When it comes to Italian fine dining, La Scala is the perfect choice.
By Bruce Scott
For the past decade La Scala restaurant, located on the ground floor of The Sukhothai Bangkok hotel, has wowed diners with their inventive Italian fare. Some say it is best Italian restaurant in Bangkok, while others say it is simply one of the best restaurants in Bangkok overall. For the past two years Head Chef Antonio Michele Totaro — born and raised in Monte Sant’Angelo in Southern Italy — has been helping to provide a truly authentic Italian experience to this city’s discerning diners. By using only the finest and freshest imported ingredients, and overseeing his kitchen with a masterful touch, Chef Totaro brings a real discernable passion to his cuisine. He also seems to delight in surprising Bangkokians with menu items that can be found nowhere else in town. Which is, in part, why this venerable restaurant has maintained such a loyal following.
The interior is elegantly chic, with lots of shiny reflective surfaces — glass, metal, and polished stone — offsetting the sleek, modern wooden chairs and tabletops. In fact, the decor barely even hints that this restaurant is Italian, apart from the wood-fired pizza oven in the far corner and some operatic background music. An exposed kitchen dominates the centre of the room, and here guests can watch the talented chefs at work. The outer edge of this square-shaped work station also doubles as the display area for La Scala’s tantalising All-you-can-eat antipasti lunch buffet (starting at B750), which is available Monday through Saturday. The restaurant has room for 60 persons indoors, however there is also outdoor seating for 20 by the poolside.
Food and Drink
Under the wise supervision of Chef Totaro, we throw ourselves open to the experience of trying new things, letting this kitchen maestro plot our course up and down the shores of his beloved Italian coastline. We begin with one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the Schiacciatina pizza (B790), and it’s easy to see why this item has become such a favourite. Parma ham, arugula, sliced tomatoes, and mascarpone cheese are combined inside a horizontally sliced circular loaf of warm pizza bread, and then baked in the wood-fired oven until the outer crust is crispy and slightly charred on both sides. The end result — piled six slices high on the serving plate — is somewhat akin to a “pizza sandwich”. But whatever name you give it, the taste is unforgettable as the mascarpone perfectly enhances the generous slices of exquisite ham, while the herbs and vegetables add a zesty freshness.
The next item on the tasting tour is the Insalata di mare millefoglie (B1,950 ~ pictured at the very top) a layered salad of raw prawn, fresh crab, and perfectly cooked lobster, all bathed in an Amalfi lemon dressing. Adding to the structure of this salad are fresh asparagus, tomato, basil, and shavings of dried potato starch on top. It’s a seafood aficionado’s delight, and provides a wonderful contrast to dish number three — the Risotto foie gras (B3,200), which is one of the restaurant’s current list of special featured menu items. This show-stopper entrée combines perfectly prepared creamy Aquerello rice with a hefty wedge of silky smooth goose liver (direct from France), and tops it all with a shower of Alba white truffles. To call this dish rich would be a bit of an understatement, but it’s well worth the splurge.
To round out the meal we sample the Scorfano (B2,200), which is, if you don’t speak Italian, poached Adriatic scorpion fish. The pair of generous filets, served on a bed of fresh, colour-coordinated vegetables, arrives on an elongated serving plate, sided with its very own savoury broth. Personally I have never tried scorpion fish — although I have eaten lionfish, a distant relative — so I was keen to give it a go. The firm white flesh is somewhat like grouper, both in taste and texture, and for me that spells “delicious”.
Finally, to finish our repast we share an order of Frutti di bosco gratinati (B480). Served in a cast iron rectangular skillet, this dessert consists of a frothy egg sabayon (like a mousse), which is served gratin-style (with a browned crust). Underneath lies an assortment of fresh wild berries, and the whole mixture is topped with fine pistachio shavings, and a dollop of homemade white chocolate ice cream.
For wine pairings we leave things in the capable hands of Mr. Niroot In-aram, La Scala’s beverage manager, as the wine list contains well over 250 labels. He suggests we begin with a glass each of Wilhelm Walch Pinot Bianco (B500) from the restaurant’s monthly featured wine selection, which is deliciously crisp and reminiscent of a classic Gewürztraminer. The pours by the way are quite sizeable, so a portion of each of our orders is kept chilled in its own glass carafe — shaped like a test tube — which sits in its own miniature bucket of ice. As the meal progresses we switch to one of the featured reds, namely the Tenuta Cantagallo Chianti from Tuscany (B525). It’s a harmonious blend of fruity and spicy notes, perfect for our lavish main course menu items.
The Sukhothai Bangkok
13/3 Sathorn Rd.
Open for lunch from noon till 3pm and for dinner from 6.30pm to 11pm
Tel: 02 344 8888