Bangkok Post reviews
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: October 19, 2012 at 8:36 am
New chef gives stalwart restaurant a menu make-over
The restaurant is a very contemporary and casual affair.
For some years, things had been at a snail's pace at the Italian outlet of the landmark Dusit Thani. I hardly heard any exciting remarks about dining there until a few weeks ago when a keen gastronome friend told me about a remarkable meal she'd had at the renewed il cielo.
During my recent Friday lunch at the contemporary-decor restaurant, I found that the cuisine had been smartly modified to answer better to the city's gastronomic lifestyle and ravenous appetite.
One of the key forces behind this revolution is Daniele Bettini, the restaurant's new chef de cuisine. With over 15 years experience at fine restaurants in Italy, Spain and Singapore, the Venice-born chef has devised his own style of cooking that highlights the prime quality of the ingredients while continuing to introduce new touches to authentic Italian fare.
First to prove Bettini's admirable culinary appraisal was a platter of Italian cold cuts and preserved vegetables (370 baht). It offered a truly refined selection of imported cured meat _ Parma ham, speck, guanciale (unsmoked jowl bacon) and Felino salami, freshly sliced into thin ribbons to yield a satin-like soft and savoury mouthfeel, accompanied by fresh melon, balsamic pearl onions and baby pickles which also proved as delightful as the protein centrepiece.
The paccheri pasta with duck ragout and Pecorino cheese.
The next starter, citrus-marinated Tasmanian salmon with aromatic fennel salad and Sicilian orange dressing (310 baht), continued to display the finest quality and flavour. Eight slices of fresh, firm and flavourful raw fish, which had soaked up the naturally sweet and fruity character of the marinade, were given a perfect complement by the mild salty-sweet and tangy herb salad.
There were a trio of interesting soups on the menu. The signature San Marzano tomato soup with croutons (280 baht) proved a real indulgence. The thick and aromatic broth was made with tube-shaped heirloom tomatoes, known as the best paste tomatoes in the world, together with red wine, butter and herbs. Thanks to the tomato's sweet and less acidic nature, the soup provided an intense yet subtle taste one can hardly stop spooning up _ and dreaming about.
As a family-friendly outlet, il cielo has a good list of pastas. Its 14-option pasta menu covers both classics and chef's specials; we sampled two and found them simply sublime.
The paccheri pasta with duck ragout and Pecorino cheese (310 baht) looked and tasted unique.
Neatly assembled on a large rectangular plate were al dente tubes of the extra large and hollow pasta dressed with well-flavoured ragout made with top-grade local duck (with beef-like tenderness), shallots, carrots and onions. The toothsome pasta, with a dash of sheep's milk cheese, intermingled marvellously with the delicate tasting ragout _ all in all a highly recommended choice.
Venice-born chef Daniele Bettini.
Even though it didn't look as photogenic as the paccheri, the next dish, homemade fettucine with blue mussels, sweet chilli, basil and broccoli sauce (330 baht) was a real palate pleaser.
The merit of each ingredient _ al dente noodles, naturally flavoursome shellfish and creamy sauce _ was allowed to shine through yet fused together superbly to create a simple yet addictive dish.
The main course menu features three red meat dishes and an equal selection of fish. Our party of three agreed that the lamb rack (1,050 baht) served with roasted eggplant puree, paprika potatoes and garlic sauce was one of the best in the city.
Three decent-sized racks well leavened in salty brown garlic gravy provided a pristine taste and succulent texture that reflected the lamb's top-notch quality, enlivened by thick and silky mashed potato-like puree which nicely revealed a pleasantly smokey note from the roasted aubergine.
Braised wagyu beef cheek in Barolo wine (950 baht) is another red meat really worth having.
Ideal for beef fans of all ages, the dish featured a lean cut of meat that has been slow-cooked for four hours until extraordinarily tender. The richly flavourful beef was served in a hefty helping with mushroom ragout and fragrant mashed potatoes.
Equally praiseworthy was the cartoccio-style snow fish (800 baht). A large block of the deep-ocean fish was cooked in clear plastic foil to preserve its characteristic oily taste and succulent texture and served over Taggiasche olives, leeks, cherry tomatoes and artichokes, with the chef's signature saffron sauce on the side.
Savoury fare isn't the only sphere Bettini excels at. We found his desserts Magic Ball (320 baht), a large chocolate globe that surprisingly reveals a yummy filling, and feathery light tiramisu (290 baht) laudable.
Judging from the eight savoury and two sweet dishes we tried, Bettini is a real master of brewing flavours. Every dish exhibited an ingenious and subtle character yet tasted different from one another, let alone from others in the market.
To strengthen il cielo's new concept as a casual family venue, the restaurant will feature a weekend family buffet lunch beginning on Nov 10.
At 700 baht per person (children under 12, each accompanied by an adult, eat free), guests can enjoy as much as they want from the antipasti and salad bars as well as from the special lunch menu which offers two main courses, two soups, six pizzas, six pastas and six desserts. Something for everyone.
The cartoccio-style snow fish with Taggiasche olives, leeks, cherry tomatoes and artichokes.
Lamb rack with roasted eggplant puree, paprika potatoes and garlic sauce.