Words by Nadia Willan
For those in the culinary know, Frenchman Jean-Michel Lorain perhaps needs no introduction. The third-generation owner of the famed La Côte Saint Jacques guesthouse in the Burgundy countryside, his restaurant has proudly boasted two Michelin stars for the last five years, with the first star awarded in 1971
Michelin-starred J’AIME by Jean-Michel Lorain sees the family name continue in Bangkok with daughter Marine at the helm. Italian Chef Amerigo Sesti ,who trained under Jean-Michel, adds his own dynamically creative flair and passion to what is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Thailand’s capital.
Translating the ethos of traditional French cuisine into a menu that celebrates regional ingredients, J’AIME impresses in such a natural way, it’s as if the Franco-Asian history has always existed. Added to this, a creative commitment to innovation elevates dishes into the higher echelons of fine-dining.
As restaurants come and go, along with fashionable foodie fads, here is a restaurant that feels as if it’s above and beyond such transience. As part of Jean-Michel Lorain’s legacy, the eatery has a lot of expectations to deliver and overall it succeeds.
The dining room has a grown-up vibe that could feel a little too formal if it wasn’t for the warmth of the open kitchen. Instead, there’s an ambience of old-style, high-end glamour that contrasts well with the trend in so many places for uber-cool and casual settings.
As with any gourmet dining experience worth its salt, the canapés are a talking point and every dish comes with a preamble so that each course can be better appreciated. The banana leather with Tha Sai Blue cheese from Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand; the mushroom and onion, balsamic glazed tart; and cracker with artichoke are wonderful paired with award-winning Granmonte Cremant bubbles from the mountain parkland of Thailand’s Khao Yai.
The amuse-bouche is a Japanese sea pineapple served with a soft boiled egg and a white wine foam; setting the bar high. Meanwhile, the fresh bread is given a classically French character, served with macadamia paste, duck fat with shallots, Normandy butter, and olive oil from Provence.
Intense and bold, the papaya soup with pickled garlic, celery and organic vinegar from Chiang Mai, close to the hilltribes of Thailand, leads the way toward an array of outstanding appetizers and a hearty main. Being poured into a bowl at the table is a nice touch too.
The Japanese sea urchin and scallop tartare with clams, local pickled chanterelle, cauliflower and black winter truffle, served on a black-marble designed plate, promises a finesse of subtle luxury. The pennywort pasta gratin with frog legs comes with a stunning shallot puree, creating a richly coloured delicious dish that stands out against the white marble-effect plate and is succulent and tasty.
The pan-seared itoyori fish with edamame, bell pepper and roasted fish stock is robust yet delicately divine. Root vegetable ravioli with herb oil is given a quirky edge with an Arabica coffee sauce poured from a decanter as it’s served.
Perfectly cooked, pan-seared ostrich fillet from Thailand complements the menu with balanced added to the lightness of the meat with local russula mushrooms, broccoli puree and Aglandau extra virgin olive oil. After a pre-dessert sweetener, the sweet potato ice-cream with black cardamom and white chocolate arrives in the style of an actual potato buried in edible soil in a wooden box. A trowel is used to dig these out at the table.
An imaginative idea, the dessert is a little heavy after such an array of flavoursome courses, yet the presentation’s an interesting if not a little over-fussy quirk. A positive critique has to be the menu’s overarching woodland flavours and perhaps focusing more on imaginative ideas than the pared-back simplicity of individual ingredients.
An excellent wine list, Marine follows in the footsteps of her grandmother who was one of the first female sommeliers in France, recommending an exquisite selection. A gentle Guilhem and Jean-Hugues Goisot Saint-Bris white from Burgundy brings in the taste of J’AIME’s French roots as does the softness of the Domaine de Mauperthuis Bourgogne Pinot Noir Grande Reserve.
The fruity plum and cherry bouquet of Maison Les Alexandrins Crozes-Hermitage adds the perfect balance as the dining experience deepens. To end, the citrusy orange of the Coteaux du Layon-Beaulieu Les Rouannieres from leading Loire Valley winemaker Chateau Pierre-Bise offers enough acidity to restrain the dessert wine’s sweetness and is a golden finish to an evening of gourmet delights.
J’AIME has possibly one of the most incredibly valued Michelin star lunches in the city, especially when compared to an evening menu that’s decidedly less wallet-friendly. It’s undoubtedly a satisfying foray into one of Bangkok’s first-class dining destinations for those looking for relaxed refinement and a French-inspired experience.
Address: 105/1 Ngam Duphli Alley, Thung Maha Mek, Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120, Thailand
Phone: +66 2 119 4899