Symphony of flavors

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Sathorn’s newest Italian restaurant, Sensi, is orchestrating a whole new tune with its seven-course degustation menus, soon to be paired with wines.

by Anita Zaror

8I4A5768jTraditionally, a tasting menu might crescendo from subtler to richer flavors, and be paired with wines that go from newer whites to full-bodied reds. Sensi (1040 Narathiwat Soi 17, Yak 5, Sathorn, 02 117 1618, www.sensibangkok.com), Sathorn’s newest Italian restaurant, however, has stepped out of that convention to offer tasting menus that will take you on a journey that may go from sturdy to light, from classic to playful, and that would even go back from a Chianti Classico Fontodi to a Sauvignon Livio Felluga if the chef decides to put a lemony snow fish in the middle of the degustation. And he might.

Opened in late December 2013 by Christian Martena, the former executive chef of Bangkok’s acclaimed Opus wine bar and Italian restaurant, together with his French wife, Clara, and Italian investors Mario and Charlotte Buzzanca, Sensi began the new year with a loyal crowd that followed him by word of mouth to the somewhat hidden revamped house that is now its home. The décor is a result of the first independent consultancy project done by former Director of Interior Design for Accor Asia Pacific, Béatrice Martinet. It features Italian leather, parquet, and tables spread around what seems to be a house’s big living room that can host up to 54 commensals, including the chef’s table, a thick table designed in Thai wood by P. Tendercool. This table has the privilege of being located right in front the open kitchen.

IMG_0793 copyThe story behind the name is straightforward: it alludes to the five senses and to giving sensations or experiences when dining, which is exactly what Sensi’s seven-course “Degustation Menu” (THB 1,790++) does. If you decide to go for it, chef Martena will approach your table, find out what you feel like having that evening, if you have any allergies, or if there’s something you really dislike eating. He will then create customized dishes that will surprise you every time, as he assures us that he always remembers what his customers ate on their previous visit. Hence, you’ll rarely have the same tasting menu to another you experienced at the restaurant before.

“The degustation menu is the best way of expressing myself,” says Martena, “with it, people can really touch the passion that me and my team put on the food.” Eighty percent of Sensi’s customers choose the tasting menu over the a la carte one. Are you wiling to accept such a gastronomic surprise?

Music to Your Taste Buds
Once you’re done with an overture of Prosecco Silver Follador Extra Dry and olive-based amuse-bouches, you’ll be ready to dig into a symphony of flavors that may start with Australian beef tartara served with quail egg and red grapes reduction, with small pieces of raw carrot giving a fresh twist and an enjoyable crunchiness to the dish.

Then, the Burratina served with “balsamic caviar” is bound to surprise you. Applying techniques of molecular cuisine, Martena puts balsamic vinegar into pearls that explode in the mouth to give a tangy acidity that balances well the creaminess of the cheese.

A mushroom soup and foie gras can’t fail in any gourmet meal. But what would happen if they were put together? Perfect chemistry. The third course of mushroom soup with truffle aroma served with foie gras bruschetta is another great surprise to be remembered. You might actually never drink a soup as slowly as this one, as you will want to taste every single particle of this match that could well become one of those classics pairings that never fail, such as tomato and basil or beef and red wine.
Hailing from Apulia, an Italian all-time-favorite like risotto of course couldn’t miss being on the menu. Cooking the dish to that desired creamy and oozy point, Martena chose radicchio and salsiccia as the successful ingredients to finish it off.

Then, exactly at the right time, the symphony of flavors’ first fast movement will shift to a necessary down tempo with the snow fish served with lime reduction. Its lightness, followed by a lemon—or sometimes strawberry—sorbet with Prosecco and vodka will cleanse your palate before entering into the tender lamb cooked sous vide with red wine reduction, which doesn’t require a knife to cut and which almost melts in the mouth.
The concert ends on a high note with the Sensi tiramisu, a deconstructed version of the Italian classic served in an entertaining way, through a chocolate ball that is melted with hot coffee to reveal a creamy mascarpone ice cream with amaretto.

During the soft opening, the a la carte menu (which will change seasonally) offers five starters, four pasta and risotto dishes, and four main courses—all made with 95 percent products sourced from abroad—and the wine list comprises only Italian and French labels. The plan, however, is to also offer tapas in an adjoining room that is now being refurbished, and pair the degustation menu with wine, which is when Martena’s skills as this orchestra’s conductor will lead Sensi’s current symphony in a totally different melody.
Open Monday to Saturday from 6 p.m. till midnight.

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