When a place has a strong, unique, independent, world-renowned culinary culture, people who visit it do it in order to taste the best of said local food. Bangkok is one of these places.
Why look for an Indian restaurant in Barcelona, for example…? Or Italian restaurant Bangkok?
Yet there is always a certain group of people who believe that a well presented quality product will always find an audience, no matter how strong the local culture.
Jarrett Wrisley is one of them.
The American opened the Italian restaurant Bangkok in the heart of the city.
Italian Restaurant Bangkok
Appia opened its doors about two years ago in Sukhumvit, one of Bangkok’s chic neighborhoods. Mr. Wrisley, who is also the owner of a restaurant that serves Thai-inspired food, Soul Food Mahanakhorn, embarked on an Italian adventure with Roman-born chef Paolo Vitaletti. Since then, the restaurant has done especially well.
“We’re successful, that’s for sure,” says Wrisley. “The proof is that I still don’t have time to sleep!”
Present at the restaurant almost daily, he takes care of the front of the house, while the chef spends his time training the cooks.
“It’s a restaurant that relies heavily on the quality of the products. We have a lot of imports,” he says, from behind the bar, a glass of red in hand. To his right is a Parma ham mounted on an elegant cutting table; To his left, a fine collection of reds and whites from Italy, Spain, and France.
Note: Eating at Appia is awesome, but it’s not the cheapest! Broke? Check out these cheap things to do in Bangkok, a post by twowanderingsoles.com!
If only one dish could exemplify what Mr. Wrisley is trying to illustrate, it’s Appia’s carbonara. First, the pasta is made by hand, in-house. “It’s very simple: water, flour, that’s all.” Simple, yes, but the flour obviously doesn’t come from Thailand. Then, the sauce, too, is simple: pig cheek, an egg, pecorino cheese. “This is the original version of the carbonara, there is no cream.” That’s it? Not so fast. “We use a very special egg to make this sauce: Paolo Parisi’s eggs, one of the most famous farmers of Italy. He invented a way to feed his chickens the whey of pecorino cheese. The eggs taste of the cheese. Taste!”
Mr. Wrisley gives me, in a glass, a half egg. It is barely cooked, and the white is almost coagulated, but the yellow is evidently raw. There is a small pinch of ground pepper and chives on top, that’s all. “Bottoms up!” It’s true: the egg really tastes of cheese. In fact, it’s stunning.
The paccheri dish is simply covered with egg, cheese and pork fat. The simplicity of the tastes and the texture of handmade, al-dente pasta : that’s all that’s left. That’s what quality products will do for you.
But at Appia doesn’t not stop at the quality products. The decor is classic and casual despite the high-end products. The brown of the woods, the black of the slates and the beige of the marbles give a warm atmosphere which also contrasts with the austerity of some modern places of the Thong Lo district, often made of brushed concrete. You can almost forget you are dining on the Italian restaurant Bangkok once you are inside.
So, the evening, which started with two small crostinis – chicken liver, then burrata and tomatoes – followed by a carbonara dish, now ventures, like a traditional Italian evening, to meats. Again, everything that is done in Appia’s kitchens has the power to surprise.
A classic dish of Roman trippa, one of the stomachs of beef cooked for hours on end and mixed with a tomato sauce, is incredibly tender and clean. Again, these are two products, with some spices, and nothing more. Some might argue that it may be lacking seasoning, but if the products should be in the foreground, why over-salt?
The veal tongue on polenta is accompanied by red bell peppers and caperberries. Here too, the same chorus: delicate, tender, creamy … this dish is especially impressive considering that veal tongue can be a capricious piece to prepare.
Eating at Appia also means drinking the wine that accompanies the dish. It is therefore without surprise that a full-bodied red accompanies by a succulent lamb ragu which covers beautiful cavatelli.
You simply can’t have the Italian food in Bangkok experience without tasting Appia’s most popular dish, the lamb ribs cooked rotisserie-style. Two small ribs are presented on an elegant cutting board. Again, since the chef chose to let the products speak for themselves, the ribs are a little less seasoned than what is usually served in restaurants. A tiny mound of salt is on the board, inviting the diner to salt to his liking.
Since my stomach can handle large portions of food when the food is so wonderful, I welcome gluttony: a last dish of succulent beef tail stew, melting, accompanied by firm fregola.
Appia, Italian Restaurant Bangkok: The Room
But if Bangkok is one of the Meccas of food – the best Asian restaurant in 2014 was Nahm, and the chosen restaurant of 2015 was Gaggan, both in the Thai capital – why insist and open an Italian restaurant?
“There is a large expat population here in Bangkok, and people want to eat something other than local food after a while. It’s all about feeling comfortable!” says Mr Wrisley, who greets everyone who passes the door and shakes hands constantly. He feels dining on his Italian food in Bangkok is comfort food for these expats.
Mr Wrisley and Mr Vitaletti doubled-down: a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, Peppina, with its wood oven and Italian “deli” ingredients, has just opened its doors a few steps from Appia.
Mr Wrisley probably wont be getting much sleep for quite a while…