Discover the real taste of Italy in Bangkok at Enoteca Italiana Restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 27by Christopher Scott Dixon
In life it requires effort to gain a reward, and the walk along the twisting, narrow back lanes of Sukhumvit Soi 27 offers a huge reward, as you will find a delightful gastronomic gem there.
As the scorching Siam sun slips slowly below the horizon, we saw it – Enoteca Italiana – offering a welcome sanctuary from the steaming and teeming city streets. (Sukhumvit 27; Tel: 02 258 43386; www.enotecabangkok.com)
It was like entering a secret garden, with its perfectly trimmed lawn separated by a stone path and lights glowing from inside the beautifully renovated house, with its four arched windows stretching from the polished wooden floors to the ceiling. Greeted by the genial manager/owner, Bologna-born Nicola Bonazza, at the door, the conviviality was almost tangible and the senses were quickly engaged.
In the main dining room, soft music seduces the ears and as we eased into wicker chairs at a mahogany table, our eyes took in a curved brick counter laden with Italian smoked hams, salamis and cheeses. Garlands of onions and garlic hung like edible chandeliers from the ceiling. An eclectic mix of advertising signs and assorted memorabilia adorned the walls and a whole side of the interior was devoted to quality wines of which there are more than 350. This makes it one of, if not the most extensive and diverse collection in the capital. For those planning a party, there is a larger area at the back of the restaurant.
Enoteca literally translates as “wine library” and after being established in 2004, it has developed from its original concept of simple food and wines to its present aim of providing gourmet dining with a new take on traditional Italian cuisine. ‘We like to transform classic dishes and elaborate on them in a creative and playful way, and give them a modern touch, while never compromising on taste!’ explained Nicola.
The raft of awards and plaudits Enoteca has received since its inception pays ample testimony of how successful Nicola’s objectives have been. It has been rated as not only one of the top ten restaurants in Bangkok but was runner up as restaurant of the year in Asia and Australasia.
The mix of diners is as diverse as the objet d’art that decorates the environment, as we listened to Thai, American, German, and Middle Eastern accents all around us.
Nicola is a very hands-on manager. We saw him slicing hams at the counter, taking orders, making phone calls and meeting new guests at the door. His staff too were attentive but allowed time for us to finish and relax before collecting plates and re-filling our water and wine.
We sampled the ‘degustation’ menu, which in culinary terms means a careful tasting of various foods and usually involves trying small portions of a chef’s signature dishes.
While sipping on the refreshing house white – Friuli – we enjoyed some fresh Italian bread including ciabatta and focaccia as an introduction. Then we were treated to a gloriously smooth carrot cream and peanut starter.
An intriguing black ink cappuccino arrived at our table first made from parmesan cheese, cream of potato and squid ink. Nicola was quick to come over and advise us that many of the dishes need specific instructions to make eating them more memorable. Although I could not detect the cappuccino, this wasn’t important to the joyfulness of the meal, and the mellowness of the cheese and cream potato blended wickedly with the ink.
I thought we had wandered onto the set of “Star Wars” for a moment with the next dish, as a spaceship-like glass container was presented with the Enocteca name on the top of the clear plastic covering. Nicola sliced the top open to reveal a smoked sea scallop with apple. The scallop was juicy and was a lovely combo with the citrus taste.
A very pleasant Sicilian house red – Hiera-Nero D’Avola – was imbibed. Then the waitress offered us spaghetti and tomato water with burrata. Nicola warned us to expect the spaghetti would be unusually crunchy because of it special preparation. He had no need for anxiety, however, as it provided yet another truly flavorful dish.
Risottos are served as standard in Italian restaurants the world over, so we wondered what Enoteca’s talented Chef Stefano Merlo could concoct to shake us out of our complacency. His Risotto with Roccaverano-goats cheese, hazelnut, lemon and thyme did just that, with its zingy fusion sensation, which lingered for a long time.
Delicious slow-cooked, succulent veal belly completed the main. As a self-confessed chocoholic I sat bolt upright at the arrival of the dessert – A Sicilian cassata hot chocolate foam nesting temptingly on a bed of crushed ice and laced with rum. It could inspire me to poetry, but describing it as wonderful will suffice.
Enoteca is a place to go for high quality, exciting and inventive food, in a friendly and relaxed ambience, and as the saying goes: book early to avoid disappointment!