28 August 2009

Restaurant Review: La Scala

One thing this city isn't lacking as far as food is concerned: Italian. And many of them quite good.

Foiled on our original plan to attend one of the most raved about Italian restaurants in the city, I chose an alternate place from the Miele Guide, a resource I have turned into a checklist. The choice: La Scala, Italian restaurant attached to the Sukhothai Hotel.

Typically, I won't go to restaurants attached to hotels, unless I'm a guest of the hotel or it's a function I was invited to attend. I'm an advocate of small mom-pop independent restaurants, a sign that the owners had to create somethimg themselves to genuinely produce. The restaurant market is a brutal one, and one that establishes and sustain themselves take work and having an actual product.

However, in this region, the hotels are the ones who can afford to attract world class chefs. So, to the Sukhothai we go.

The food was delicious. The menu is Italian with a twist. Still Italian in type of cooking, but the chef would add a little twist to each traditional plate. Such as mango with truffles risotto, salmon on margharita pizza, lobster in a three-cheese ravioli, and grand marnier mixed in with the carmelized topping of the créme brulée. The pizza I got was huge but so thin crusted some pieces would disintegrate in my hand although it was near impossible to slice with a table knife.

Abmiance was modern, chic, and comfortable. Using solid wood furniture to give it a comfortable homey feel but modern clean lines in its decor to remind us we are in a high-star restaurant. The coolest part was the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant where they prepared all the dishes within sight. It was open in the sense that the counters were actually waist high so you can watch them pull out the food and mix it up. With an industrial but quieted vent in the middle, the fumes of cooking oil doesn't wafe around the restauarnt and stick to the patrons. Perhaps that lack of wafing also tells us how oils aren't used excessively.

The extensive wine list included Italian, French, Australian, American and many other wines. Normally I look at the options by the glass to consider if they have more than one of each type available (many don't), but given the size of our party, another friend took charge of the wine and ordered by the bottle. Credit goes to her for the quality of her selections. Nor were the bottles terribly expensive, although that option is available as well. The 1500baht bottles go quite well with the palate.

We have 15 people... so filled every seat. So when I made the reservation, the restaurant offered us a side area which would be away from the windows and lawn view, but provide some privacy since we were the only party on that side of the kitchen. Privacy from the other guests, perhaps, but not from the kitchen. Business was relatively light so the kitchen staff lingered around, within earshot of our conversations. Not that we had anything embarrassing but it was disconcerting for me at my vantage point to see people clearly standing and listening in. The wait staff on the other hand, were professionally discreet and kept their distance. A sign of a truly higher class restaurant is when not only do the staff speak excellent English but also when they know the difference between hovering and attentiveness. This crew did.

All in all, a true fine dining experience. Probably the best as far as quality of service goes that I've had in the city so far. The biggest pain was the hit in the wallet. We all ordered three courses, the full appetizer, main, and dessert, complemented with wine and coffee. But delicious and worth it as an occaisional treat to ourselves.

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