How does a restaurant become romantic? After all, the primary function of dining out is to sit before a table and fill our bellies. That humans make an elevated art of this is perhaps what most separates us from the apes. And Sensi, a gem hiding in the leafy back alleys of Narathiwas, is no place for apes. A large, high-ceilinged house done up in dimmed lighting and off-maroon colours, filled with bright contemporary art and overlooking a garden, this might be the perfect place for one those special coupling occasions—and it’s Italian to boot.
Romance here has nothing to do with strumming mandolins or kitschy “O Solo Mio” crooning. Likewise, there’s nothing stale about the culinary creations of Chef Christian Martena, formerly of Opus, who, after a stint in Dubai, returned to Bangkok with his lovely wife Clara, who serves as Sensi’s most charming maître d’. Though Martena originally hails from southern Puglia, his food, like his biography, has travelled far beyond the region’s traditionally heavy, tomato-based fare. In fact, most of the dishes upon which he puts his modernist spin are staples of the Italian North: vitello tonnato, pumpkin ravioli, and so on. Served mostly on small, flat black platters, they’re like Joan Miro paintings, strewn with pretty arcs of ground almonds, dried berries, and sauces.
Though there are extensive a la carte choices, most diners are urged to try the tasting menu (five courses B1899; eight courses B2690). This selection shows that modern Italian need not be immune to the ingenuity of the molecular approach. The tri-partite flavours of Caprese salad—tomato, basil, straciatella in place of mozzarella—unite in a single cup of “cappuccino.” Tired of the same old carbonara? Here, there’s no pasta, just a whipped egg in its shell with proper pancetta and gruyere undertones. A veal roast is really veal and done in delectable tidbits. Risotto is boiled to the perfect bite, purposely over-drenched in red wine and finished with a single standing spear of Italian sausage. The wines and desserts are equally well-matched; even the grissini are lighter, half-sliced sticks.
It’s the sort of delightfully delicate cooking that led to Chef Martena being summoned to the palace to prepare food for HRH Queen Sirikit. Best of all, the passion which ends up on the plate begins with the partnership of husband and wife, who are not only devoted to their restaurant, but also to one another, and are more than eager to welcome guests into the romance.
1040 Naradhiwas Soi 17, Yaek 5 | 0 2676 4466 | sensibangkok.com | Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight