Thousands of miles from its native Burgundy, the Lorain family shows us again why France is so famous for its cuisine – at J’Aime in Sathorn!by Alexander Eeckhout
Thousands of miles from Burgundy, in the heart of Bangkok, a French legacy continues. Jean-Michel Lorain’s daughter, Marine, manages J’Aime — the Michelin-star chef’s second restaurant. The name of the restaurant stems from Jean-Michel Lorain’s initials JM, which sounds like the French for “I like” or “I love.” The latter is more suitable.
The restaurant is located on the second floor of Sathorn’s newest hotel, U Sathorn (105 Soi Sathorn 1, Bangkok; Tel: 02 119 4899). As I enter the beautifully decorated dining room, the interior seems classic at first. This is soon corrected when I’m told that the piano hanging from the ceiling is part of the upside-down interior concept. You wouldn’t notice it at first but indeed, the ceiling is the floor with chandeliers forming tables and upside down windows leading to the balcony.
A Lazy Susan for every table seems to be another original idea. Thai people like to share so Jean-Michel added this feature to his restaurant to make the dining experience as comfortable as possible. He also eliminated the army of cutlery that one often finds guarding one’s plate, and offers one fork, knife, and spoon plus chopsticks to go with the Lazy Susan. Used cutlery is removed after each course so guests don’t have to worry which fork or spoon to use.
The inventive interior concepts are a good reflection on the food that the restaurant offers: classic French cooking with an elegant and creative touch.
Marine’s partner in running the restaurant is chef Amerigo Sesti, who–after an impressive career at different high-end kitchens–was trained for a year by Jean-Michel Lorain to take control over his second restaurant’s kitchen. And this leads us to the food.
At J’aime, whether it’s lunch or dinner you’ll enjoy some of the best French cooking in Bangkok. Every dish brings classic French flavors and techniques in an original and modern jacket. The whole is accompanied by an impressive wine list (the Gewürtztraminer from New Zealand is a treat).
I choose the 6-course tasting menu (THB 2880++) and decide to try one of the soups as well. I could have chosen the lobster bisque or the chestnut soup but a good chef should know how to get the simple things right, so I choose what perhaps is the ultimate French comfort dish: onion soup. The onion soup is complemented by slow-cooked veal shank and a crunchy ring of Gruyère cheese resulting in a rich soup packed, dare I say it, with umami.
After the soup I enjoy two bites of ocean in the form of oyster terrine and tuna tartar. An oyster in the form of a terrine makes for an interesting texture and the fresh taste of the tartar together with foam of cucumber is lovely and ends with a peppery finish.
More seafood follows in the form of cod and scallops. The seared Hokkaido scallops are perfectly cooked and the rich flavor of the shellfish is subtly supported by asparagus foam. The cod rests on bed of crabmeat and mashed potatoes but the spicy caramel base gives the dish its kick and makes it complete.
More deliciousness follows with a piece of duck foie gras that is accompanied by baby spinach and a cream of raspberry. The raspberry’s sweetness complements the rich foie gras and its acidity makes the otherwise heavy foie gras surprisingly light and airy. Crispy pork belly comes next but the comforting and delicious flavor of the celeriac and apple puree underneath almost steals the spotlight. The dish is finished with julienne slices of raw apple giving the plate a sour and crunchy touch.
Before desert comes I am asked if I would like some cheese; a ridiculous question to ask in this dairy starved region. The Comté, Époisses, and Saint-Maure de Touraine taste heavenly. The dessert consists of a Mille-feuille, a meringue, and milk chocolate and hazelnuts entremets. I am told that Mille-feuille is a 40-year-old recipe created by grandfather Lorain and I can taste it. Forty years of perfecting this recipe results in a perfectly executed French pastry oozing with flavor. The meringue and entremets are no less tasty.
You can tell this restaurant is the brainchild of someone with a couple of Michelin stars on his resume and not only by the food. The service is excellent throughout as is the sommelier. The restaurant has room for 60 people plus a private room for up to 15.
Thousands of miles away from its Burgundy birthplace, the Lorain family shows us again why France is so famous for its cuisine.