Bangkok, Thailand, is a vibrant, world-class city of more than 8 million people that effortlessly blends the old with the new, and its wonderful Thai food is a big draw. Elements, on the 25th floor of Bangkok’s gorgeous Okura Prestige Hotel, is part of Bangkok’s new culinary scene and it’s a highlight that doesn’t disappoint.
Elements serves “modern international” cuisine (also known as molecular cuisine, molecular gastronomy or modern cuisine). Elements is included in all of the city’s “best of” lists and its status among foodies keeps climbing. With American Chef Henry Jordan at the helm, dining at Elements provides a meal that is creatively presented, incredibly fresh, and above all, playfully flavorful.
Our table is near the restaurant’s open kitchen–perfect for watching the action. The kitchen displays such strange tricks of the molecular gastronomy trade as silicon molds, a spherification caviar kit, an aromatizer, and infusion siphon. And yes, there are tweezers. Chef Jordan is often seen bent over his tweezers (or chopsticks), carefully assembling each plate. His culinary goal is to create food not only looks exquisite, but that tastes good. I’m along for the ride.
Canadian Sommelier Marc Bittner leads us through the meal with wine selections. (He also oversees cocktails, beer, and some 50 sake selections.) He’s capably put together an international wine cellar with more than 300 labels that complement any dish Chef Jordan concocts.
As Sommelier, Bittner develops real relationships with winemakers he works with. This personal connection enhances his ability to bring the best the restaurant’s diners.
Razors and Root Beer Foie Gras!
We begin with bread from the hotel’s own La Patisserie and a razor clam amuse bouche. Served in the clam shell, the layer of cucumber gel beneath a tartar of razor clam, blood orange, pickled Thai chili, salmon roe and micro cilantro creates a trip to the beach. It’s a culinary still-life—the razor clam a “log” sitting on a beach rock, with pistachio powder sand, atop a miniature wood sake box. This little dish invites us to relax, enjoy, move slowly, and pay attention. We know we’re in for a special meal.
Sommelier Bittner suggests a glass of Koshu wine from family-owned Grace Winery. The wine is dry, with a delicate floral scent. I enjoy the concentrated flavor and slight minerally finish.
If you’re unfamiliar with Japanese grape wines, koshu is Japan’s premier grape. The koshu grape was first cultivated in Japan about 1,000 years ago, but the wine industry in Japan is only about 100 years old.
The wine goes well indeed with the Hamachi Ceviche, a yellowtail ceviche with Japanese radish, sesame, grapefruit and elderflower. There’s the crunch of the radish, the acidity of the grapefruit and beetroot caviar, and a fresh zestiness from of the elderflower vinaigrette. The Hamachi; with its rich natural oils, is so fresh it simply melts in the mouth.
Next comes Root Beer Float Foie Gras Terrine. The dish exemplifies Jordan’s willingness to re-think ingredients and expectations, as well as his playfulness with food. He wanted foie gras on the menu, but it’s not his favorite food. So he took root beer floats, his “favorite food in the entire world,” and came up with a dish that combines the two. It’s one of Elements’ signature dishes.
The terrine features a bottom layer of foie gras, a layer of root beer gel (from A&W) and a foam-like top layer of milk, sugar and vanilla. The terrine is smoky, salty, sweet, and oh-so-creamy. It’s topped with beads of root beer caviar and paired with a Vermont maple syrup and sherry vinegar gastrique, and ground pistachio “dust.” Red currants from France add tartness and the wedge of gingerbread is…just good. The dish is not overly sweet and the foie gras is still very much center stage. It’s simply delicious.
Bittner next pours a Bernhard Ott Gruner Veltliner Am Berg. It’s an understated white wine, served very cold, crisp and peppery, and goes well with Créme Soup from Topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke soup). Chef Jordan pours the broth over crostini, shallot confit and aromatic prawns. The prawns offer a burst of salty freshness, and we linger over each spoonful.
Monkfish Delights, Chocolate Heaven
Bittner serves Alain Chabanon Les Boissieres, 2007 for our entree. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre, it’s aromatic and spicy, with a deep garnet color. It’s a full-bodied red with soft tannins. It’s a wine that makes us eagerly anticipate what’s ahead.
Our entrée is one of Chef Jordan’s favorites: Bacon Wrapped Mediterranean Monkfish. It’s become another popular dish at the restaurant. “People sometimes think of monkfish as chewy, not a first choice in seafood, but this is prepared souvs vide,” he tells us.
Souvs vide is a French cooking method meaning ‘under pressure’” or “under vacuum.” The fish is vacuum-packed and cooked very, very slowly in a water bath, under very low temperatures ( between 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit).
He continues, “We have a cooker that’s very accurate; we know just how long to cook it and it’s perfect every time.”
The monkfish is wrapped in a pork belly pepper bacon and served with a port wine reduction, puree of edamame-miso, and topped with white chocolate bubbles. It’s garnished with roasted morels and edible flowers. The fish is firm and tender, and the flavors are mild and perfect. The bacon lends a subtle smoky saltiness and the edamame puree is fresh and intense. (I would eat edamame every day if I could replicate this.) And the white chocolate bubbles? They add a flavor perk between bites; the sweetness acting like a little palette cleanser.
We’re beyond sated, but we end up scraping the plates of our chocolate and hazelnut pave. This chocolate pave with a hazelnut puree and a graham cracker crust, served with passion fruit sorbet and mixed fresh berries with a brown sugar crackle, is simply incredible.
A dinner at Elements for most of us is a special occasion meal, and Chef Jordan understands that and he delivers.
“My love of cooking and food as celebration comes from my Sicilian mother, who was always in the kitchen cooking good, nutritious food,” Chef Jordan says. His mantra, which has carried him throughout his career in fine-dining restaurants in New York, Charlottesville, North Carolina, and the Maldives, is “be social, be fun, and try something new.”
My dinner at Elements is a memorable part of my travels. Bravo!– By Nancy Zaffaro, RFT Wine, Brews & Spirits Editor
IF YOU GO:
Elements is located on the 25th floor of the Okura Prestige Hotel in the Park Ventures Ecoplex, Bangkok, Thailand,www.okurabangkok.com/dining. The restaurant is open six evenings a week for dinner; they offer occasional special dinner events as well as an ala carte menu. Open weekdays for lunch, you can enjoy a three-course menu, with four choices per course.
Okura Prestige Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand, www.okurabangkok.com