Supremely talented chef looks to home for nostalgic inspiration
Few restaurant settings in the city rival The House on Sathorn, set in a charming colonial mansion that was built in 1888, during the reign King Rama V, and underwent extensive renovations in the 2000s (re-opening as part of the W Hotel Bangkok in 2015).
The chef at the helm of The Dining Room, twice featured on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, is Fatih Tutak. A Turkish native, Chef Fatih has spent much of his professional career in Asia, honing his skills in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with a stint at the revolutionary Noma, Copenhagen as well. Here in Bangkok he keeps things rooted in the Ottoman canon, experimenting with tastes, textures, and temperatures in a 10-course—although expect more—Tasting Menu (B3,600), often fusing Turkish cuisine with Asian ingredients.
Take, for instance, an introduction of mezes and a rapid-fire of five courses leaping from Mediterranean black mussels, to Australian Wagyu short rib, to a çılbır (Turkish poached egg) with chilli oil. These dainty starters are meticulously prepared and plated in front of me—I managed to bag a seat at the counter—as a series of chefs cook to order: The beef is charcoal-smoked, plump sea urchin is placed on bitesize rolled cabbage, while other tasty morsels are topped with beluga caviar.
Japanese tomatoes are glazed with a pomegranate reduction to complete a course titled ‘Childhood Summers’, inspired by Chef Fatih’s memories of youth. Similar nostalgia runs through ‘From my Mum’, a Turkish manti dumpling—minus the meat—with mint butter and kaymak; homemade ketchup accompanies, consisting of five different types of tomato. Plates are served by Chef Fatih, through a childish, if a little braggadocio, grin, as he reveals delight and emotion in each creation.
‘Calamar Dolma’ stretches the capabilities of squid with delicious results, artistically using the body, tentacles, and black ink, while ‘Bosphorus Tandir’ poaches a turbot to perfection alongside a baby artichoke styled as a rosebud and stem. All accompanied by a glass or five of Australian Chandon Brut fizz (B420).
Service is attentive, with plates presented in front of me, and empties taken away from behind or next to me (at various intervals, a hand appears from behind, or reaches around my waist, to remove something). As for the cooking, I found it bold and brave, introducing modern Turkish cuisine to Thailand—without any döner meat or burger sauce in sight.
Much of the cooking is rooted in memory, Chef Fatih recalling his mother’s home cooking and visits he made to the spice markets of Istanbul with his grandmother. You instantly feel a connection, finding pleasure in the stories of his childhood, before recalling your own. Good food does this, it raises a smile and sends you scuttling through time.
Turkish food is long overdue an international ambassador. In the country itself you can find chefs cooking with flair, but broader afield the cuisine lacks the understanding of many. Chef Fatih could well be the man to unveil it to the world, but first, he’s concentrating on lucky Bangkok. By David J. Constable
The Dining Room at The House on Sathorn
W Bangkok, 106 North Sathorn Rd.
Open daily: 6pm-10:30pm
Tel: 02 344 4025