When dining is about an appreciation of good food and not just the contentment of one's stomach, it's essential that all five senses are indulged. And amidst the taste- and sight-centric majority in Bangkok's food-service sphere, only one restaurant claims to focus on all things olfactory.
The sense of smell is paramount at Perfume Fragrance Bar and Aromatic Cuisine, which opened a couple of months ago and regards itself as a restaurant that's as sensible in cookery as it is in mixology. Fragrance takes a key role in both disciplines.
It's difficult to go straight to Perfume's kitchen without a glimpse of its bar. Not that you'd want to miss it, the cocktail-obsessed 120-seater has almost 20 house-created concoctions _ alcoholic and virgin. The mixologist, using post-modern molecular techniques, makes sure guests are thrilled by their imaginative presentation as well as palatability.
My visit started off magnificently with a refreshingly luscious mocktail, Rose Garden with strawberry ikura (220 baht). The fizzy drink was made with sparkling water, rose essence and fresh lemon and served with strawberry pearls amidst a rose tea perfume fog.
For those who can't stay away from booze, I recommend Red Sky (320 baht) made with vodka, Grand Marnier, fresh lime, cranberry and flambeed orange peel with a fruity liqueur foam topping.
Smoking Aces is ingeniously formulated to indulge whisky fans.
Another memorable concoction (even for a cocktail loon like myself) was Smoking Aces (380 baht), which was ingeniously formulated for indulgence with reserve Scotch whisky, elderflower, apple juice, fresh lime and egg white. The drink was infused before your eyes with apple shisha smoke and a touch of ylang-ylang and bergamot.
For something fun, opt for the creamy, burst-in-the-mouth Bubble 52 (280 baht for three bubbles or 150 baht per bubble).
Unlike the drinks, presentation is not the highest priority when it comes to the food. The chef tries to focus on nothing but awesome, unique flavours, textures and aromas. Everything is placed in a plate for a reason.
Smoked duck with beetroot salad (210 baht) was the first dish to represent this mindful approach, and did so impressively. In thin slices, the duck meat was sous vide and house-smoked to yield a perfectly tender and flavourful mouthfeel. The aromatic and supple poultry was complemented wonderfully by bracing cubes of beetroot, while a simple-looking portion of greens on the side added a wow feeling to the dish thanks to the chef's secret-recipe dressing.
The plainly exhibited spicy beef nachos (160 baht) is good evidence of the restaurant's concern for authenticity. The tortilla chips, which were home-made with glutinous rice flour and maize, came lightly topped with well-seasoned beef ragu, guacamole, salsa and cheddar cheese, in a way that no single ingredient overpowered but rather complemented the others.
Likewise, the eggs benedict (210 baht) looked customary. But this much-loved sauce-dripping brunch dish was an impressive exhibition of Perfume's home-made delights. Underneath the house-concocted Hollandaise sauce and delicately poached eggs was an English muffin baked in-house to guarantee freshness and supple slices of Norwegian smoked salmon, the only import on the plate. To accompany this were remarkably light and brittle potato wedges made from Australian blue potatoes, and a rocket salad side.
Perfume offers quite a few substantial meat dishes, including braised pork belly, rib-eye steak, roasted baby chicken and pan-seared sea bass.
Smoked duck with beetroot salad.
Duck-leg confit with green apple gastrique (315 baht), which we had, was a scrumptious and admirable indication of meticulous craft. The meaty leg, slow-cooked and tender, arrived on a bed of apple gastrique that was very characteristically delectable in both texture and taste. While the green espuma garnish, which was obviously not just for visual pleasure but also taste bud ecstasy, was rich in salt-and-pepper flavours as the garlic mashed potatoes played a smooth and creamy supporting role.
All five savoury dishes we sampled were great but if I had to pick my favourite it would be the roast lamb rack with ratatouille and roast fingling potatoes (2,050 baht for a sharing platter, or 750 baht for a personal portion). The medium-cooked rack of lamb, lightly crusted with salt and pepper, was juicy, succulent and flavoursome. The glazing sauce was pungent and had a slight spicy herbal savour. The vegetable stew provided a healthy complement while the roast potatoes added a bracing touch.
I only tried one dessert but I presume nothing could beat the ordinary-looking but truly delectable chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream (150 baht). An exceptional demonstration of how formulated fragrance can be successfully applied in food as a flavour enhancement, the silky mousse and ice cream were scientifically smoked before your eyes with burnt strawberry fume, the food absorbing a sweet, fruity hint, which typically goes well with chocolate.
Perfume could have been another bar-centric dining establishment that tries to offer something different to a new generation of restaurant-goers. Yet, as barflies are saying, it's one of the city's best places for drinks, and it's also worth visiting for highbrow gourmands.
A personal platter of roast lamb rack.
Using post-modern techniques, the mixologist aims to thrill guests with an imaginative presentation, as well as palatability.
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About the author
- Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter