Home Food Chef Francisco Paco Ruano is taking Mexican cuisine to new heights at Ojo Bangkok

Chef Francisco Paco Ruano is taking Mexican cuisine to new heights at Ojo Bangkok

by Shaan Bajaj

Make your way to the 76th floor of newly-opened The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon.

By Shaan Bajaj

While there are plenty of elements to adore about Bangkok, my favourite has to be its thriving culinary scene. Going to a restaurant has always felt like a treat to me, and in recent years, I have been making a conscious effort to explore the different options available, from local street vendors to fine-dining establishments. Stepping into a restaurant is an experience; it is not just about the flavours, though they play a significant portion, but the ambience and service is as important. My latest visit was to Ojo Bangkok, considered the crown jewel of the newly-opened The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon, and located on the 76th floor of King Power Mahanakhon, making it one of the highest restaurants in the city. The restaurant is headed by award -winning Chef Francisco Paco Ruano, renowned for his restaurant Alcalde, who brings his expertise and transformative style to Ojo’s kitchen. The menu features flavours of Mexican cuisine with innovative twists, using freshly-sourced ingredients of the highest quality. Dining at Ojo was touted as a journey through Mexican cuisine and culture, all from the heart of Bangkok, so naturally, I was more than eager to experience it for myself.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The doors of the lift opened to a beautiful tunnel of small oval gold mirrors leading to indoor or outdoor seating areas. For this visit, we decided to sit indoors. As I walked into the main dining area, I was taken away by the phenomenal panorama of Bangkok. Once I could tear my eyes away from the skyline, I found the restaurant’s carefully-considered design equally captivating. The floor was covered in a soft white-and-black patterned carpet, paired with white marble tables and a combination of leather chairs and suede sofas, while soft pink lightbulbs and chandeliers stand out against the glitz and glamour of the rose gold. I was told that creative expert, Ou Baholydhin, designed the interior at Ojo; a true work of art with precise intention. The space exudes retro glam and is reminiscent of Latin America’s ancient civilisations, while remaining rooted in modernity. From the choice of jazz music filtering through the space, to the pink napkins, each item has been curated to provide guests with a unique dining experience unlike anything else in the region. Their attention to detail alongside their impeccable service is a mark of true luxury.

FOOD AND DRINKS

To start, we sampled the Guacamole& tostadas (THB 390), a simple yet staple dish in any Mexican restaurant. The buttery avocado mixed with coriander and seaweed powder paired perfectly with the crisp corn tostadas. The restaurant’s General Manager, Arthur Loustau, informed me that every dish could be eaten with the tostadas, which we eagerly tried, to our delight. Next, the non-vegetarians among us sampled the Tuna crudo (THB 690) which I was told was a particularly refreshing appetiser, served with baby onions, green chillies, and a black olive emulsion to give it a kick of heat. Afterwards, the waiter set down a plate that looked like a flower field with orange, purple and deep red flowers. The Chang Mai tomato salad (THB 380) not only looked like a treat, but tasted sublime, and was packed with strong citrus notes and spice, which offset the freshness of the heirloom tomatoes. The next dish, Esquites (THB390), was personally one of my favourite items on the menu. The roasted baby corn was covered in a spicy jalapeño mayonnaise, and was loaded with rich pecorino cheese on top. I recommend eating these with your hands for a truly indulgent experience. The last appetiser we sampled was the Mushroom tetela (THB 390), a crunchy corn masa filled with a flavourful mushroom stew on a bed of tart goat cheese and black mole. Filling and scrumptious, I couldn’t get enough of its earthy yet delicious flavours.

Moving on to the main course, I started with a Taco de verdure (THB 1400) with a spiced mushroom filling and tangy salsa, a great vegetarian alternative to the pork-rib-based Carnitas (THB1400), especially with the piquant hit from the pickled vegetables. The next dish, the Pescado zarandeado (THB 1500), was a beautifully-plated grilled fish which was truly a sight to behold. Tender on the inside and flaky on the outside, it was served with avocado, three different salsas, refried beans, sticky rice and fresh tortillas. You’re invited to make your own bite-sized taco and balance the flavours to your own palate, an interactive treat that I was told was incredibly moreish. The last main course I sampled was the Artichoke pipian (THB1300), roasted artichoke on a bed of hot green pipian, or mole. The artichoke was cooked perfectly, with crisp edges masking the melt-in-your-mouth consistency beneath, while the spicy flavour of the pipian cut through the strong nutty flavour of the artichoke. For non-vegetarians, the Pollo& pipian is served with roasted chicken instead of artichoke.

To end our meal on a sweet note, I sampled two desserts, the Arroz con leche (THB 350) and Guava 3 leches (THB 350). The former is Chef Francisco’s signature vanilla cream rice with cinnamon ice cream; a sweet yet flavourful dessert that was a unanimous favourite among us. The latter is his take on the tres leches cake, which is made with three types of milk. I was impressed with the innovative take on the dessert, which featured guava foam, making it airier than expected, while the cake it self had a sponge-like consistency; an intriguing contrast. The raspberry powder added a sour crunch that balanced the sweetness of the dessert.

For drinks, I highly recommend guests try their signature cocktails, four of which we sampled. We started with the Sangre de mezcal (THB 380), a fruity drink highlighting the flavour of the roselle, paired with mezcal and bourbon. A drink I would order again was the Batanga (THB340), which had pink and black salt covering the rim of the glass, while a blend of tequila blanco and house-made cola made it both invigorating and dangerously delicious. A lighter yet equally refreshing cocktail was the Vida Fresca (THB 360), comprised of a mix of pisco, grapefruit, cucumber and tonic bitters. Last but not least, the Ducha frìa (THB 360) was a fruity cocktail with sake, raspberry, pear, lemon and thyme; the true taste of summer in a glass. If you’d prefer to venture beyond cocktails, their menu also includes a range of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, including aguas frescas, and a vast selection of beers, tequila, and wines

MASALA RECOMMENDS

The Coconut Ceviche (THB420). Served inside a whole coconut, the ceviche is made from soft young coconut with a jelly-like consistency. The citrus flavour profile of the fermented soy leche de tigre cuts through the creaminess of the coconut, lending the dish an extremely distinctive flavour profile –definitely a must-try!

OJO BANGKOK
114 Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Rd, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
Open daily for lunch (11.30am – 2.30pm) and dinner (5.30pm till late)
Tel: 02 085 8888
Instagram: @ojobangkok
www.standardhotels.com/bangkok/features/ojo-bkk

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