The price of fresh truffles usually means that they’re used sparingly, so to open a truffle bar and restaurant—in Thailand no less—means importing and utilising a serious amount of truffles.
You set out your stool when you call yourself a truffle restaurant. No one expects to order pork & pomme purée, but you need to present options. There has to be the offer of food that’s lesser than the truffle, because you can’t upstage the main act. You can’t have other ingredients getting in the way of the musky, pungent complexity of a prized truffle. At this new, sleek Sathorn restaurant, there are plenty of options, although guests are encouraged to embrace the truffle with 70 per cent of the menu focussed on the application of truffles from Umbria. As an integral part of Umbrian cuisine, the black truffle has a celebrated history, and it has been Roberto Ugolini’s desire to bring the same observance to Thailand. As the Director of Urbani, he wishes to protect and promote the Italian culinary traditions, something Urbani Tartufi established previously with the opening of delicatessens from New York to the Netherlands.
The menu is surprisingly moderately priced (with a lunch menu at B590 for 3 courses) but appears a little incoherent in places, leaning heavily on Italian classics whilst detailing all of the high falutin ingredients you’d expect to find in such an establishment—foie gras, lobster, wagyu—all laced with truffles. In many cases, the truffle only pops up in passing, a minor mention in a list of ingredients; often just written as “truffle” with nothing to suggest whether it’s black, white, summer, winter? If you’re dropping B1,350 on Tournedos Rossini, then I’d want to know my truffle’s narrative; where it grew up, who its parents are, what ambitions it has.
The rest of the menu is split into: Appetizer & Soup; Pasta & Risotto; Seafood; Mains; and Desserts. Two “Signature Menus” (5 and 7 courses) allow guests to create their own meal from a list of options. Both “Signature Menus” include a complimentary amuse-bouche—an oyster showstopper—and a glass of Chandon. They also have a cellar with over 250 wines and make their own truffle-infused Grey Goose vodka.
The food is all good. Nicely plated and served with flair. The views from the 39th floor aren’t half-bad, either. Truffle Risotto (B980) is a rich mix of squid ink sauce, pan-seared Hokkaido scallops and black truffle, and a creamy Tagliatelle Carbonara (B890) with sous vide egg yolk has its roots in Rome. A standout White Truffle Tiramisu (B420) is airy and delicious, a balancing act of sweet and savoury, and while the Mango & Truffle (B420) with butter crumble didn’t pass my lips, the description alone warrants a return visit.
My only gripe—and it’s a reasonably considerable one given the concept—is that they don’t present and serve the truffle at the table. For such a rare and costly commodity, surely guests wish to see it, smell it, and witness it being shaved over their food. Instead, plates arrive with shards of knobbly fungi already applied, taking away some of the magic. And yet, it’s all ambitious stuff; high-rise fine dining from Bangkok’s go-to truffle dealership. By David J. Constable