As the amber-gold orange liqueur added to the Crepes Suzette was rising in flames, Chef Arnaud emerged from the kitchen to greet the diners who – like us – were in a jovial mood after his long signature lunch at Le Normandie. Who needs a drumroll when you can have the flambé effect as one?
Although this is our first time interviewing Chef Arnaud, you clearly don’t need much of an introduction to the chef’s genius aptitude for modern French fare. You’ve definitely heard about it aplenty from Bangkok’s dining scene big cheeses, as well as his regular appearance on magazines, blogs, and social media.
With a solid 24 years in the kitchen behind him (starting work at 14 and with over 17 years in the fine-dining world), Savoy-native French Chef Arnaud Dunand-Sauthier has trained under star-studded chefs like Guy Martin, Marc Veyrat at L’Auberge de L’Eridan, Emile Jung at Crocodile, and Jean-Francois Piège at Le Crillon in Paris, before captaining the kitchen of 2-Michelin-starred Le Normandie within the Mandarin Oriental since 2012.
Known for his take on modern French fare, his food – steeping deep in the cooking heritage of the French Alps and the abundance of local as global pristine produce – is an extension of his home region in France, and his worldly experience in numerous prestigious kitchens.
Yet apart from his time spent expertly whipping up the champagne sauce for his signature Caviar Osciètre et Oursin or skilfully roasting a pigeon for yet another signature Pigeon Miéral de Bresse, Chef Arnaud, who we found humble and convivial, likes to go to great lengths when it comes to trying out larb (his favourite Thai dish) at different spots in the city. These inventive eateries keep his palate inspired. We asked the chef to share with us the Bangkok spots where he likes to go for guilty pleasure food. Here, he unveils to us all his favourite off-the-beaten-track restaurants and the dishes he usually gets. Read on for his list of food he likes to devour on a cheat day in Bangkok.
Polo Fried Chicken or Gai Thod Jay Kee
For over 50 years, three generations of the family behind Gai Thod Jay Kee have been fuelling the city with crispy garlic-covered fried chicken along with Isaan delights like som tam and tom zap. The secret to their famed fried bird lies in the deep frying with no help of flour or egg coating – just pure chicken and its skin that gets cooked until light, golden, and crunchy. Yet although the fried chicken is the must-have here, Chef Arnaud’s focus seems to be on their selection of larb, since the chef himself is a full-on larb devotee.
“My favourite Thai dish is larb and I like to try it at different places that serve it. The larb at Chef Kee is the most re-done one that I tried and I really like it. Recommended.”
Gai Thod Jay Kee, 137/1-3,9 10 Sanam Khli Alley, Lumphini, Pathum, Bangkok, +662 655 8489; Open: Mon-Sun, 7 am-9 pm.
The homey Mediterranean restaurant Le Cabanon churns out mouth-walloping dishes crafted with quality seafood imported from France and Spain. Apart from that, its menu is also loaded with warm and welcoming French classics that are all the rage amongst French folks and foodies in the city.
“Whenever I want to eat French food, Le Cabanon is my go-to. Here they serve some of the very best French food in Bangkok. It’s my ultimate comfort food, ’cause, you know, I’m French, and the restaurant uses absolutely beautiful, pristine products. I spend a lot of time there. My family and I always go there for a comforting lunch or dinner. Their seafood dishes are excellent; the oysters, the clams. Delicious.”
Le Cabanon, 44 Narathiwat 15, Sathon, Bangkok, +66 92 568 0444; Open: Mon-Sun, 11:30 am-3 pm for lunch and 5:30-10 pm for dinner.
Upon your arrival at ICI, buckle up because this stellar dessert-focused place will sure take you on a wild sweet ride. Pastry chef Arisara “Paper” Chongphanitkul, the mastermind behind the creations at Issaya Siamese Club and Saawaan, is dusting the whole outlet with a sweet, sugary spell with desserts presented in a remarkable way. Think, treats created in the likeness of the Eiffel Tower, Fuji Mountain, the Hollywood sign, and even surreal cloud shapes.
“The work Chef Paper is doing is quite amazing. And the concept there is also very unique in Bangkok. When you see ICI, usually you can’t really tell what it is; is it a bakery, a café, or an afternoon tea place? And that’s the fun of it. Personally, I like afternoon tea. And not only do I like the look of her desserts, but they also taste unbelievably good. In my opinion, she is the most talented Thai chef on the pastry side. I like following the work of local chefs and I am really amazed by her work.”
Ici, 24 Sukhumvit Soi 27, Bangkok, +662 007 3113; Open: Tue-Sun, 10 am-6 pm.
