Tucked around the corner from Chong Nonsi BTS in Bangkok’s bustling Silom district, sits chic Le Du Restaurant + Wine Bar, serving modern Thai cuisine. I was only visiting Bangkok for a couple of days, and Le Du was first on my list of places to eat at.
Le Du Restaurant + Wine Bar
Contemporary in both its cuisine and decor without being over-the-top, Le Du balances tradition and modernity in an inimitable Thai way. Le Du translates to ‘the season’ in Thai, and true to the name, the menu here is developed seasonally, featuring local and sustainable produce from around Thailand.
Co-owner and Chef Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn graduated top of his class at the Culinary Institute of America, before working at renowned Eleven Madison Park and Jean-Georges in New York. He is also a certified Sommelier, which is why wine plays a starring role in the dining experience at Le Du. His business partner Rungroj ‘Tao’ Ingudananda, is General Manager at the restaurant.
Warm wood tones brought out by soft lighting, white furniture, floor to ceiling glass windows and pastel floral arrangements make up the classic retro-chic interiors that are tastefully à la française. The wine bar near the entrance boasts a wide selection of labels from around the world, as diners are offered an insight into kitchen life through large glass windows that overlook the pass. It was all quite romantic.
Le Du’s maître d’ Erica suggested four wines to pair with each of the four courses – two white, two red. For the first course, a 2014 Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – aromatic, floral and fruity to taste. The second wine was a 2011 Chardonnay Blend from Australia – only slight fruity, but more dry on the palate. My third wine was a 2008 Kekfrankos from Hungary (one of Chef’s favourites, I was told), which had a more woody, robust aroma. I ended up forfeiting my fourth glass, as I was too full of good food.
Beginning my dining experience at Le Du was a Butterfly Pea Flower Tea with lemongrass jelly; Veg Uni with shrimp paste and dried coconut; and tomato with garlic pureé. The tea and jelly were light and floral on the palate, while the veg uni was punchy, with a fresh kick of galangal, lemongrass and chili; the tomato was juicy and sweet, served on a creamy garlic purée with lemongrass zest.
Course One – Cold
Fresh from South Thailand, the obsidian hued Raw Black Barracuda served chilled with juicy watermelon, creamy Thai basil purée and crisp galangal was a clean, subtle mouthful of flavours.
Blanketed by a silky Thai rice wine sabayon, the Poached Oyster served on a boulder of chili paste, with spicy green mango relish, maple leaf and black rice crisp was absolutely divine. Though I’m an oyster novice, I think this is the best way I could have been initiated into the oyster-lovers’ club.
Rounding out the first course was a dish of Blue Swimmer Crab in prawn fat, pork & salted crab, coconut milk – all my favourite flavours. With an entourage of bright orange chilies, crunchy daikon, winged bean, herbaceous gotu kola, and quilled cucumber, as well as a salty coconut granita, tart mandarin pureé and a rich, velvety coconut prawn sauce to provide additional contrast. The dance between the different elements was a veritable party in my mouth.
Course Two – From the Sea and Forest
The Sustainable Squid and wild mushroom salad with salted duck egg was quite different from the earlier couple of dishes, but no less delicious. The juicy, thick cut squid had a gorgeous smokey flavour from being chargrilled (perfectly, might I add) and played well with the mushrooms, since both were of a similar texture. The duck egg yolk nestled in a petal of grilled white onion added a nice salty-pungent kick to the dish. The duck egg sauce poured over was unlike the luscious ones that preceded it, and was instead much lighter, with a delicately grainy texture to it. Curls of dried red pepper and spring onion stalks completed the salad, with a slight hint of kaffir lime.
I was quite excited to try the Sustainable Ocean Fish with roasted pumpkin puree and fermented fish stomach – particularly because I’d never tasted the latter. The fish used was sustainable cobia – sourced from South Thailand – perfectly seared and crusted with a bit of fresh black pepper on the skin side. Served on a bed of sautéed spinach and garlic, caramelised pumpkin mash, with long beans, Thai eggplant, red chili slivers and daikon – all of which worked tremendously well with the dark horse of this dish – fermented fish stomach sauce. A beautiful deep shade of burnt umber; the sauce was salty, but also had rich, buttery undertones that provided the overall dish with much more depth.
Course Three – From the Ranch
The Free Range Pork Belly with, lightly pickled cabbage, cucumber, and mildly spiced peanut curry was easy to love. A succulent cut of pork with a delightfully crispy skin, I was able to cut through it like a hot knife through butter. The accompanying lustrous peanut curry was exactly as it should be – reminiscent (to me) of a version of Massaman curry I’d eaten at a PAI, a Northern Thai restaurant in Toronto. The pickled salad (like the Indian ‘kachumber’) provided fresh relief from the full-flavoured pork and curry.
Cooked medium-rare (of course), the Local 30-days Dry Aged Beef Tenderloin with eggplant two ways, green curry and young coconut shoots was another gem in Le Du’s crown. I loved the peppery, herbaceous curry – and the tenderness of the beef more than satiated my cravings for the illicit (in India) meat.
Course Four – Sin
Local mulberries, pineapple, cashews, puffed rice, almond raisin granola and smooth caramel ice cream provided supporting roles on the plate of Candied Kaffir Lime for dessert. Different levels of sweet, sour, crunchy and soft made this a dish worth taking the time to eat.
I wasn’t convinced that Pork Blood Pudding could be considered ‘dessert’, until I tried it at Le Du. Paired with fresh Thai basil ice cream, a drizzle of salted caramel, almond crumb, and raspberry coulis, the pannacotta-esque pudding tasted salty-sweet, with cocoa undertones. The texture of the pudding itself was silky, and could probably have been mistaken for chocolate (if you hadn’t read the menu).
Le Du is fast becoming one of Bangkok’s most popular restaurants, earning a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Discovery List in 2016. It’s only a matter of time before they make it to the top of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Unlike places like Gaggan that also define their cuisine as modern/progressive, the food at Le Du somehow feels more natural in its evolution. Every dish is cooked and presented with integrity and finesse, sans any traces of liquid nitrogen and molecular techniques that are usually associated with modernist cuisine. I love how the French influence is not just aesthetic, but also synonymous with some of the cooking techniques used on the food.
Since opening Le Du, Chef Ton has also launched three more restaurants – all of which are on my to-eat-at list the next time I’m in Bangkok. You can read Chef Ton’s local guide to eating and drinking in Bangkok on Grantourismo’s blog here.
Le Du changes their menu frequently (as per seasonal availability of ingredients) so there will always be something new and exciting to try. In addition to their à la carte menu, they also have a tasting menu for a set price. If you’re ever in Bangkok, you simply must eat at Le Du.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the staff at Le Du for hosting me. This meal at Le Du was gratis, at the discretion and generosity of Chef Ton. All views and opinions expressed here are solely my own.