On a recent trip to Bangkok to attend the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants announcement, it wasn’t top spot holder Gaggan or any of the other winning Thai establishments that earned our attention. Instead, the elegant Jojo, situated in the lobby of the St. Regis Bangkok, stole the show with its quiet brilliance.
There are no moments of molecular gastronomy or feats of foraging in the trend-resistant cuisine – merely dishes executed flawlessly. Pasta done al dente, as in, actually al dente. White and green asparagus, paired only with a slow-cooked egg and a bath of asiago cheese foam, that allows the finest imported Italian produce to shine. A carpaccio di gamberi – red prawn carpaccio – hammered paper-thin and presented so prettily you’d be hard-pressed not to pull out your camera phone to photograph it.
It would be remiss to write about Jojo without mentioning the spaghetti verrigni all’acqua di pomodoro – it’s a mouthful to say if Italian isn’t your mother tongue, perhaps, but translates to the simplest of delights, a spaghetti cooked in tomato water and then topped with stracciatella cheese (no lie, we had this dish twice on our three-day sojourn in the city).
Chef Stefano Merlo, who helms the kitchen, hails from Padua in northern Italy, but he’s also worked in Tokyo, a culinary capital in which you really have to work hard to stand out. While pastas are known to be more popular in southern regions, stuffed pastas are popular in the north, and the fagottini alla carbonara is one lesser-seen example – a pasta dumpling, almost, filled with creamy sauce.
Paduan delicacies also make up the recently launched Splendido Pranzo Italiano, a lunch set that combines northern Spuncioni bites with a rotation of signature dishes – and though the restaurant is usually packed with Thai high society in evenings, it’s a great quiet option for discreet business gatherings in the afternoon, or for ladies looking for a quiet place in which to gab and gossip.