A dinner of revelation
Enjoying the neat, fine-dining homeyness of Baltic Blunos
Call it a dinner of revelation, a culinary expedition or simply a journey into the works of two aesthetes — chef-patron Martin Blunos and executive chef Aleksandrs Nasikailov.
The first restaurant of its kind in Bangkok, Baltic Blunos, which opened two weeks ago on Thong Lor 9, serves up original crossover cuisine inspired by traditional cooking, ingredients and picturesque landscape of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, aka the Baltic states.
The one-of-a-kind concept is crafted by Blunos, the British celebrity chef. Born to Latvian parents, Blunos is passionate about his heritage. His restaurant, Lettonie (French for Latvia), in the UK had been awarded two Michelin stars before it closed in 2001.
Helping him with his brand-new establishment is chef Nasikailov, who flew straight from Latvia. Here, Nasikailov not only cooks but also does tableware design, beverage fermenting and chocolate crafting. There’s a culture room and vivarium where he ferments various concoctions of kombucha tea and sprouts exotic herbs.
My first impression upon arriving at Baltic Blunos was that the place, decked out to blend modern elegance with upscale composure, felt very homey.
Despite its neat, fine-dining presence, the 80-seater is designed for a highbrow meal to be enjoyed with hearty conversation. If you know the charismatic and frisky Blunos, then you get the idea of what I’m saying.
In fact it’s impossible here not to confab as the meal proceeds.
At this young stage, only two set menus, the six-course (2,900 baht) and eight-course (3,400 baht), are on offer. An additional kombucha pairing costs 1,000 baht per person.
Designed to surprise your eyes and palate while provoking your brain and imagination, the meal comes with no advance description of the dishes, unless requested.
Portraying the concept of “Baltic Crossover”, the dinner takes its cue on the four elements of nature. Dishes are prepared with fresh seasonal produce and showcase curing and fermenting techniques, which are common in the region.
Our evening casually began at the bar where each of the guests was treated to a welcome drink of ice-cold, pear-infused kombucha tea.
The dinner officially kicked off after we moved to one of the stunningly beautiful wooden dining tables, so alluring they could be art pieces.
That was shortly before a series of amuse bouche — a miniature autumn tree with edible leaves and frosty white mushrooms, which represented the forest, and a large ice pearl in which hid a Baltic take on a Thai snack, which depicted the ocean — were served.
I shouldn’t miss mentioning the lovely sourdough made in-house with coconut-cultured yeast and complemented by hempseed butter.
By now, after a parade of complimentary treats, we hadn’t yet got to the first course.
The official first dish, listed on the menu as sea urchin with bergamone and sapane tree, features the orangish-yellow coulis of urchin roe blanketed with airy citrusy bubbles in a metallic black bowl exclusively designed to mimic the spiny seabed creature.
The second course looked like it popped out from a fairy tale. It featured dreamy-looking unbloomed flowers of tropical white morning-glory (aka moon vine) stuffed with creamy almond purée in a pool of delicious tom kha sauce that had a lovely dessert-like hint to it.
The dish that, to me, best represented Baltic cooking wisdom was dubbed “mackerel, beetroot and horseradish cream”. The dish presented fish that’s part cooked and part cured, and nicely brought out the naturally flavoursome taste of the ingredients.
Following was seared Hokkaido scallops with Mottra caviar, an ecological joint-venture product of Russia and Latvia, and Hollandaise sauce. The warm dish, served in the scallop shell and flame-torched before the guests, proved scrumptious till the last drop.
If there was a taste competition, the foie gras-stuffed tortellini with highly prized Thai earthstar mushrooms and Latvian birch sap would win a perfect score. It’s a heavenly exhibition of flavours, textures and excitement.
Firm and naturally sweet river prawn was enjoyed with lobster bisque over the next course which was served steaming in a piping-hot stone casserole.
The main course looked like a scene from a horror movie, with a creepy black craw coming out of the ground. Culinary-wise, it’s a scrumptious platter of black chicken — stuffed neck, baked leg and breast roll — with puréed Jerusalem artichoke and curry sauce.
Pre-dessert, again not counted among the courses, was a playful offering of house-made marshmallow and calamansi ice cream.
The dessert, a coconut-centric plate of coconut tofu, tuille and ice cream with caramelised coconut and burnt white chocolate, had me saying: “I didn’t think I’d like it, but I am so loving it.”
Whether it was savoury or sweet, every dish at Baltic Blunos came with aesthetic and well-calculated details and proved an ingenious combination of awe-inspiring ideas.
A selection of pairing kombucha (each course comes with a different pairing) was as much praiseworthy and, so far, the best in town. Some of the concoctions were so good we urged the restaurant to bottle them for retail purchase.
Petite Four is represented by a 14-item chocolate box. Each guest can choose two pieces of the house-made chocolate from flavours including mango-passion fruit, raspberry-rose, Thai tea-mint, mocha-Kahlua, Balsam Riga black and salted egg.
I highly recommend that you wrap up your meal with fermented espresso, available at the bar for 280 baht per glass. It proved one of the best nightcaps one could ever ask for.
Service staff was efficient, knowledgeable and pleasantly chummy.