• Cuisine magician Stefano Merlo holds court at the long chef’s table that has place of honour in front of his kitchen.
  • Beef Tartare
  • Steamed Sea Bass and Baby Zucchini
  • Ravioli Creme Brulee

At Sensi, no sense goes neglected

tasty July 21, 2018 01:00

By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Nation Weekend

10,706 Viewed

The Italian restaurant’s new team tickles with surprises – including spice-infused napkins



FIVE-YEAR-OLD ITALIAN restaurant Sensi on Bangkok’s Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Soi 17 is under new management and has a fresh kitchen team revamping the menu, with the focus on the engaging “chef’s table” style of dining.

Set in a house in a soi quiet enough to make you forget about nearby bustling Sathorn, Sensi retains its homey feel indoors and out, but the way the tables are set establishes that you’re about to indulge in fine dining.

“There’s still an a-la-carte menu, but every table can be a chef’s table, letting the chef create a tailor-made meal for that ‘personal touch’ experience,” says Pierre Metz, one of the new co-owners as of the beginning of the year.

“We also offer seven- and nine-course carta bianca menus,’ he says, translating “carte blanche” into Italian. “That means the chef will offer innovative and surprising dishes to create an exciting culinary journey.”

Chef Stefano is seen at work in the kitchen.

New executive chef Stefano Merlo worked at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Japan and the triple-Michelin-star Le Calandre in Italy. In Bangkok he’s been in charge at JoJo at the St Regis and Rossini’s at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit.

At Sensi, the best place to watch him at work is sitting at the long table set out in front of the kitchen, which can seat up to 10 diners. 

“I follow traditional Italian recipes, but the approach is a bit contemporary,” says Merlo, who hails from Padova, Italy, near Venice. “A lot of Thais visit Italy and when they come back they want the original flavours – the same way these dishes have always tasted. There is no fusion food here and you can always identify what it is you’re tasting.”

During my visit, Merlo offers both a-la-carte dishes and a few carta bianca surprises. Carta bianca costs Bt2,690 for seven courses and Bt3,490 for nine. 

Seafood Tartare with Gin Lemon 

The first appetiser is Seafood Tartare with Gin Lemon – a scallop and a Sicilian red prawn marinated simply with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. The gin lemon is freezing, as intended.

Beef Tartare 

The restaurant’s name alludes to the human senses, and the nose gets the biggest treat from the Beef Tartare. It has black-truffle shavings on top and rests on a bark sheet. The earthy aroma is wonderful. On the side is a steamed rolled-up napkin infused with spices and sprinkled with shards of cinnamon, star anise, lemon, orange and berry juniper.

“The idea,” says the chef, “is to wipe your hands with it so that when you grab a morsel of beef, you inhale the pleasant odour from your hands along with the distinctive smell of truffle.”

Beef Tongue and Salad 

Merlo says his Beef Tongue (Bt560) is a traditional northern Italian dish and typically enjoyed at Sunday family feasts. The tongue is boiled for about five hours and then dressed with a salsa verde of parsley emulsion and capers. It comes with a small salad in balsamic vinegar dressing. 

Risotto Seafood 

The Risotto Seafood is delightfully colourful. The white plate is sprayed with black squid ink, yellow saffron and red beetroot and the rice is in shades of black from the squid ink, green from spring onion and orange from lobster bisque. A scallop and mussel and chunks of lobster and sea bass rest on top.

Cappelli alla Amatriciana 

The pasta and bread are made on the premises. Cappelli alla Amatriciana (Bt480) has the little hat-shaped noodles stuffed with a classic 

 Italian pasta sauce based on guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino cheese, tomato and basil. 

Steamed Sea Bass and Baby Zucchini

The Steamed Sea Bass is an arty entr้e presented on a white plate on which the outline of a fish has been drawn in squid ink. The fillet is seasoned with vanilla oil and capped with thin slices of baby zucchini arranged to resemble fish scales, with zucchini flowers forming the fin and tail. Seafood foam and baby zucchini confit on the side further enhance the flavourful adventure. 

Turbot Fish and Seaweed 

In Turbot Fish and Seaweed, the fish fillet is wrapped in a sheet of wakame seaweed and draped with three strings of seaweed spaghetti, the turbot’s fins and orange sauce. You also get three morsels of potato puree under fried seaweed.

Venison Steak with Pomegranate Sauce 

The eyes are getting spoiled now. Venison Steak is the most visually stunning of all, with pomegranate sauce and beetroot puree engineered to look like blood splatters.

A fantastic meal can suitably end with Ravioli Creme Brulee, which is seasoned with blood-orange juice and jam. 

Ravioli Creme Brulee

Co-owner Metz, who is also a founding partner in the Bangkok restaurants Appia and Peppina, says he’s next planning a “tavola” concept for Sensi – available only for four-seat tables Mondays through Thursdays. In Italy, he says, when Mama wants the kids at the dinner table, she hollers out, “Tavola!” (In other words, “Table! Now!”).

“The price is set for Bt4,000 per table for the food only and the meal will have surprise dishes. I want to show young people that good Italian food isn’t as expensive as they think. And, in the system we’re developing, the booking and payment can be done online.”

Also in the works is opening a deli in the small building next door to Sensi, which will sell the restaurant’s bread, pasta and sauces by day and become a wine bar by night.

TRADITION MEETS NOVELTY

Sensi is at Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Soi 17 Yaek 5 off Sathorn Road in Bangkok.

Dinner is served every night except Sunday from 5.30pm to 11.30pm.

Book a visit at (02) 676 4466 or www.SensiBangkok.com.