Shangri-La Hotel’s latest guest chef, Chef Luca Piscazzi, head chef of La Dame de Pic in London, is in town for the next five days and if you are a food lover, then this is an opportunity it would be a crying shame to miss.
It’s not easy flying across the world with only a few days to familiarise yourself with a new kitchen, working with a new team, using new produce, and managing to create a meal which was as exceptional and memorable as was Luca’s Kitchen last night.
Chef Luca was the opening head chef of La Dame de Pic’s first London restaurant, a daunting challenge for a young chef still in his mid-twenties, however impressive his career had been to date. Up to then, he had worked his way up holding key positions in some of the world’s finest restaurants from the three-starred La Pergola in Rome to Mandarin Oriental’s two-starred Amber in Hong Kong. Following his stint at Four Seasons’ Mio in Beijing, he was hand-picked by culinary royalty Anne-Sophie Pic, to lead the London kitchen of her eponymous restaurant.
Within six months, his restaurant had earned one Michelin star, cementing Chef Luca’s position as a formidable chef, whose career is in its relative-infancy.
We media were invited last night to a preview of what will be a five day culinary showcase at Shangri-La and after a brief chat to the young chef, we sipped our wine in anticipation.
When the amuse bouche hit the ball out of the park, we knew we were in for a treat. A light corn foam, textured more like a mousse, was infused with Chef Luca’s signature love of coffee to add depth of flavour, and served with mini cubes of passion fruit jelly for surprising bursts of acidity with juicy kernels of sweet corn and surprise crunches of sea salt, the brine pulling all the different flavours and textures together.
The first dish which arrived was equally light and joyful, exquisitely presented like a piece of art. Half-spheres of melon, swollen with an aromatic marinade of Amaretto and tonka beans, wereserved on a bed of crunchy quinoa, quinoa chips adding further texture. A moat of liquid lemon balm surrounded the dish, its acidity muted into an almost plummy aftertaste. Sprigs of mint and a refreshing burrata ice cream brought it all to life in a most festive manner.
It was clear at this point that Chef Luca is a master at blending and balancing flavours, each and every component of the dishes served so far held its own, yet sat in harmony with other components, some complementing, some contrasting.
We were rather excited by this point and the next dish didn’t disappoint. Slightly cured and slightly smoked Mediterranean mackerel, topped with fresh cubes and sprigs of condiments, was served with an intriguing clear gazpacho sauce, maintaining all of the flavours of a traditional gazpacho but with slightly more concentration. Coriander oil had been added to the sauce giving it a vibrant colour and a coriander puree added some depth, a deeply savoury dish which felt artlessly light.
The next dish had us all oohing and aahing again with the exquisitely cooked brown buttered seared prawns from Palamos, Spain topped with a judicious sprinkle of exotic smoky korerima spice from Ethiopia. Each bite of the prawn was sweet, succulent and firm. Handmade cavatellipasta soaked up the rich flavours of the pesto sauce and mini-cubes of firm courgette added texture, while pretty courgette flowers added whimsy. The dish was yet another successful medley of fabulous flavours which simply danced and partied in the mouth.
We awaited the next carousel of flavours, but Chef Luca surprised us again, this time by drawing from his Asian experiences, to offer us a moment of Zen amidst the feast. An impeccably poached foie gras escalope, poached in a rich dashi sauce arrived looking almost nude, after the kaleidoscope of colours we had witnessed in the first few dishes. Topped with picked radish slithers, this minimal dish offered us a moment to savour, as the table went rather quiet for a few minutes.
Following such a gentle and quiet dish, we were not expecting the burst of blood red beef and beetroot which arrived next. Prime cuts of Australian beef, poached in red wine, evenly medium rare throughout, arrived almost throbbing with life. Slithers of radish, soaked in the vermillion red radish, sat atop half spheres of beetroot and a pretty pink emulsion of beetroot and Tasmanian pepper adding zing and life to each bright blood-red bite.
We were told that Chef Luca loves making desserts and surprisingly, while we had all polished off each dish, the portions were well thought out, and we still had room for just a little more.
A light brown sugar tart with bits of crumble was served with a sharp lemongrass ice cream and little halves of fresh strawberry infused in vinegar added zing and balanced out the sweetness of the tart.
It isn’t often that you walk away from a meal feeling high. But this was one of those times. As we all chatted to one other on our Line and Facebook chats as we returned home, it was a pretty unanimous consensus that we had all experienced something memorable and very special.
If this is the standard of food Chef Luca is producing when he is barely 30, we are salivating in anticipation of what his future career will bring.
Now – August 25th
At Dhala Pool Garden, Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai
Lunch 11.30am – 2.30pm. 1,588++ baht per person
Dinner 6 – 10pm. 2,188++ baht per person