Christian Martena, formerly the chef at the wine bar Opus, recently opened his own place, Sensi, in the back lanes off Narathiwat. You enter the converted wooden house through heavy double doors, arriving in a handsome main room with a divided section at the back. Another separate area has an open kitchen and a long wooden chef’s table that seats eight to ten people. This can be booked by a group or shared communally.
Pastel pillars and walls faced with grooved wood that look somewhere between candy- and pin-striped wallpaper lend a Parisian elegance, along with the countless mirrors and windows framed in dark wood. Conversation bounces off the glass – a chattering energy that all but smothers the loungey Sade-esque soundtrack. Bold, colourful paintings by Elizabeth Romhild add to the vibrancy.
Outside, there’s a cosy area for pre-dinner drinks with a couple of tables under a large tree; the space will be developed into a gastrobar later in the year.
Along with the short a la carte menu, Christian also offers a seven-course degustation menu (B1980-B2390) that changes daily, depending on produce and the mood he’s in. Throughout, though, there is a consistent echo from his experience working in some of Paris’s top restaurants, while still adopting a more expansive approach to modern European cuisine.
Early courses included seabass carpaccio, presented in a glass storage jar that releases a plume of smoked apple wood upon lifting the lid. Later dishes were even more refined – the Canadian lobster in white wine sauce with homemade pasta has a nice restrained spark of chilli, and looks appetising on the plate, with the pink shell for display but the flesh served loose, and has just enough tasty, light sauce packed with tomatoes and fresh basil. It’s delicious.
Firm and meaty Dover sole arrives next, with zucchini, asparagus and artichoke, and a nicely balanced sharp-sweet lemon sauce, followed by a tender, medium-rare New Zealand lamb chop, beautifully cooked, with an a la grilla charcoal quality. The accompanying red grape reduction has halved grapes which offers up pops of fleshy juice, while sautéed spinach adds an intriguing offset.
We ended with a dessert of deconstructed tiramisu, well executed, with mascarpone served in a chocolate sphere with amaretti crumbles on the side, the sphere melted by pouring hot coffee over the top. The trick here is to make sure the coffee flavour is concentrated enough – it was – and to not use so much that it destroys the crumbles. It was spot on.
Sensi at its best is an impressive, innnovative newcomer, sophisticated but with a relaxed, lively atmosphere. It should develop nicely – alongside an area that is quickly emerging as one of the city’s hottest dining precincts – and is well worth a visit for those eager to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to Bangkok’s restaurants.
Narathiwat Soi 17, Yaek 5 | 02-117-1618
facebook.com/sensibangkok | Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight