Degustation. Don’t laugh but I had to look the word up. The word itself looks like a disease only a foodie would get. So when I was invited to Empty Plates (official Facebook page) for a 6 course “Degustation Menu” I wanted to make sure I understood what I was getting into.
Essentially degustation is the careful, appreciative tasting of small dishes that focus on the senses of taste and flavor, high culinary art, and with good company. I’m happy to say that Empty Plates delivers on all fronts of the definition. Each dish is crafted to be a culinary experience. Each experience is shared in good company of like minded table explorers. At 1,500 baht NET the 6 course meal with a cocktail that I enjoyed is also a tremendous value.
This was an incredible experience from the very first bite!
Dish #1: Indian Halibut Seafood Cracker
This Indian Halibut Seafood Cracker is meant to stoke the appetite. It does. If you eat one you’ll want a dozen. This long cracker strip is topped with strips of fresh Indian halibut, Thai celery dip, sriracha hollandaise, bok choy flowers, and celery foam. The ingredients create a delicious flavor and texture explosion in your mouth. Don’t worry, the cracker is lightly lacquered with a savory coating so that it holds up and won’t detonate on first bite.
Dish #2: Bloody Fake Tartar
The second dish was either going to be a Thai Swiss Beef Tartar or a Bloody Fake Tartar. I was served the Bloody Fake Tartar (though I tried the Thai Swiss Beef Tartar and it was amazing!). Instead of beef the Bloody Fake Tartar is made with tomatoes, “Digga” dressing, and dehydrated potato. It has a slight wasabi punch that is delicious with the capers. The dish is creamy like a beef tartar but as a devout meatarian it’s not a substitute.
What makes both tartars amazing is the “Digga” dressing. The dressing is a mix between typical European dressing ingredients such as dijon, garlic confit, diced pickles, and shallot mixed with more Asian flavors such as SangSom, sriracha, wasabi, and chili oil. It is named after the chef’s roommate in Switzerland. They always made this dressing for their “tartar sessions”.
I enjoyed the dish for its uniqueness and flavor–especially when slathered over the warm fresh homemade bread roll that accompanied it.
Dish #3: Pork Pineapple & Beer
Here we go! I was pretty excited when the Pork Pineapple & Beer dish was presented. Not just because it’s so pretty–because it’s a tender baby back rib. Cooked to perfection, the lightly coated meat falls off the bone. A smear of pineapple syrup and pomegranate makes a nice bite. See those little red chillies on the rib? Don’t be fooled. The real heat on the plate is the chili infused pineapple slice!
The pineapple is infused with green chili oil, lemongrass oil, and turmeric essence drops. Be careful and use the pork crackling to temper the fire immediately following each bite.
Dish #4: Betel Wrapped Sea Bass
The Betel Wrapped Sea Bass is topped with pickled bamboo, crispy shaved garlic, and thin slivers of basil leaf.
Watercress soup is then added to complete the dish. Surprisingly there is no bitterness to the betel leaf, just a nice peppery flavor. I enjoyed the different textures of this dish: crispy garlic, crunchy bamboo, and the soft chew of the leaf wrapped fish.
Dish #5: Orange Chicken & Sake
This main dish, Orange Chicken & Sake, was one of the highlights of the meal for me. The chicken is cooked souse vide so it’s super tender and incredibly flavorful. The pumpkin coconut puree, tangerine sake reduction, and pumpkin foam that accompany the dish provide a flavor playground to create various taste experiences.
The dish is topped with a strip of crispy chicken skin that’s oven roasted for 40 hours. It’s amazing!
Dish #6: Let’s Go Coconutzz!
Wow! What a way to end a meal. This is truly a dessert for the coconut lover. This Let’s Go Coconutzz! is made with a coconut panna cotta, whipped coconut, chunks of coconut meat, roasted coconut, a smoky cashew nut brittle, and a mulberry sauce. The final flavor touches are sprigs of fresh chocolate mint leaves (grown onsite)–I need to own one of these plants.
This was the first time they’d had this dessert on the menu. But as with all the previous dishes the room was silent except for the scraping of silverware against serving dishes until what was left were empty plates and happy guests.
The 1,500 baht tasting menu also includes a cocktail. But Empty Plates doesn’t gouge on pricing should you want to imbibe further. Their cocktails are reasonably priced at 150 baht, with special cocktails at 200 baht. Beer fans will enjoy small Leo at 80 baht and large Leo at 120 baht.
This meal finished with a digestive shot of homemade somzacello (similar to lemoncello but made with the Thai somza citrus fruit). If you’re feeling festive, the shots are very reasonabl priced at 130 baht. For wine enthusiasts the prices vary based on availability. Just ask!
A chat with the chef…
Chef Steven John, the chef and proprietor of Empty Plates, has a Thai/Swiss background. Originally living in Switzerland, he’s now been living in Thailand for 9 years. Surprisingly he doesn’t have any F&B background or training. This may actually be the key to his cooking style. In the kitchen he is unshackled from conventional cooking norms–free to explore the flavors and the ingredients he intuitively thinks work well together. He certainly has a gift for inventing seriously amazing dishes.
Empty Plates opened to the public in April, 2018. It sprung from the passion that Steven has for creating sumptuous dishes that combine Asian and European influences. He converted his apartment living room into a attractively decorated dining area that accommodates up to 12 guests. Rather than open a large restaurant he opted to keep it intimate. Instead of an expansive menu to order from he develops a tasting menu of dishes to be presented.
Not just a dinner…
It’s not just dinner. It’s an experience. Steven welcomes guests as friends. He’s engaging, happy to talk about the recipes (there’s no secrets here), and after the meal join in for a drink. The menu shifts based on what’s fresh and in season. What doesn’t change is the creativity formulating the dishes. At Empty Plates diners should expect the unexpected with thrilling results.
“Our concept is to bring people together from all walks of life through food. We want to provide an experience for our guests and not just a tasty meal. We try to be consistent in experience, not in taste. You’re always headed to the same place, but we have to find new challenges and dangerous ways of getting there to be exciting. As best as we can be, at that moment of time before we evolve and learn again.” – Chef Steven John
I want to empty some plates! Where is it?
Empty Plates is the perfect place for small groups, couples, and singles. During my visit there was a small group of 5, a couple, and 3 singles. Groups can still sit together and be festive, couples will still find the experience intimate, and as the guests have a united love for food, singles can make friends easily.
As it’s on the 24th floor guests are also welcome to enjoy the balcony view.
What a deal!
In Bangkok you’d be hard pressed to find a tasting menu at this value. Empty Plates’ prices fluctuate based on the number of dishes. Right now they have 6 courses for 1500 baht (it’s advertised as 5 but there’s always a “surprise dish”). Empty Plates also offer special evenings for 7 courses for 2100 baht and 9 courses at 2400 baht. But as of this writing they are running the promotion with 5 (6) courses for 1500 baht and 4 courses on weekdays for 1200 baht.
Empty Plates is located on the 24th floor of the Life Ladprao 18 tower. Advance reservations are a must as the seating is limited to 12 guests and coordination is required to access the place. Reservations can be made either via their Facebook page or their website. It’s a 200 meter walk from the Lat Phrao MRT station (exit 2).
If you should go I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section. The food is so amazing I guarantee you’ll be leaving the plates empty!