Baan Rabiang Nam or River Tree House
Open since 2002, Baan Rabiang Nam or River Tree House is a riverside Thai restaurant housed in an antique wooden house by the Chao Phraya River in Nonthaburi. The menu here is brimming with Thai staples, from royal to home-style Thai dishes. With a terrace overlooking the river, the outlet boasts an intimate vibe which makes it perfect for a serene date night or even a family-day meal away from the city life.
“I like to go to Nonthaburi when I want to eat good Thai food or want to take my family out for a delicious Thai feast. They serve all types of Thai food, even Isaan and Northern Thai dishes like larb, som tam, kua gling, and more. Being by the river, they also have great seafood options. I usually don’t go for fish when eating out in the city but here’s the place I would go for fish dishes like the Fried Tubtim Fish with Garlic and Pepper or with the Three-flavour Sauce, and the Fried Snapper with Fish Sauce.”
Baan Rabiang Nam/River Tree House, 50/3 Nontaburi 23 Alley, Bang Kraso, Nonthaburi, Thailand, +662 968 1481; Open: Mon-Thu, 11:30 am-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30 am-10:30 pm; Sun, 11:30 am-9 pm.
Led by mastermind Sujira “Aom” Pongmorn, the former chef of Lord Jim’s, Sra Bua, The House On Sathorn, Issaya Siamese Club, and at the Michelin-awarded Baan Padthai, Sawaan restaurant is bringing authentic and hard-to-find Thai delights to the table in the realm of fine dining. The food here is a feast of flavours. Each dish combines the tastes of sweet, salty, spicy and sour — all for the sake of creating umami-rich food that Thailand is known for.
“I really enjoy what Chef Aom is doing; her food, for me, is what should be the future of Thai food. The techniques she employed are perfect and the flavours are also right. The cool part too is that this is not Thai food made only for or based on tourists. Chef Aom and Chef Paper are talented and their food is a reflection of their creativeness and in-depth knowledge for Thai food.”
Saawaan, 39/19 Soi Suan Plu, Sathorn Road, Bangkok, +662 679 3775; Open: Mon-Sun, 6 pm-12 am.
Fuel your obsession for modern European fare at Mia, a themed restaurant with vibrant western dishes wonderfully but not excessively touched with a fine-dining ethos. Helmed by owner Chef Julien Imbert who has had past tenures at London’s Sketch, Jason Atherton’s City Social, and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, along with executive chef-duo Pongcharn ‘Top’ Russell and Michelle Goh (previously at Freebird and Sühring), the trio alone proves enough reasons to guarantee the goodness of this restaurant. The movie scene-like space here will also please you, as well as the concocted drinks at the Curtain, a sleek, dimly-lit bar on the first floor.
“I had really great meals at Mia and now it’s the perfect spot for dinner for me. The food is always precise. My favourite dish there is the Mushroom Chawanmushi with truffle reduction, wild rice, and more truffle! It’s just wonderful.”
Mia, 30 Attha Kawi 1 Alley, Khlong Tan, Bangkok, +66 98 862 9659; Open: Tues-Sun 6 pm-11:45 pm.
Run by the husband-wife team of former Sensi Chef Christian Martena and Maitre D Clara Del Corso-Martena, the modern Italian-themed restaurant CLARA offers up modern Italian cuisine, co-mingled with essences of Chef Christian’s cooking and Clara’s sophisticated style. Their food is also spiked with Asian tangs and spirits inspired by their experience of living abroad and local ingredients.
“The food here is superb. I am also a very good friend of the chef so often times I would be the taster of his new dishes [laughs]. Chef Christian is very skilled and he has great potential to go very far here in Bangkok. I am also not much of a bar person, although I’m an avid wine drinker. I like to go here for a drink. They have a good selection of wine.”
CLARA, 69 Soi Prasat Suk, Chong Nonsi, Yan Nawa, Bangkok, +6695 879 6257; Open: Mon-Sat, 6 pm-12 am.
Situated on Chan Kao Road, Sathorn, Amantee is inarguably a paradise for great bread. Like France, where bread is to be found throughout every street and corner, Amantee fills up every inch of their counter from dawn until evening with French-style sourdough loaves. And although the outlet is famous as a spot for decent bread, we highly recommend you to also stop there for their sugar-laden pastries. In a mood to get your high-carb, high-sugar craving fixed? Their caramelised galette, pain au chocolate, and pains aux raisins will do the job beautifully.
“I know you must have seen this coming [laughs]. Amantee is my go-to spot for bread. I think they bake the best bread in Bangkok. There, I always try different bread and pastries they have on offer. My kids also love their chocolate bread, the Choco-Sourire made with organic wheat flour and dark chocolate.”
Amantee, 2240 12-13 Thanon Chan Kao Road, Chongnonsee, +66 2 678 1300; Open: Tue-Sun, 7 am-7 pm.