19 August 2019

  • reviewer's rating :
summary : The JW Marriott's Chinese restaurant has a new decor and a highly inventive new chef.

Man Ho opened at the same time as the JW Marriott, which was 1997, and earlier this year it closed for remodelling, which was a pretty long stretch for any restaurant in this frenetic dining-out town to continue in its original form.

Late July saw the reopening, and we were keen to take a look. 

The designers have done a lovely job. One side of the long room is taken up by windows, which means it is bright by day and moody during the evening. The new decor evokes an Art Deco theme, the style that was so popular in Shanghai in the 1920s, and there is a preponderance of dark wood lifted by sky-blue highlights in the seat cushions and napkins, and bright yellow splodges of big marigold bunches.

Along with the new decor is a new chef, and Leslie Du is going to set the venerable Man Ho in a new direction.

Chef Leslie is from China and has been mentored by one of the great pioneers of Modern Chinese cuisine, Jereme Leung, under whom he worked for four-and-a-half years. The approach is to take classical Chinese regional food and to infuse international elements and ingredients, creating dishes that are at once familiar yet creatively novel.

We began with drunken chicken (320 baht), a dish familiar to us all yet prepared here in a chilled version, with meaty chunks of wine-saturated chicken topped with shavings of frozen Chinese wine.

Followed a serving of deep-fried crispy beef (1,250 baht), the cover removed with a flourish emitting a cloud of dry ice and a satisfying aroma of barbecue smoke, the BBQ also being present in the slightly sweetish taste of the beef.

Next was a dish that is we feel going to become one of the most popular on the menu, crispy duck served with five-spice duck foie gras, fresh mango and caviar (950 baht). The appearance immediately drew admiring comment, because everything is contained inside a clamshell-shaped bun that has been dyed black with squid ink. Yes, you eat it with your hands…there is no other way.

Smoked fish (1,600 baht), a traditional Shanghai recipe and festooned with fresh fruit was followed by a soup of bamboo fungus with a baby abalone (980 baht per person), the bamboo neatly tied at each end with a cord of spring onion, like a miniature parcel.

Another potential must-have dish came next, chicken wok-fried with peppers, Sichuan-style, with a serving of vanilla ice cream in the centre (500 baht). This dish tastes every bit as extraordinary as it sounds. It is very moreish. Gradually the heat of the chilli builds up under cover of the ice cream, and spectacle wearers will note that their lenses start to steam up around the bridge of their nose. 

Finally, whereas rice usually ends the meal as a kind of courtesy dish, Chef Leslie has created yet another extraordinary experience. Crispy rice and seafood (420 baht per person) are placed in a central bowl, into which the chef pours a golden soup stock made from carrot, duck, chicken and pork that has simmered for 10 hours. Full you may be, but you cannot miss this.

Man Ho is now one of the most exciting Chinese restaurants in Bangkok.