A true ode to Italy.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
When I first heard about CLARA’s inception, it was like something out of a novel: talented Chef Christian Martena, eight years after founding former sensation Sensi with his beloved wife and business partner, decided to not only dedicate an entire restaurant to her, but one bearing her name for posterity. Even the successful pop-up that paved the way for the restaurant, Waiting for CLARA, had an air of the literary about it.
It was apt, therefore, that their tasting menu, called Once Upon a Time in Italy – Chapter II (THB 2680++ for five regions; THB 3080++ for seven regions), told a tale of Italy’s greatest culinary hits, from the northernmost Alto Adige region, to the warmer climes of Sicily. As a prologue to this story, Chef Christian and Clara, also the restaurant’s charming maître d’, had journeyed through Southeast Asia for inspiration, finally crafting an epicurean menu that blends the best in modern techniques, quality ingredients, and sustainable practices.
To keep with the theme, CLARA, tucked away in a residential area in Sathorn, sits in what can only be described as a storybook setting: an inviting pathway winds its way past manicured lawns, lush greenery, and intriguing sculptures, to CLARA’s Bauhaus-style building. At night, the outdoor space is a revelation, with lights that transform the villa into a beacon of warmth and welcome.
Inside, despite the exposed concrete floors and sky-high ceilings, the space is both luxe and somehow intimate, with modern lighting solutions and a rotating selection of artwork that adds dynamism to the interior. This time, the art-in-residence was that of Aurele, Chloe Kelly Miller, and Adana; fun and playful paintings that I was particularly charmed by. A chef’s table is hidden behind a bookshelf of oddments from around the world, beside which is an open kitchen which allows guests to see where the magic happens.
FOOD AND DRINK
We sampled the full seven regions in the tasting menu, which started with a welcome drink of bubbly to set the effervescent tone of the rest of the meal. Starting our culinary journey in Puglia, we were served an amuse- bouche of creamy sea urchin – a personal favourite – and buckwheat to give it texture; a melt-in-your-mouth morsel of mussel, potato, and parsley, served on a rice cracker atop a bed of pebbles; and a classic Mediterranean salad espuma, constructed into a single toothsome bite. To round off the appetisers, we had a shot of Essence of burrata, which I found an intriguing distillation of the cheese’s distinct flavour profile, but in an even richer and more indulgent form.
Moving on to the region of Sicily, we tucked into a beautifully-plated portion of tender smoked octopus, still shrouded in smoke under a glass plate cover. In between as a palate cleanser, we had a tomato sorbet with almond cream, refreshing despite the lack of sweetness that one would expect from a sorbet. The last Sicilian dish consisted of thinly-cut slices of Baby black pig ham, which we were told had only been fed on onions and figs to enhance its unique flavour, with a side of black fig compote, a seasonal delicacy during these winter months.
From Sardinia, we were served our first hot dish of the menu, a consommé made from eight different types of fish including yellow tail and rock fish, which I found to be packed with a range of aromatic notes; the ultimate comfort dish on a cold night. It was served with Fregola pasta and Carasau, a flatbread that a Sardinian friend once called a quintessential reminder of home.
Moving on to the Umbrian region, we were given a Truffle explosion in the form of a ball with a gooey centre of warm truffle cream, which lived up to its name the moment you bit into it. And if that wasn’t decadent enough, we were then served Stringozzi homemade pasta with generous flakes of Norcia autumn black truffle, another seasonal and wholly delicious treat.
For our mains, the menu took us to Tuscany, where we had a choice of Fiorentina beef cooked in chianti red wine, or what I considered a pigeon trifecta – breast (paired with a chestnut confit to balance its flavours), liver, and leg. For those who prefer seafood, however, a fish option is available upon request. I opted for the more exotic pigeon, which I would recommend for those who want something lean but are fond of gamier meats. The Pigeon liver lollipop, especially, was unique in both looks and taste, for the adventurous foodies among us.
We finally rounded off our meal with desserts from both Alto Adige and Piemonte. From the former, we had an Alpine gin and apple concoction with zesty botanicals. From the latter, a brioche served with a hazelnut and dark chocolate spread that was Chef Christian’s healthy version of Nutella, dubbed ‘Clarella’ after his wife; a dish that encapsulates the entire menu – unexpected, delicious, and infused with heart.
Out of everything we tried, I’d recommend the octopus which was unusual but still accessible, prepared perfectly so it was tender, and with a citrusy punch from the orange wood used to cook it; an ideal complement to the lemon mousse served on the side.
69 Soi Prasat Suk, Chong Nonsi, Yan Nawa, Bangkok 10120
Open daily except for Sunday, from 5pm to 11pm
Tel: 095 879 6257