – it’s ostensibly a modern Italian place but it riffs on a New York connection, while borrowing bits and pieces from the international table.
So, in short, it’s Italian with enough surprises to satisfy the curious diner. It’s apparent from the antipastis, which include a tuna and salmon tartar, with lemon aioli, mango salad and seared ciabatta (B450, below right) – retaining a Mediterranean base while adding lighter, Asian-influenced combinations. Other dishes stay closer to home, such as the Wagyu beef carpaccio, with porcini salsa, rocket and parmesan, served with white truffle vinaigrette (B570, main image). The rich, satisfying taste of Italian food has an extra layer of complexity. That’s more or less the brief for all modern cuisine – taking the familiar and refining it, heightening it. And it’s on show again with the Hokkaido scallops, served here with celery, red onion, tomatoes, basil and cherry vinaigrette (B480).
These adventurously designed openers set the bar high so it’s perversely pleasing that the pastas tack slightly more toward the traditional, although the pumpkin and sage ravioli (B380) still has a surprisingly delicate flavour and the duck ragout with black truffle and tonino pecorino (B600) is one of the absolute stand-outs, moist without becoming soupy, retaining a kick without being overbearing. So far, this balancing act has worked a treat – the concept is clear but it’s still all about the food.
It proves slightly harder to adapt this approach to the larger, heavier mains, though. Both the braised veal ossobuco (B980) and the veal rack with mortadello ham and provolone (B980) are confidently presented but are slightly too straightforward in terms of flavour – in letting the produce speak for itself, there’s a risk of leaving some dishes a touch underseasoned. Still, the concept is a winner and if the execution of the smaller dishes can be replicated across the board, Scalini’s will thrive.
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Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok, 11 Sukhumvit Soi 24 02-620 6666 | hilton.com | Noon-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm