By Kupluthai Pungkanon
The Sunday Nation
LIFE BEGINS at sundown at Ciao Terrazza, a much-loved restaurant that’s part of the five-star hotel Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Offering a breathtaking view out over the Chao Phraya River, the classic Italian restaurant is today focusing on the cuisine of Naples, with a range of gourmet dishes prepared by its Chef de Cuisine, Marcello Scognamiglio, a native of Italy’s southern metropolis that lies at the very foot of Vesuvius.
Scognamiglio recalls waking up as a boy to the mouth-watering aroma of Neapolitan street food, like pizza fritta made with buffalo mozzarella, fresh Vesuvian basil and ripe cherry tomatoes and it is these memories that he shares with hungry diners.
Sunset ambience at the alfresco Ciao Terrazza
“I’d like to bring to my guests my favourite Italian food traditions as well as my love for the produce,” says Scognamiglio, who earned his stripes working alongside a number of Michelin stars chefs.
He describes his cooking style as “elegant, traditional and attentive to detail.”
“It looks easy to make but when you start eating, you are immediately amazed at the explosion of flavours. People love the tastes because of the great produce and beautiful recipes, which are full of different influences from around Europe,” he adds.
Chef Marcello Scognamiglio prepares famous Neapolitan dishes in the open kitchen.
The oven is at the very heart of the restaurant and is used to create artisanal pizzas as well as home-made pastas and risottos, all of which will delight even the most discerning of palates.
Menu highlights includes the surprise appetiser “Crunchy Egg” served with Pecorino foam, spinach and truffle pesto (Bt613). Cut into the poached egg, and savour the perfect softness of the yolk and the crunch that follows. The flavour is well-balanced – a little salty from the cheese but offset by the sweet aroma of the truffle. It’s elegantly presented too with gold leaf providing the decoration.
Crunchy egg, Pecorino foam, spinach and truffle pesto
Truffles also take a star turn in Italian Ravioli stuffed with truffle and burrata cheese (Bt824). Rich but not too heavy, the crispy black olive cracker on top of the ravioli gives it an unusual twist.
Steamed seabass fillet in mushroom and asparagus broth, Taggiasca olive, fennel and orange salad
We sample as our main dish Steamed Seabass Fillet in mushroom and asparagus broth served with Taggiasca olive, thin slices of fennel, and orange salad (Bt1,001). This dish is truly delightful thanks to the clear broth, which makes it seem light and balanced, particularly after the two rich and creamy dishes that have gone before. The fish is freshly imported from Italy and the tangy taste of salad pairs well with the anise flavours of the fennel.
Slow-cooked pork belly, red wine sauce, steamed swiss chard and apple puree
Another highlight is Slow-cooked Pork Belly, red wine sauce, steamed swiss chard, and apple puree (Bt1,154) and the portion is just small enough to ensure you can finish the entire plate. The pork belly has a slightly sweet taste but is so tender that it melts in the mouth. There is, as you’d expect, a little fat but diners concerned about their figures can always trim it off.
Ravioli stuffed with truffle and burrata cheese
Other popular dishes at Ciao include Tuna Tartar with zucchini, bell pepper and eggplant Caponata; Spaghetti Gragnano with Piennolo cherry tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius and fresh basil leaves; Rosemary Crusted Rack of Lamb with eggplant custard, crispy polenta and green asparagus tips; and Aged Acquerello Rice Risotto with seasonal white asparagus.
Our five-course Napoli-style meal ends with the traditional sweet-and-sour “Sgroppino”, lemon sorbet with latte gelato, grappa limoncello, and prosecco (Bt495).
Dinner over, guests are urged to enjoy the rest of the night at the hotel’s famous Bamboo Bar, recently ranked No 9 by Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2018 and the only bar in the kingdom to have reached the top ten.
Jamie Rhind, operations manager at The Bamboo Bar
The latest iteration of the signature cocktail menu created by Jamie Rhind, bar operations manager, attests to the Bamboo Bar team’s tireless efforts and innovative use of Thai ingredients.
Some of the creative new signature cocktails draw their inspiration from the five regions of Thailand. Listed under the title “Compass”, the menu celebrates the unique attributes of these regions, each of which has its own distinctive tastes in food, drink and lifestyle.
“This is like taking guests on a journey around Thailand while they enjoy the country’s finest live jazz,” Rhind says.
The southern region inspired the Cashew Down South cocktail
Well-worth trying is “Get the Mortar”, a homage to som tum, Thailand’s ubiquitous papaya salad. Inspired by Thailand’s northeast, it blends Barrelhouse 53 Vodka, clarified tomato juice, papaya compote, lime juice, sugar and chilli. The mortar is typically used to mash the ingredients together and children throughout Isaan are always delighted to hear the words: ‘Get the mortar!’
The Hawker cocktail
“Hawker” is inspired by tom kha gai, Central Thailand much-loved coconut cream dish made with kaffir lime and lemongrass. The cocktail gets much the same treatment with coconut juice mixed with tequila, lemongrass, kaffir lime and ginger for a sharp refreshing kick.
Specially created alcohol-free drinks are also available and patrons can while away the hours by listening to guest jazz diva Nikki Kidd.
SMART AND SAVVY
Ciao adheres to a smart dress code and proper footwear for all guests, including children.
The restaurant welcomes smokers at the bar counter the whole night.
It’s open nightly from 5pm with last orders accepted at 10.30.
Book a table at (02) 659 9000.
The Bamboo Bar is open Sunday to Thursday from 5 to 1am and until 2am on Friday and Saturday. The live music starts at 9.