Spaghetti with salted fish, crab and pecorino. Photos by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul
The setting: Tucked almost at the end of Sukhumvit Soi 47, the award-winning Freebird Bangkok has just introduced a new executive chef along with a new menu. The restaurant is not only known for its modern Australian cuisine but also its all-you-can-eat garden party which happened for the third time just last Sunday.
We dropped by to find out how Phuket-born Pongcharn “Top” Russell, Freebird’s new exec chef, is faring. It’s easy to question the skills of a twentysomething chef but Top is quite a veteran in the kitchen, having previously worked under a string of big names such as Pollen in Singapore and Gauthier Soho in London. The good news is that his dishes quashed any doubts we had and we’ll tell you why, in detail, later.
The restaurant has been beautifully transformed from a house and features different moods as you walk through it. If you feel fancy, may we suggest the marble-topped table near the kitchen for a chef’s table experience. Or perch on a high chair at the communal table while looking out to the garden view. Get comfy on a tufted sofa in the main dining area where you can enjoy beautiful mural created by Aussie street artist Steve Cross as well as the garden view. There is more seating in the backyard if you’re in the mood for an al fresco meal to the tune of birdsongs.
A quick look at the menu will reveal influences of various cookbooks from Asia to Mediterranean that constitutes modern Australian cuisine. The food list isn’t long but we would like to think that it’s a shortlist with no fillers. We had a tasty start with Freebird house dips with grilled ciabatta (B100++). Our tongue went to many places in the world, figuratively speaking. The slices of ciabatta felt so crunchy on the surface and spongy on the inside. They went swell with three accompanying dips — creamy-and-citrus hummus with lemon zest, salty and savoury mentaiko taramasalata and smoky romesco sauce.
Slow cooked hen’s egg served with local mushrooms and multi-grain toast (B260) felt like a reinterpreted concept of salad and was packed with a symphony of flavours and textures. The delicious egg lava helped combine everything together in one mouthful from the meaty mushrooms, uber crunchy bread and creamy brie custard.
Pasta fans should be well-chuffed by the Spaghetti with salted fish, crab and pecorino (B380). The price tag may feel steep for a single dish but, after a few forks into it, we realised it was one of the best pasta dishes we’ve ever tried. Each twirl brought with it many goodies caught between al dente strands, from delicate crab meat, pops of ikura to smooth and salty fish paste. It was very savoury with a bonus of slight heat from the dried chilli too.
Duck breast with carrot caramel, puffed rice and plum sauce.
Salted hake with lime and miso butter (B630) was another well-thought-out and well-executed dish. The beautiful slab of the mild-tasting fish was topped with three-way cauliflower and surrounded by foamy miso butter soup. A sweet-and-sour surprise of prune purée was waiting at the bottom too.
Given that we were at Freebird, it would be weird not to try an avian dish. We dug the Duck breast with carrot caramel, puffed rice and plum sauce (B580) so hard. Served on tender spinach, the duck meat tasted perfect, somewhere between bouncy and juicy. The pickled onion offered that much-needed zest for good measure. The other bird we had was Citrus brined half of chicken with “farang” nam jim (B475). The chicken was brined for 12 hours with lemon and lime to add the citrus touch and finished with a blow-torch for a crispy exterior. The flesh was juicy and soft but some may be left wanting a stronger sauce instead of the “farang” nam jim which was mix of palm sugar, fish sauce and Dijon mustard. It was delicious but not a must-try.
Save some room for creative desserts like Passion fruit crumble (B320) which comes with a piece of togarashi-topped meringue (yep you read it right) or Some pavlova mate? (B360) which is basically mango sticky rice with an Aussie twist. Freebird also carries a good selection of cocktails and selected spirits from around the world.
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Freebird can arrange a chef’s table experience for a minimum of eight people for the price of B2,150++ per person. It’ll be a seven-or-eight course tasting menu. The place is operated by Skin+Bones Hospitality Group which already has four successful outlets in Singapore and four more in Malaysia. No wonder why they deliver at such a high calibre.
Chef Top did a good job, delivering both flavour and finesse despite his young age. The bill for a proper meal won’t be cheap, obvi, but we think it’s worth Freebird’s nice ambience, great food and good service.
Slow cooked hen’s egg served with local mushrooms and multi-grain toast.