The restaurant scene of the city is flourishing, no doubt about it. This year has seen a swathe of openings, with everyone trying something new, fresh and different to get ahead of the pack. But Appia is unashamedly resisting, looking back in time to traditional Roman practices for inspiration rather than forward to a short-lived zeitgeist. It's a return to the origin of the mighty cuisine, taking diners on a trip to Rome.
The philosophy of the place is simple: "Roman family recipes, slow-roasted meats, wines worth drinking." Why let technology or distracting food fads get in the way of a hearty meal, say the owners, and maybe they're right.
The guys at the helm are Jarrett Wrisley of Soul Food fame and Paolo Vitaletti of five-star hotel pedigree. "Molecular gastronomy and the global sort of cooking that makes its way onto menus these days are interesting too - but we decided to do the exact opposite," says Jarrett. Most foodies in the city have been through Gaggan by now, and it has stood its ground on Lang Suan Road well, but Appia feels like its robust menu is here to stay, giving an important and overdue point of comparison for the old guard of Italian dens of the city that have rested on their laurels for too long.
The setting is that of a traditional Roman trattoria - natural timbers, terracotta tiles, plastered walls. A sprung leather bench lines the back wall and affords extra seating. The counter-style bar shields the kingpin of the room, the rotisserie that slowcooks the meat and throws out delectable smells. The only thing missing might be the Italian mama in the kitchen barking orders and churning out countless plates of delectables. But she might be present also, as rumour has it that Paolo's mother came to Bangkok during the set-up phase to teach how to prepare the hand-rolled pasta properly. (And no doubt keeping Paolo on his best behaviour). The result is an intimate yet animated room that lures with gentle conversation, the clinking of glasses and delectable smells.
Start your evening with one of the 11 cocktails on offer, perhaps The Metz (B275) with Papidoux VSOP Calvados, ginger and citrus, but all we tried work. There are around eight wines by the glass (B180-B250) on offer via a slick-looking dispenser, along with a list of reasonably priced Mediterranean bottles (from B900).
The food then takes things to the next level. For smaller appetites, Cheese and cold cuts (B450) and Marinated red peppers (B100) are served with crispy sour dough for some straightforward full-flavour openings. A caprese in Puglia (B400) boasts delectable dollops of burrata cheese. Another salad of Roasted organic red beets also delights with its earthy beets offset by creamy stracchino cow-milk cheese.
For the main event, save some room for the pasta. The hand-made Cavatelli pasta (B350) is brazenly al dente and its nuttiness carries the lamb shoulder ragout delicately. Mezze Maniche pasta (B350) offers a floury platform for its accompanying full-flavoured eggplant, pine nuts and ricotta and combine well.
The highlight, however, is the slow-roasted Porchetta (B400 for one, B600 for two) with its fennel, rosemary and garlic stuffing. It's more than a day in the making and full of textures, flavours and happiness. Appia's oxtail stew (B550), also delicious, is served on a bed of fregola, a hand-made pasta, which zings with a zesty herb gremolata.
After some of the velvety Panacotta (B300) for dessert ask Jarrett for an appropriate digestive, probably some grappa. Then walk home to digest all the carbs and close out your Roman holiday.
Appia is a strong sign for the culinary scope of the city in its mature and concentrated approach that puts the ubiquitous generic Italian options back in their places. Take your mum, a date, your mate, and be reminded why you can find the basics of Italian cuisine the world over. The interior, the food, the mood - it all delivers. Best of all, it saves us all an airfare to Italy. G
A selection of sides
20/4 Sukhumvit Soi 31
About the author
- Writer: Richard Mcleish