When I saw an interview saying that renowned Chef David Thompson (of Nahm) was calling Chefs Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn and Worathon “Tae” Udomchalotorn of Le Du “emerging local culinary talents” my curiosity was piqued. On further investigation I saw that between them they had not only trained at the Culinary Institute of America but had also managed to work in some of NYC’s finest (and my favourite) restaurants including Eleven Madison Park and WD50, I knew I would have to visit Le Du sooner rather than later.
Like Bo.Lan, “Le Du” is another clever play on Thai words with “ฤดู” being a synonym for the word “season” in Thai. Whilst many chefs here choose to use imported ingredients instead of making use of all the outstanding local Thai produce, Chefs Ton and Tae take care to source the finest seasonal ingredients from local farmers wherever possible. The menu changes as and when great new produce comes into season, simple ingredients like mushrooms are transformed through imaginative modern cooking techniques.
The menu is split into 4 sections; Raw & Cold, From the Forest and Sea, From the Ranch and Sin and whilst dishes are available to be enjoyed A La Carte, it is recommended to try one dish from each section or the 7 course tasting menu (1590 THB) in order to experience the dishes in the way that they are intended to be eaten. As I had been invited to a tasting, Chef Ton kindly put together a surprise 4 course menu for me which was quite a relief as I really had no idea where to start with the menu, everything looked so unusual and interesting that it was very hard to narrow down what I wanted to try first!
My first course was “Compressed Watermelon” a lovely refreshing start to the meal. Cubes of the compressed watermelon were sprinkled with a citrus salt, pistachio and a “fish crumble” all 3 of which were easily defined against the intensified sweetness of the watermelon. This was served with a scoop of shallot ice cream, the use of caramelized shallots making for an intriguing sweet yet somehow savoury ice-cream, which was complimented further by the tiny dried local anchovies inside the ice cream itself. I really liked the use of fresh tarragon and lightly pickled onions as the astringency helped to cut through the sweetness of the dish – whilst on paper these ingredients might look a bit startling, the combination was extremely successful and it was a great start to the meal.
My second dish was “Slipper Lobster” with potato, avocado, compressed cucumber and dried shrimp. The Lobsters came served on a hot stone that continued to cook the lobsters as you ate, with a little tart orange sauce poured over the top as it was presented. On the side of the plate was a beautiful arrangement of bright green avocado puree, a tiny dice of cucumber (a great way to see why “compressing” is so popular to further develop natural flavours) potato crisps, wafer thin croutes of bread and the dried shrimp powder. The lobsters were so sweet and tender that you didn’t need to use the knife to cut them, each mouthful bought a slightly different flavour combination as well which made it really interesting to eat.
The wine pairing for the first two dishes was a “Bodega Privada Torrontes” from Argentina. It was beautifully honeyed and perfumed with a nice hint of spice at the end and worked well with both dishes. Chef Ton even found time to study to become a CS of wine when he was in NYC, something that is of great use when creating dishes and knowing which wines to match with them.
For my main course I had “Chicken” with turmeric, pumpkin chips, pickled vegetables and bamboo shoots. You can see from the pictures how beautifully it was presented and this dish in particular reminded me of eating at EMP. The chicken had been coated in turmeric and then sous vided and seared in a really hot pan so the turmeric formed a sort of crust. It was then served on top of a gently spiced almond paste with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. The bamboo shoots had been cooked down in coconut milk with a little dried fish inside whilst the pickled vegetables had been turned into a bright yellow sauce that was dotted onto the plate, giving a slightly acidic counterbalance to the spice of the meat. I loved how the turmeric had permeated through the chicken and all the different spices synched together beautifully. The wine pairing for this was “Chemin des Sables” Rose D’anjou full of lush strawberries and red fruits, perfect for counter acting the spices in the dish.
Whilst the “Thai Tea Pudding” didn’t move me, the “Pork Blood Pudding” was an absolute show stopper. It was served with an almond sable, tapioca pearls, caramel sauce and a milk sorbet and the different textures and flavours of the dish were really exciting. I had been expecting that I would maybe detect a hint of iron but it was more like a mild chocolate than anything else – I would really recommend finishing your meal with this no matter what! The aged port wine pairing was another interesting pairing and one I really enjoyed.
A four course menu is usually 990 THB with matching wines being available for another 990 THB which I think is great value for such interesting cooking techniques and methods, not to mention getting to try such wonderful local produce in such an imaginative and creative way and I would highly recommend eating there – I will definitely be going back!
*I was lucky enough to be an invited guest of Le Du on this occasion but all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.