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From “hell’s kitchen” to the district

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Canadian chef Chris Irving recently arrived in Bangkok from the Gordon Ramsay Group to bring a splash of style to Marriott Sukhumvit’s steakhouse.

By Neil Dunphy

chef chris irvingKeeping up with Canadian chef Chris Irving isn’t easy. He has worked for Gordon Ramsay and cooked all over the world for both the official British royal family as well as the unofficial one, the Beckhams. But such a gilded CV belies the seriousness of the man and the art of his cooking. Find out for yourself at The District Grill Room & Bar at the Marriott Sukhumvit (57 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok), where Irving is guest starring for the foreseeable future.

Having earned his stripes in Vancouver, in 2005 Irving bought a one-way ticket to London to “get my ass kicked,” as he describes it. Part of the team that helped Marcus Wareing earn his second Michelin star, he opened his own restaurant in Vancouver before returning to London and a senior position overseeing Ramsay’s empire of London eateries. Phew.

Seeking a new challenge, Irving recently arrived in Bangkok to bring a splash of style to the menu at The District, bringing a selection of dishes that are closest to his heart. See him in action for yourself in the open plan kitchen, surrounded by an attentive, if slightly star-struck, team of Thai cooks.

The menu certainly complements the eatery’s jazzy vibe. It took Lookeast more than three hours to make it through a selection of the menu; the portions are man-sized and substantial, yet light enough to enable us to finish with a mound of his apple tarte Tatin (THB 350). We licked our plates clean.

“It’s all about working to bring out the integrity of the ingredients,” Irving says of his overall philosophy.

To start, we tried the immaculately cooked grilled yellow fin tuna (THB 750) with fennel, coriander and black sesame. The no-frills celery root soup (THB 410) was enlivened by strips of Alaskan crab, while the tomato gazpacho (THB 450) with red mullet was a candidate for dish of the evening. Chris pointed out that “cold soup” has been a bit of a hard sell to the Asian clientele, yet the unadventurous don’t know what they’re missing. Hard pressed to reveal what gives the soup its oomph, he would only say, “It’s the taste of a happy kitchen working together.” I’m sure Ramsay would be appalled at such a love-in.

One of the chef’s signature dishes is the espresso-braised beef short rib (THB 890). Marinated for six hours in red wine, the meat melts off the bone but stands up for itself with a powerful coffee kick. The Australian Angus Tomahawk prime rib (THB 4,200, can serve two) had this carnivore in culinary nirvana, the pan-roasted wild Pacific halibut (THB 1,050) adorned with pork belly pieces and garlic puree was a counterintuitive delight.

As he’s only a blow-in to Bangkok, one senses Irving will stick around until the next challenge presents itself. Catch him while you can.