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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

A bracing experience

La Brace Grill House & Wine Bar.

When a high-end food supplier opens a restaurant, people in the know tend to have astronomical expectations.

Understandably, it's bound to be a nerve-racking contest for the culinary team, particularly the chefs, to turn fine produce into an even more memorable dining experience. Yet when the game is played by real pros, their relentless passion and ingrained dexterity will make for a winning formula.

That is the case with La Brace.

Soft-launched a few weeks ago at Earth Ekamai, La Brace is a 100-seat dining venture by Thailand's top-tier food supplier Gourmet One.

The company's premium imported ingredients, usually supplied to 5-star hotels across the country, are now showcased through an expertly crafted restaurant menu by head chef Mark Hagenbach.

For almost 20 years prior to opening the grill house, Hagenbach had been the executive chef at a number of Bangkok's leading hotels including Grand Hyatt Erawan and Sofitel Sukhumvit.

At La Brace -- which is Italian for "hot coal" or "embers" -- his well-established, top-drawer know-how is put to good use over the fire grill and across all operations.

The Westholme Australian Wagyu strip loin steak.

La Brace labels itself a casual fine dining place that offers Mediterranean grill cuisine. A selection of top-notch meat and seafood from Europe, America, Australia and Japan are cooked over charcoal flame and transformed into contemporary dishes inspired by classic recipes of France, Italy and Spain.

The menu also includes an impressive selection of signature pasta dishes as well as special main courses prepared with the best harvests of the season.

A meal there, lunch or dinner, may begin with a casual visit to the oyster and wine bar and charcuterie and cheese counter, both situated at the front.

While the restaurant touts its refined gourmet creations, the setting allows diners to enjoy their meal within a folksy deli-style ambience. La Brace also wishes to satisfy discerning barflies with a similarly refined drinks list.

The oyster bar currently features Gilladeaux No 3, Tsarskaya No 3, Guy Sanchez Signature and a selection of haute couture Sturia caviars.

The grilled young lamb rack Ambassador.

Highlights of the cold cut repertoire include 36-month jamon Iberico, 100% Iberico bellotta chorizo, 24-month prosciutto di Parma, mortadella Bologna IGP, pancetta cotta Levoni, and La Brace's home-made French duck breast pastrami.

My dinner there last week kicked off with two special appetisers from the blackboard: French white asparagus and warm goat cheese salad.

A gorgeous representative of this year's first harvest, the perfectly blanched asparagus proved supple, succulent, sweet and tender. You can have the asparagus with just the Béarnaise, or egg mimosa or freshly sliced Iberico at 650 baht per dish. Add freshly grated black truffle and the dish costs 1,450 baht.

White asparagus with fresh truffle established is what I supposed to be an insurmountable starter standard. However, the grilled goat cheese that followed made me so pleased I almost forgot everything else.

It's a simple yet flavourful mélange of fire-grilled French goat cheese and French baby beetroot with roasted pistachio and pomegranate dressing on a bed of wild arugula leaves.

The Andalucian-styled clams with white wine and chilli.

Should you wish to begin your meal with something more pungent, I highly recommend going for the Andalucian-style clams in white wine chilli sauce (450 baht). This aromatic and peppery tomato-based stew of clams, mussels and spicy chorizo sausage was one of my top-five favourites that evening.

From the grill, beef connoisseurs are guaranteed great satisfaction with prime cuts from one of Australia's best producers, Westholme Wagyu and Stockyards.

Featured cuts include Wagyu striploin, Wagyu tenderloin, Angus rib-eye, 200-day grain-fed strip loin and Wagyu tomahawk. Prices range from 400 to 850 baht per 100g.

Every piece of beef is wet-aged for 45 to 60 days, allowing the natural tenderisation of fibres and resulting in a more subtle taste. The process also helps the meat to retain its succulency and healthy red hue.

La Brace likewise offers top-grade lamb from Australia's outstanding Ambassador farm.

Grilled young lamb rack with golden-roasted potato mille-feuille (1,200 baht) was impeccable in texture and taste.

French white asparagus with Béarnaise sauce and fresh black truffle.

If seafood is your preference, imported sea bass with zesty gremolata sauce and roasted broccolini (1,500 baht) as well as grilled tiger prawns with chilli herb butter (900 baht per two prawns) proved very nice options for sharing.

However, if protein-centric fare doesn't fit your dietary style then go for another of my favourites -- spaghetti olio with anchovy, garlic and chilli.

In fact, I've already planned a quick second visit to the restaurant simply for this fiery and flavourful pasta dish.

Unlike the sizeable contemporary food menu, dessert options during my visit were limited to a few classics such as lemon tart, panna cotta, tiramisu and molten chocolate cakes.

La Brace's fine cuisine is complemented by a 300-label collection of Old and New World wines as well as signature cocktails and mocktails created by an award-winning mixologist.

The restaurant is open daily from noon to 10pm. Private rooms for up to 40 guests are available on the second floor.

Grilled tiger prawns with chilli butter.
The oyster & wine bar.
The cheese and charcuterie counter.
The warm goat cheese sald with French baby beetroot, arugula and pomegranate dressing.
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