Say Yes to Yào
Soon to celebrate its first anniversary, Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse has plenty to sing about. The stunning 32-storey hotel is situated in what used to be Bangkok’s bustling diplomatic and expatriate quarter and today the area is still home to several ambassador’s residences and gorgeous 19th century buildings. A shining example of 21st century steel and glass, the hotel sits comfortably juxtaposed to the neo-classical Neilson Hays Library, a building dedicated to love.
But I digress. The object of our visit was to dine at Yào Restaurant and Rooftop Bar; the hotel’s much-talked about Chinese eatery. We passed through a bustling lobby – always a good sign – and took an elevator to the 32nd floor to meet our host for the evening. After a warm welcome, our host suggested we relax with a Chinese-themed cocktail and watch the sunset. The two-tier rooftop bar is an excellent place to chill out and have a chit-chat while building an appetite.
Taking the small elevator back down to the restaurant, we were greeted by an elegantly dressed waitress who guided us to our table. Yào Restaurant impresses from the get-go with its stunning interior décor, a throwback to the Shanghai of old. Chinese elements are artfully mixed with modern, stylish designs and dark wooden lattice-walls are backlit with subtle red and cream lighting. Seating options include traditional round Chinese dining tables with revolving tops for up to six people and regular marble-top tables for two or four diners. The largest private dining room features a 20-person table complete with motorized revolving top.
Covering the best in Chinese cuisine, Yào Restaurant serves a wide selection of Cantonese and Shanghainese dishes that are sure to impress every food connoisseur. Leading the team in the kitchen is Wang Wen Bin, a native Chinese chef and a bit of a showman who creates a variety of hand-pulled noodles right at your table. A skilled culinary master, diners can expect to feast on delectable Chinese dishes cooked and seasoned to perfection.
Our meal began with us selecting a Chinese tea; you have the choice of pulling a stick with your fancied tea or you can shake the wooden vase until a stick is shaken out. There are a dozen or so Chinese teas to choose from, each with its own refined taste and aroma, while the shades of tea range from dark to light. Tea is the perfect drink to accompany a Chinese meal that can be full of strong flavours and textures.
We were first served the 9 Elements of Shanghai Platter, a selection of mini-dish appetizers that spanned the best of Chinese cuisine and included soft-boiled chicken, tofu, roast duck, crispy pork belly, fried wanton and steamed okra. These bite-sized morsels come with a selection of sauce dips and make an ideal introduction. To accompany the platter, a piping hot Flower Shaped Bean Curd with Morel Mushroom Soup was not only a tasty entrée, but also cleansed the palate thus allowing us to experience the true flavours of each bite.
While we were enjoying our first course, a medley of Dim Sum arrived in a stylish two-tier case as well as a serving of Xiao Long Bao, delicately steamed buns filled with hot soup and a popular dish in Shanghai. Using our chopsticks, we made short work of the Dum Sum, while the steam buns required a precise touch; an errant bite is likely to result in hot soup squirting across the table if not down your shirt. The trick is to make a small incision in the skin and slowly allow the hot soup to spill into your mouth, after which you are safe to enjoy the dumplings in their entire splendor.
It was at this stage that Chef Wang Wen appeared with his portable preparation table and a dollop of dough. What happened next left us speechless as the dexterity of our chef hands kept us spellbound. Slowly manipulating the dough, he stretched and pulled the dough into longer and longer lengths, each time the dough became thinner and thinner until he was satisfied with the quality of his work. It’s an amazing feat to see hand-pulled noodles made in front of your eyes and within a few minutes the finished product was flash boiled and served with a rich gravy, spiced minced pork, cod roe, a sprinkling of chopped spring onions and seasoning.
Offering a full range of meat and vegetable options, Yao excels with traditional recipes such as the wok-fried Japanese A5 Wagyu Beef with Morel and Porcini mushrooms and served in a full-flavored X.O. Sauce and the equally tasty fried Green Beans with Dried Tofu. The Wagyu beef simply melts in the mouth and is fantastically flavorsome, while the fried green beans are the perfect match for the dried tofu, although the dish was a little on the spicy side.
Our main course was the full Lychee Wood Roasted Beijing Duck, which was carved at our table. The Siamese Style crispy skin is served fresh pancakes, vegetables and a duo of sauces. The art of rolling the perfect pancake still escapes me, but the enjoyment and delight of biting down on a volley of textures and tastes is the ultimate experience. While we enjoyed the pancakes, the rest of the duck was being prepared as Minced Duck with Garden Salad and generous slices of duck breast with black pepper corn and seasonal vegetables.
In a twist to the crispy duck skin pancakes, the minced duck can be wrapped in a lettuce leaf and eaten or it is just as delicious on its own. However, my preferred dish of the evening was the duck breast cooked with black pepper corn and seasonal vegetables, which reminded me of one of the first Chinese meals I had as a young man. The succulent duck coupled with crunchy bell peppers in a rich dark sauce has to be the ultimate in gastronomic delight. I, for one, could gladly eat this dish every day.
Taking our dessert cue from our host, we ordered the Chilled Pang Da Hai with Pear, a fruity offering that perfectly summed up Chinese cuisine’s ability to mix and match the most ordinary fruit and make it a true pleasure. As the last morsel of pear disappeared from my spoon, I drank my last cup of hot Chinese tea and sat back to appreciate the superb meal we had just been served.
For more information about Yào Restaurant and Rooftop Bar, call +66 (0) 2-088-5666 or email email@example.com.