J’aime by Jean Michel Lorain: A bland insult to tortured geese everywhere

We do enjoy the opportunity to watch the kitchen in action. It’s a popular device for the top restaurants to show off their talent. However, Monsieur Lorain didn’t have much of an audience… which we found strange at 8pm on a Saturday night. We’d soon find out why.

Isabella berated me for berating the poorly written backstory on the menu and its bad English. I know I sound like a pedant but I don’t care. How can an internationally-renowned restaurant, that aims for haute cuisine, settle for poor standards in presentation? Bad marketing.

So to the food. Isabella always casts her first judgement by the quality of the bread basket. It was completely uninspiring and a warning shot of what was to come. Not crusty or fun at all.

The canapés tasted a touch on the stale side too. No flavour.

The amuse bouche was bland and Isabella claimed there would have been more flavour in a raw carrot – and she doesn’t like carrot.

The lobster bisque was a joy – a delicious, creamy joy. An excellent introduction with texture provided by the diced tomato sunrise, the fresh lobster flavouring throughout. The sole lobster cube in the centre was a treat.

The vegetable ravioli felt like false advertising. Sure, there were veges, but we wanted to sink our teeth into al dente, Italian-style ravioli – at least one or two.

Thailand has become obsessed with foie gras in recent years. It appears that many restaurants in Bangkok believe by offering a variation of this dish it will help to elevate the prestige of their menu without having given any thought as to how or why. Most likely it’s because it’s seen as a luxury status among aspiring diners (the nouveau riche) which outweighs its reputation in the Western hemisphere as an unethical practice. Not sure why you would torture a goose or duck for such a bland pâté.

Still on the pâté (yes, we found it that frustrating) – sometimes when a chef is struck by inspiration, they try something adventurous. And the land and sea combination often works well in a dish. But here the seaweed felt more abrasive against the bland pâté. It was a shame the goose had suffered for the kitchen’s sins. Isabella could taste a greasy, guilty aftertaste as though she’d eaten two Big Macs.

The pre main course continued to make the diners work hard and examine the subtlety of the ingredients and balance of flavours. But it was much more interesting due to the smart combinations of flavours and textures. Everything was whipped into an incredibly fine mousse. The arabica coffee was so subtle that it was perfect and became the prolonged aftertaste which sat as a pleasant memory on the palate in partnership with the almond flour-based crumble.

French cooking at its best uses the sauce to enhance the natural flavours rather than smother the principal ingredients of a dish. This was the course we had been waiting for. The plancha-seared Hokkaido scallops swam in the buttery saffron emulsion and danced in the mouth. We savoured each mouthful to make the best dish last as long as we could.

Pre dessert – Wentworth had to eat Isabella’s to achieve the sugar hit he needed. It tasted as though oxygen flowed through the light white chocolate diluting the sweetness. In fact, it turned out to be the perfect prologue to its subsequent sweet. It’s not often that the floral fruity number would trump the chocolate course, but we were possibly riding as high as our insulin levels after an intense sugar hit. The biscuity base and crystallised rose petals were a sugar addicts’ overdose and powerful accomplice to the rose ice cream.

One thing about the obsequious wait staff. They mean well but their service in these establishments in Thailand never meets up to the international standards of the ambitious chefs. A couple of times we were still chewing when the staff whipped our empty plates away from the table.

To summarise: this tasting experience lacked the adventure of Suhring, the humour of Gaggan, and the succulence or technical wizardry of L’atelier. We will continue to enjoy working our way through the list of Michelin-starred restaurants in Bangkok. But there are too many exiting flavours in this city to explore at more reasonable prices. So, no more over-rated French.

Isabella’s quote: “I feel sad about the whole experience.”