Being positioned as a relaxed evening venue where people can dine or unwind over quality tapas and drinks in a magnificent yet informal setting beside the river, Ciao also offers a Chef’s Table that is expected to become a new benchmark for fine Italian dining
By Laurence Civil
Ciao has sat for a quarter of a century on the bank of the Chao Phraya River set against the historic facade of the Author’s Wing of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Always an al fresco seasonal terrace restaurant opening just for the dry high season, Ciao — with its recent radical transformation — gives a fresh look to the Grand Dame. No longer just a place for grandmothers to sip tea, it is now attracting their grandchildren to come out to play. They have dared to do what they wouldn’t have done before: to appeal to the next generation.
It’s the private enclosure to the right of the walkway leading from the shuttle boat. The feel is more terrace lounge with armchairs and sofas in the striking signature black white and red. No cloth on the table but rather individual place mats, the look is cool and chilled but there has been no compromise to the service.
Michelin-star trained Chef Luca from Florence has formed an inspired partnership with Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s culinary director, Chef Norbert Kostner, to create the culinary offerings. Dining at Ciao will be complemented by some of the finest wines in town with emphasis on Piedmont wines and a especially selected choice of sparkling prosecco and signature cocktails.
“We’re positioning Ciao as a relaxed evening venue where people can dine or unwind over quality tapas and drinks in a magnificent yet informal setting beside the river,” said Ittipol Witjitsomboon, food and beverage director. “At the same time, we believe the Chef’s Table will also become a new benchmark in Bangkok for fine Italian dining.”
In winter mode there are three dining options: an a la carte restaurant, a bar serving Spuntino (Italian-style tapas), and the Chef’s Table, housed in an air-conditioned space where a set menu with wine pairings is cooked and served by Ciao’s own Chef Luca Casini. For the Chef’s Table, advance reservation is required – for a maximum of eight seats per night. Inclement weather in the summer causes the suspension of dining under the stars scaling the service down to a more exclusive bar and chef’s table
“Italian food is basically simple,” says Chef Luca, “our main menu is traditional Italian with a balance of classical and modern dishes. At the Chef’s Table, I serve an exclusive eight-course menu, which I change every 10 days to two weeks in the summer and weekly in the winter. Here I can play with more Mediterranean flavors.
“Since the relaunch of Ciao, there has been a good response for main restaurant. I make carbonara the way it should be: with eggs, cheese Peccoroni Romano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano. guanciale, pig’s cheek, bacon, and black pepper. The Guanciale is pan-fried, the hot pasta is combined with a mixture of stock, raw eggs, and cheese. The eggs should create a creamy sauce. It’s important to cook carefully, too long — and its scrambled eggs. There is no cream added to an authentic carbonara. It is different to what is served elsewhere in Bangkok but our waiters clearly explain what we are doing and why.”
Our evening started with Sputino small bites while we sipped on their signature Ciao Phraya lychee-based cocktail. Bruschetta of fresh Stracchino cheese, olive oil, and black pepper; tuna belly with pine nuts, salt flakes, and black pepper; and prawns with herbs, shell fish, and olive oil emulsion.
For the fish course we had perfectly seared tuna with a piquant cracked black pepper dressing, and tartare of salmon trout from the Royal projects with rock-salt baked beetroot carpaccio and sour cream, a subtle explosion of flavors.
For our pasta course we were served spaghetti chitarra, a typical fresh pasta dish from Abruuzesse. A sheet of freshly rolled pasta dough is laid over a harp shaped box strung with 72 razor-sharp wires. Pushing a rolling pin over the dough cuts it into a thick spaghetti served with clams. There was a rustic wholesome chew to the spaghetti that is only found when made fresh. Our second pasta dish oversized tortelli filled with pumpkin and amaretti again perfectly cooked.
“People often associate pigeon with French cuisine,” he says, “but it’s also very much Italian. In fact, we eat every type of bird back home.” His pigeon was served as a pan-fried breast and as a stuffed legs stuffed with a rich coffee sauce. His second main course was grilled tiger prawns with garlic emulsion, chili-scented shell fish sauce and crispy parsley.”
The must have dessert has to be trio of panna cotta, interesting marriages of herbal and sweet flavors, basil with strawberry, rosemary with honey and a classic caramel with the lightest imaginable custard. Executive Pastry Chef reveals the secret, keeping the gelatin to a minimum.
Ciao represents the new generation of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, fit for the purpose in 2013.
Ciao Italian Restaurant
48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok
Tel: 02-659-9000, ext. 7640
Opening Hours: 6pm-11pm daily (Dinner) / 5pm-1am daily (Bar)