Much has been written about the grinding life of chefs: all those long hours, the pressure to perform, the frenetic testing ground of tight kitchens during dinner rush. But Theo Randall, the calmly measured, carefully groomed chef known mostly for work at the successful River Café, seems to be leading a charmed existence. Calling himself “an Englishman with an Italian soul,” this straying Londoner has constructed a profession that gives him boundless excuses to explore the regions of Italy—its best wines, olive oils, sausages, and cheeses—three or four times a year. In his spare time, he tests out new pasta combos for his keep-it-simple cookbooks. A tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
Even putting together specialties in the narrow galleys of the open kitchen at Theo Mio, which has taken over Grossi’s ground-floor space at the InterContinental Hotel, this newest of Bangkok’s celebrity chefs hardly breaks a sweat. He deftly uses tongs to pluck fresh-made strands of taglierini from the pot before they’ve gone soft. Next, he drops the noodles into a pan with crab meat and fresh stock, adding starchy pasta water by the spoonful (Taglerini al Granchio: B700 /B1050). “This helps your sauce emulsify. Never drain off your pasta,” he insists, as generous with secrets as he is with Parmigiano.
A touch of chilli and lime are added as a concession to Thai palates. But no cheese, thankfully, appears on any of Theo Mio’s fish. A deep-fried soft-shell crab and parsley go on top of his instant masterpiece.
The food, like the mood, is meant to be fun and light. “The inspiration for the cooking begins with the ingredient,” he declares. It’s a lesson he learned during a stint at Chez Panisse, the famed California restaurant that began the trend of emphasizing the origins of their products. As a result, the menu is heavier on seafood than its equivalent in the U.K. He unwraps and shows off a slab of bottarga, the pungent dried fish roe popular in the south of Italy. “Thais should really love this,” he says.
And, of course, they must try his award-winning cappelletti, a rustic version of a kind of veal tortellini (B420). Or dive in to a sourdough Prosciutto di Parma pizza (B450) and, after that, a classic dry almond cake, topped with poached guava and mascarpone (B250).
“In every dish, you’ve got to taste the soul,” Randall insists. At Theo Mio, it’s a good bet you will at least get a flavourful dose of his good luck.
GF, InterContinental Bangkok | 0 2656 0444 | facebook.com/theomioitaliankitchen | daily 7.30am-midnight
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