Published on February 20, 2008
Dominique Bugnand, executive chef of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai, has a lot to celebrate, not only a French festival but also a huge garden full of the freshest fruits and vegetables imaginable.
This week, for the first time ever, La Compagnie des Comptoirs is holding a French festival in the Dhara Dhevi's Italian-Mediterranean restaurant.
Under the Pourcel Group, la Compagnie des Comptoirs has established contemporary-style restaurants and lounge bars around the world. The cuisine that the Pourcel brothers, twins Jacques and Laurent, have created at these Compagnies des Comptoirs is distinct from that found in their luxury restaurants, such as what they served in their promotions at the Oriental's Normandie and at D'Sens at the Dusit Thani - a brasserie-style, more informal concept concentrating on a wider range of spices and seasonings from all over the world.
The promotion, which started yesterday, continues until Saturday. Two five-course set menus (Bt1,100, Bt1,500) offer you a hefty way to enjoy the Pourcel brothers cuisine, but you can also choose from the a la carte menu specially created for the occasion.
You might want to taste the butternut and chestnut soup (Bt280) with a butternut emulsion, crispy bacon and croutons. Another attractive appetiser is the Oriental semolina with dried fruit, baby vegetables, shredded cod and pesto coriander (Bt380).
Main dishes include roasted lamb fillet (Bt1,100) accompanied by a candied shallot pie, dark sesame paste juice and a mushroom pancake, roasted homemade smoked-tea breast of duck (Bt560) - or try the baked fillet of sea bass (Bt590), which is served with a lovely crispy skin.
Do save room for dessert. Laurent has created some very fine diet-busters, especially the Compagnie des Comptoirs cappuccino (Bt290), hot chocolate with whipped cream and iced-coffee granite served with a pecan brownie.
With this promotion, Bugnand is especially excited. His garden, which he started last October, has been producing the fruits and vegetables that will play a part in the special menus, along with produce from the Royal Projects.
The garden is huge, 3,000 square metres of pumpkin, tomatoes, three kinds of mint, three kinds of basil, cucumbers, pak choy, cauliflower, kale, courgettes and watermelon, and just a week or so ago, 400 kilos of cantaloupe. The corn is so tender and sweet you can eat it right off the stalk. No pesticides touch a leaf in this garden, which is fertilised by the "offerings" of the hotel's buffalo.
There's another garden too, "only" 1,000sqm, just outside the villas. This one will provide ingredients for the hotel's cooking school. Yes, students will pick their own vegetables.
"There's still a lot of work to do," Bugnand says, but you can tell he's very proud of his mini-farm. He's a perfectionist, though, and right now, he's refining his recipes for tomato jam and tomato chutney, since the garden has produced so much.
Do try to make it to Chiang Mai for the Compagnie des Comptoirs promotion, and take a tour of Bugnand's garden. The weather isn't cool, but it's still perfect for a walking tour to see what nature can do with a bunch of seeds.