AT CENTARA GRAND CENTRALWORLD, BANGKOK
by Philip Sinsheimer
I spent most of the month of January in Southeast Asia in company of colleague and dear friend Cesare Zucca. Our journey started with Bangkok, undoubtedly the touristic and business hub of Thailand and the whole region.
We stayed at The Centara Grand Central World, located in the heart of the shopping area of this other city that never sleeps!
Thankfully we did coming from far away thanks to the thick windows of the tower that isolates you from the constant noise far below.
Modern design and ultimate comfort was definitely for this 5 star hotel, but what was perhaps less expected was the quality and diversity of the food offering.
Follow the guide, from the ground up!
The ground floor hosts ZING cafe we were impressed by the quality of the food and beverages. We didn’t taste much, but what we did was bordering perfection: a double espresso for me served piping hot revealing perfectly roasted beans, intense flavor, regrettably often confused with burnt flavor… Not here! But as an Italian, Cesare has probably more expertise than the French when it comes to coffee tasting. Well, let’s just say that his macchiato brought a big smile to his face. Both our beverages were the perfect companions
to mini French style hazelnut macarons.
The technique for the delicacy which travels the world is one of the most difficult to master in the science of pastry. A+ here: top and bottom both crumbly and soft; hazelnut buttercream in between intense in flavor, not too sweet, cold but not chilled. As you arrive into the air conditioned hotel after facing the heat and commotion of town, relax there for a moment of poised, simple luxury. On your way out, arm yourself with a double shot espresso to hit the road full of fresh energy.
Take the elevator and discover the World! Located on the same floor as the gorgeous check-in lobby in midair, the restaurant is where breakfast is served. The concept: a scrumptious buffet with various stations allowing all appetites to be fulfilled. You have your classic western treats from eggs cooked to your liking with all the usual accoutrements to an array of breads straight up from Zing, moist muffins, jams, yogurts, cereals and various freshly squeezed juices. But you are in Bangkok and the more local and Asian at large treats are there to surprise the visitors from abroad and content the locals who should want to feel at home. Cesare and I were immediately tempted to enjoy a bowl of clear soup with your choice of noodle (thin or flat, rice or wheat) and various topping such as fresh baby bok choy, mini meat or fish balls, green onion, fried garlic and fresh chili for those who need a kick start besides the excellent coffee served to order. What a healthy way to start the day! A clean broth to hydrate your body in a savory way. There is also the ubiquitous congee, the boiled rice porridge typical of Southern China, but that you will find throughout Asia. Throughout our trip in Thailand and Cambodia, Cesare indulged in this soothing white breakfast staple we found each time at different levels of thickness. If the clear noodle soup is an adult get up and go type of thing, congee is as soft as a childhood memory allowing you to transition from the night to the day in a gentle way. To my opinion the one served here at the World was the best with a perfect flavor and texture and the selection of toppings were great. I loved to add a little kick to it with shreds of fresh ginger and a little dried shrimp or fish, as to prove that I’m no longer a baby! But wait, the soups are only the beginning for your Asian delights: over there are the dim sum (essentially the traditional pork siu mai and shrimp) hakkao and then various
Thai dishes such as a chicken green coconut curry, rice (plain or fried), sautéed vegetables…
Wait! Is this breakfast or lunch?
The only sweet I could indulge with was freshly cut fruit, including the dragon fruit, very bland but oh so pretty. In 2 days, I don’t believe we were able to taste more than half the offerings and each time we were set for the day while exploring the city. I personally couldn’t resist a good green papaya salad (som tam) at a street vendor in Chinatown, but I couldn’t eat much of the sticky rice that traditionally comes with it. We had to keep some appetite for the evening treats.
Our evening started with the complimentary drink and hors d oeuvres guests of the hotel can enjoy at the tapas bar way up in the tour on the 54th floor. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the view during happy hour from $ to 7 pm or go for a full dinner as the restaurant is open up to 1 am. Let me be frank, I was skeptical: throughout my travel, I’ve experienced numerous tapas bars which seemed to embody more of a marketing ploy than a true culinary experience: small plates of faint resemblance to their Spanish model that you pile up desperately trying to find one better than the one before for a rather hefty bill at the end of a mediocre meal made of mitch match oily preparations. Well, I was in for a big surprise. Uno Mas once again confirmed that the hotel was serious about the food and beverage offerings. For one thing, the chef is from Catalonia so authenticity is taken seriously. A cava sangria was served perfectly chilled and well-flavored with citrus and fruit. It was well balanced, but as I tend to like all mixed drinks on the dryer side, I asked if a little extra cava could be added to alleviate de sweetness. No problem at all, the demand was met with a smile. Service is top notch.
As for food, I chose “cochinillo asado” a beautiful little chunk of roasted pork deliciousness. Super simple revealing the quality of the ingredient and the culinary technique to treat it with the respect it deserved.
Wow, this bitesize treat will stay in my mind for quite some time.
For then, it served as a great “mise en bouche” for the dinner expecting us upstairs.
Welcome to what has to be one of the most exciting, trendy, sexy, chic dining experience of Thailand! And the word has spread, reservation highly recommended to be seated outdoor at one of the tables with a breathtaking view of the skyline. Hip music is in the air and well-clad hipsters of all countries seem at home 55 stories above earthly concerns. We felt like VIP’s with our table for two at the very end of the floor plan
enjoying one of the best views.
While Cesare perused the menu, I plunged in the depths of the impressive wine list. Top notch celebrity wines are there, such as the inviting 2008 Chateau Haut-Brion red Bordeaux ($1600), rare finds are there too such as a 1997 red Chateau Musar from the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and the list abounds on Australian wines
We settled for a crisp and aromatic white Spanish Rueda, 2014 El Gordo del Circo (66$) to open the dance. It served as good match to the two first courses we ordered, pairing the freshness of the sea of the perfectly cooked octopus and cutting through the richness of a velvety cream of porcini mushrooms, very well done, perhaps a bit out of context in the tropics, but, as established for breakfast at The World, we are soup aficionados, anytime, anywhere! Here, we were transported to our native France and Italy by the magic of the chef.
For the main course, we got tempted to share the surf and turf tour, with grilled shrimp, king crab legs, prime beef, rack of lamb…
Perhaps not the wisest choice, as we both like our dishes to be piping hot and there was so much to tackle that we had to speed up to achieve that with a bit of confusion in the dimly lit table and sauces hard to identify. But, fun we had, the quality of the ingredients was definitely there and matched the mood of the place. Those who want the party to go on can take the elegant staircase one floor higher to the Red Sky Bar which remains open until 1 am offering a 360-degree view of the cityscape. Imperial mojito anyone as a nightcap? Or would you prefer to go yet above and discover, at the very top of the building, the newly opened Cru Champagne Bar for exclusive French bubbles to wrap the night on a high-end note? You could also start your night there since this unique venue opens at 5pm offering delicacies to go with your selection of vintage champagne, from freshly shucked oysters, to Caspian Sea caviar and French foie gras. We didn’t have a chance to go, but we definitely will upon our next visit…
Always leave something to wish for in the future, Centara Grand at Central World
had already wowed our palates and our eyes.
For more info check The Centara Grand Central World