By : MELISSA RICHTER
19 March 2019
It’s been a long time coming, but Bangkok finally has an upscale Chinese restaurant for the next generation. Situated on the 32nd floor of Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse, Yao Restaurant & Rooftop Bar is a harmonious amalgamation of style, substance and thoughtful functionality. Billed as Thailand’s first Chinese restaurant that’s “perched on the rooftop” the venue encompasses several levels including the sleek and modem enclosed main dining room on the 32nd floor and the sprawling two-story rooftop bar just one floor above.
Once you exit the lift you are effortlessly guided by the friendly staff past a series of carved wooden doors, and intriguing Chinese pottery and artifacts into the shimmering dining hall. High gloss black marble rest underfoot, silk threaded Chinese screens elegantly divide the space while floor to ceiling windows offer unobstructed views of the cityscape from just about every table. Amber glowing glass chandeliers dangle from the high ceilings like elegant jewelry creating a contemporary space that deftly pays homage to its heritage. Bold red, black lacquer and gold accents are the dominant color scheme, yet the open space evokes a delightful sense of warmth and comfortable luxury.
The restaurant and bar have separate menus, with the main dining room being reserved for formal dining, while the rooftop serves bar snacks and cocktails. Both have Cantonese and Shanghainese style cuisine and the main restaurant has an a la carte menu that features items such as original-recipe Peking duck, great tasting dim sum and rare traditional Shanghai delicacies like Yao Shen Jian Bao (steamed buns stuffed with fried pork). A recipe from Northern China, these buns are a bit like the “dumplings with soup in them”, and we really enjoyed ordering these savory delights.
Next, we got down to business and decided to go for chef Bruce Hui”s 10-course Tasting Menu which is inspired by dishes from his childhood memories. I was totally blown away, not only were the intricate dishes soulful and full of flavor, but they were magnificently plated with an unmistakable “fine dining” flare. Case in point was the “3 Bites of Duck” with Cherry Duck Liver Terrine shaped like a red cherry, a succulent Beijing Duck Roll w/ Crispy duck skin with meat on top and the soft and tender Sugar Cane Smoked Duck. Another highlight was the Ink & Beet Ha Gaw. Plated like the “Ying and Yang” symbol, I have never had dim sum that was so full of large chunks of prawn, it was truly incredible, especially when dipped in the scrumptious house-made chili oil and a bit of Chinese black vinegar.
One dish that was unexpectedly magical was the 96 Hours Cooked Aged Fish Maw with “Cong Cao” Mushroom Soup. The fish maw was aged for 20 years, and had a complex umami flavor unlike any I had ever tried before. This soup was rich, complex and ultimately very comforting. One of the main things that differentiates Yao is their famous “hand-pulled” noodles which are made in house and pulled and shaped tableside with all the drama and flair one would associate with a flambé. This is a skill that takes decades to perfect, it's a bit like a magic show as the chef takes lumps of dough and stretches them into a bevy of different sized and shaped noodles. You can pick what shape you want (I went for the thinnest ones and the fattest shaved ones) and they are served in thick and spicy gravy with pork and mushrooms. It’s also important to note that this is one of a few dishes that can also be enjoyed as part of the rooftop menu.
Other favorites from the tasting menu included the Japanese Wagyu A5 & Ginseng Braised Abalone w/ White Mushrooms Sauce which was scrumptious as well the Scallop & Crispy Pork Belly which is their version of surf and turf. We washed all of this down with a bottle of Matua, Sauvignon Blanc 2017 from Marlborough New Zealand. Dessert was no less impressive with a contrasting serving of ice cold Chamomile Tea Poached Pear w/ Bird Nest Jelly paired with a warm Walnut & Jujube Puff petit four that was shaped like a walnut.
I recommended ending your night in the open air of the rooftop bar while enjoying breathtaking views of the Chao Praya River and cityscape along with a Chinese Mule cocktail. Made from Absolut Vodka, Ginger, Passion fruit, Chili Pepper, Honey & Ginger Ale it’s a nice cocktail that benefits from the well balanced spicy and sour notes of the drink. The rooftop is awe-inspiring with ample stylish comfy seating, green walls, and their unparalleled seating capacity of 160 people, it’s worth a visit just to hang out at the bar. Yao Restaurant & Rooftop Bar is a cut above their competition and offers an unforgettable evening that contains amazing cuisine, a relaxing atmosphere with chic decor that’s a fusion of modern luxury and vintage Shanghai-style opulence.