By : KEN BARRETT
26 February 2020
About: Seldom does a high-end restaurant have the luxury of self-promotion in a pop-up version of itself pre-opening, but that is what Chef Christian Martena and his wife Clara Del Corso-Martena did last year, when they briefly operated Waiting for Clara, on Soi Ruam Rudee. The restaurant proper, Clara, soft-opened in November and had its grand opening party late in February. The couple had previously helmed Sensi, and here at Clara (yes, the restaurant is named after Mrs Martena, who in addition to being Chef Christian’s business partner is a most gracious maître ‘d) the menu is fine-dining Modern Italian.
Decor: The restaurant is buried deep within the maze of residential sois off Yen Akart, and occupies the splendid Bauhaus villa that had previously been home to the Villa Yen Akart art gallery. There is a hidden-secret quality about the place, as the soi is otherwise unremarkable and the low-slung villa, with its huge lawn, is an architectural treasure. Clara remains true to its arty roots, its white walls decorated with work from renowned artist Somboon Hormtientong, the spacious interior lit by Matteo Messervy, and design elements by P Tendercool, whose chairs have been tattooed by Thai tattoo artist Tantai. Choose from the main dining room, where we sat next to the window looking out to the sculptures in the garden; or the 10-seat Chef’s Table; or the semi-private mezzanine. Chef Christian and his team can be seen working in the open kitchen.
Menu: There is a seven-course Moments tasting menu at 2,680++ baht, a nine-course Moments at 3,080++ baht, or a three-course option from the a la carte at 2,480++ baht. Ingredients combine premium imports with the best of local produce. There is a selection of 130 Italian and French wines available, ranging from well known to small producers, and the list really does deserve more than one visit for study and appreciation. We went with the nine-course menu. Our bread was dipped into a dimple of warm olive oil. Hokkaido sea scallop came with the glutinously pure accompaniment of white asparagus and a hit of caviar. A small portion of risotto had the fat little crayfish that the Italians call gambero. Our ravioli pouch was crammed with foie gras and topped with blueberries. Snow fish was prepared in a champagne sauce with a sprinkling of caviar. Scroppino proved to be a sorbet made with lemon, vodka, prosecco and grappa. A slice of perfectly pink Wagyu tenderloin was served in a creamy horseradish sauce. Dessert was made from coffee and Sambuca, an extraordinary creation that is so light it melts as it is eaten.
Evaluation: The past twelve months have seen some highly notable restaurants opening in Bangkok, and Clara is up there with the best of them. The balance between art, cuisine, and friendly service is perfect. Anyone seeking to impress should visit Clara, and so should anyone who simply loves the finest Italian cooking. Despite the newness, the restaurant was doing outstanding business.