With Prohibition-era decor and rustic Italian-American cuisine, Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok’s Scalini takes diners to 1920s New York City. BY REENA KARIM
The surge of Italian immigration to the United States in the 1920s introduced a new type of cuisine to the masses. Influenced by American culture, traditional Italian recipes received a makeover. The end result popularised dishes like red-sauced spaghetti, eggplant parmigiana, and calzones that soon found their way to intimate speakeasies and mom and pop joints.
If you have been to the brand new Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok and marvelled at its stylish decor, then wait until you’ve stepped into Scalini. Located on the second floor of the hotel, the Italian-American restaurant is styled after Prohibition-era New York. Enthusiastic general manager Roberto Visaggio, in his strong Italian accent, stresses that the dim and intimate ambience is reminiscent of speakeasy bars and pubs frequented by the mafia in those times. Heavy duty industrial spotlights, white marble tables against dark leather chairs, intricately carved wooden cabinets, brass coat hangers, white chalk murals of New York across the walls, and contrasting textures of silk and metallic hues add to the dramatisation of the place. Scalini, aside from its themed-dining experience, offers plenty of nooks and corners for intimacy.
Designed by Chef Egidio Latorraca—whose back story includes stints at the Intercontinental Bali Resort, Angelina at Sofitel Legende Metropolis Hanoi, and Portofino in The Venetian at Macao—the menu is inspired by cooking developed by Italian-American immigrants. But Latorraca also finds new ways to cook traditional Italian recipes, sometimes using vacuum packing and smoke guns, to enhance the colour and taste of ingredients. Sound like molecular gastronomy? Latorraca clarifies that while he does do some molecular dishes, he will not wander too far from his Italian roots. The open kitchen allows guests to join Latorraca to hand-make pastas.
We start with a Mediterranean-inspired tuna and salmon tartar (B570). The refreshing dish comes tossed with a mix of Asian herbs—some of the many local touches he adds—lemon aioli, local mangoes, and seared ciabatta (B570). We soak up the tangy juices with our platter of assorted breads. Next, we try the Wagyu beef carpaccio, which is served alongside a porcini salsa, an earthy rocket salad, and parmesan shavings (B570), drizzled with white truffle vinaigrette. For the mains, the chef sends out the juicy paccheri duck ragout (B600). The rings of pasta come covered with shredded duck flavoured from black truffle and pecorino cheese. We then move on to pumpkin and sage ravioli (B380). Latorraca uses local pumpkin for their sweet taste and blends it with parmesan, chopped pistachio, and hazelnut oil. My favourite is the oven-baked black cod fillet (B750) with caramelised white asparagus and creamy Sicilian couscous with black mussel sauce and a dollop of prosecco foam. Although traditionally cooked in olive oil, the chef uses butter for a creamier taste.
For dessert, we are intrigued by the orange and chocolate “soil” (B220)—a big restaurant trend at the moment. Topped with berries and rose petals, the cookie crumble–like orange and chocolate soil comes with vanilla ice cream and a shot of espresso to be poured over. Chef Latorraca also prides himself on his version of tiramisu. The Scalini tiramisu (B280) comes in a tall glass and with layers of cookie with Bailey’s coffee, coffee gelatine, mascarpone, Ferrero Rocher ice cream flavoured with Marsala wine, which is a heavenly mix of hazelnut and chocolate.
The beverage menu consists of the standard beer options (B170–180) and premium spirits which include a 15- year Speyside Single Malt Scotch (B400). Do glance through their impressive range of wines (B210–480 by the glass, B1,400–5000 by the bottle).
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Published in Masala magazine, December 2013