Gastropods for gourmets
Speciality sea snail restaurant Ah Yat Abalone opens a second branch at thhe Arnoma Grand Bangkok
OPEN FOR more than a decade at Ramada Plaza Bangkok Menam Riverside, the acclaimed Chinese restaurant Ah Yat Abalone has now spread its wings and opened a second branch at the Arnoma Grand Bangkok Hotel at Ratchaprasong intersection.
Founded by chef Yeung Koon Yat, dubbed the king of abalone for his one-Michelin-starred Forum Restaurant in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay, the restaurant is known for its stewed abalone in aromatic brown sauce.
Arnoma Grand Bangkok has recently undergone major renovations to earn a four-star rating. Opened in March and spanning more than 1,000 square metres on the third floor of the hotel, Ah Yat Abalone occupies the space that was once home to the hotel’s Chinese and Italian restaurants. The decor is contemporary Chinese style with red and gold predominating and the restaurant also boasts an open patio that looks out over the hotel lobby.
Apart from the main dining area, there are six private rooms that can each accommodate up to 14 diners and which can be combined for private events including wedding banquets. All private rooms are equipped with imported soundproof partitions.
“It took more than six months to gut the two existing restaurants and redesign Ah Yat Abalone with a brand new kitchen and 250 seats. Seven experienced chefs from Hong Kong are on hand to impress Chinese food aficionados and their families, friends and work associates alike,” says Eric Brand, the hotel’s director of operations.
The restaurant is under the operation of Ah Yat Abalone Forum Seafood Restaurant, which currently has 18 branches outside Hong Kong. The fresh seafood will be flown in live weekly to its regional headquarters in Singapore, from where it is distributed, still live, to its outlets in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Among the seafood choices are razor clams from Scotland, turbot fish from France, Alaskan king crab, Canadian geoduck clam, and Australian snow crab.
“We source only the highest-quality fresh and dried abalone from Japan, the US, Mexico, South Africa and Australia. ‘Ah Yat’ means No 1 in
English and refers to chef Yeung’s skill in turning the dried morsel into the soft, flavourful and aromatic dish. The dried abalone is slowly braised for at least seven days while the fresh snail is cooked for about eight hours. The abalone sauce is made of many ingredients including pork ribs, whole chicken, conpoy (dried scallop) and Yunnan ham,” says Sittichai Nantaromcharoen, the director of Ah Yat Abalone Forum Seafood Restaurant.
The best sun-dried abalone come from Japan where they are raised in ocean farms then dried through a process that is a well-kept secret. Fresh Mexican abalone is offered as chilled sashimi. Abalone in restaurants normally ranges from two to up to 16 heads. The number of heads refers to the size of the abalone – the bigger the number, the smaller the abalone. A claypot of stewed abalone ranges in price from Bt500 to several thousand baht.
The best value is to order a set rather than go a la carte. There are six abalone sets for one from which to choose costing from Bt1,880 to Bt5,990 while a set for two persons goes for Bt5,800. Perfect for family feasts is a set for 10 people that is available in six choices from Bt13,800 to Bt29,800.
On my visit, the restaurant presented a 10-dish set menu for 10 people for Bt17,500, which kicked off with barbecued whole suckling pig held high on a platter complete with small light bulbs flashing red next to its eyes. Sittichai says this is the way the dish is usually served in Hong Kong but while the blinking red light might be shouting “taste me first!”,
it makes me want to pass and hand the dish to my colleagues.
Next to arrive at the table is shark fin soup braised for eight hours and a dried 12-head abalone that is perfectly braised and complemented with fish maw, shiitake mushroom and pork tendon. Then come deep-fried crispy vermicelli rolls stuffed with seafood and pan-fried scallop balls mixed with minced shrimps.
The steamed garoupa fish with Japanese tofu and ginger in soy sauce is tender and delectable in direct contrast to the deep-fried chicken with its crispy skin but salty flesh. Ah Yat-style fried rice with dried scallop, egg and chopped spring onion is also tasty and not in the least oily.
For dessert there’s almond milk with gingko and grass jelly. Fresh almond juice is also served.
There’s an impressive range of a-la-carte Cantonese dishes including Hong Kong-style porridge with abalone stick (Bt180), wok-fried bush bean with minced pork (Bt350), braised beef brisket with dried bean curd skin in claypot (Bt580), and stir-fried beef cube with Japanese abalone (Bt880).
And the restaurant is also known for its dim sum. Available for lunch from 11am to 2.30pm, there are 33 dishes from which to choose, all of them served in traditional bamboo baskets for sharing.
The steamed dishes include the prawn dumplings known as har gau and siu mai (Bt140 apiece) each stuffed with a generous quantity of shrimp, and the Teochew dumpling fun guo with assorted vegetables (Bt105) made all the more delectable by its thin and soft wrapper.
Thin rice noodle rolls stuffed with either shrimp (Bt180) or crispy fried Chinese breadstick (Bt94) are worth trying as are the steamed custard lava bun (Bt130) and soft snow bun stuffed with barbecued pork (Bt120). Another delicious option is the fried sticky rice roll (Bt110) and baked egg tarts (Bt93).
The price of every dim sum dish is reduced by 50 per cent from Monday to Saturday only.
FRESH FROM THE SEA
>> Ah Yat Abalone is open daily for lunch, 11am to 3pm and dinner from 6 to 11pm.
>> It’s on the third floor of Arnoma Grand Bangkok at the Ratchaprasong intersection.
n Call (02) 655 5555 or visit www.Arnoma.com/th.