The buzz: Tucked in the small mall No. 88, Johann Bistro serves up Italian and French classics. Co-owner Christian Kostner, an engineer-cum-chef, says he got his passion for cooking from seeing his father, Chef Norbert Kostner, working in the kitchen at the Mandarin Oriental. After going on to train at many Michelin-starred restaurants, including Don Alfronso 1980, he’s back and doing what he likes best no fuss, no sous-vide and no chemicals.
The decor: The place is designed to be as far removed from fine dining as possible. The décor reflects the food—simple and classic. In fact, there aren’t many decorative items in this low-ceilinged glass room, just leather chairs and a pretty large and lively open kitchen. A gourmet deli section sits at the entrance, selling products like pasta and beef, with more soon to come.
The food: As mentioned, Chef Kostner wants to play it pretty straight with regards to recipes and techniques, but one thing he’s keeping in mind is the use of native herbs to make his dishes more attuned to local tastes. Chef Kostner recommends you start with the pumpkin velvet soup with fried gnocchi and herbs (B180) and Johann’s Caesar salad (B250). As for mains, opt for the fusilli with tomato sauce (B350) that comes with fresh tiger prawns or the Australia grain-fed tenderloin steak (B950 for 200 grams). And don’t forget to try the mango shot (B180), which, mixed with passion fruit, is zesty, naturally sweet and refreshing. There’s also a set lunch (B270 for 2-course and B350 for 3-course) available at lunchtime everyday.
The drinks: A small bar sits in a nook of the dining room. The focus is on wine and there’s a sommelier to help you out on that front. Bottles of wine start from B890 with wine by the glass from B120. Bottles of Heineken and Asahi are B130.
The crowd: As the place is quite new and hidden away, it’s currently mostly office workers dining in large groups joined by families on weekends. Pieng-or Mongkolkumnuankhet
Hidden away in the small mall No. 88, Johann Bistro claims to serve up European bistro-style dishes with a hint of Thai flavors. If those final few words set alarm bells ringing, they needn’t, because while co-owner Christian Kostner, an engineer-cum-chef, makes use of native herbs, the focus here is squarely on Italian and French classics (plus a lot of Australian beef). Not that this guarantees success, either. The low-ceilinged venue is refreshingly minimal, as far removed from fine dining as possible, with few decorative items, just leather chairs and a lively open kitchen. (A vintage-style meat slicer also features prominently.) The food, though similarly modest, doesn’t hit the right homey notes. In fact, Johann seems confused as to whether it’s really a bistro or something more proper. (Getting an amuse bouche, and sorbets between courses hints at more elevated aspirations than most bistros in Bangkok.) It’s not that the flavors are bad, just unremarkable, let down by some below-par preparation and odd plating. On our last visit, the beef tartare (B400) was a bland take on the dish: served with only thin (and quite suggestive) lines of seasoning, it was worryingly lukewarm and too chewy for our tastes. The considerably more tasty salad of poached tiger prawns and sweet mango (B300) suffers from its presentation, ending up as a few bits of lettuce in a pool of orange ginger dressing. Mains are similarly beset by bizarre inattention to detail and ill-considered sides: the pan-fried white sea bass (in white wine sauce, B500) is mushy, its truffle mash potato watery and the grilled aubergine and capsicum a little too rubbery. The braised wagyu beef cheeks marinated in cabernet sauvignon (B650) is extremely tender, but comes with a thin, unsatisfying carrot puree. Dessert is a different matter entirely, offering much more exciting flavors, like the summery basil panna cotta with strawberry compote (B180) and chocolate fondant with coffee ice cream (B220), rich with just the right amount of bitterness. But with brasserie service and prices, the food at Johann just doesn’t match the ambition—though the gourmet deli section is worth a browse for its selections of cheese, meats, chocolate and olive oil.Corkage B500 for wines and B1,000 for sparkling wines and Champagne.
|Address:||Johann Bistro, No. 88, Soi Paidi Madi (between Thonglor Sois 5 and 9), Sukhumvit Rd., Bangkok, Thailand|
|Price Range:||BBB - BBBB|
|Open since:||October, 2012|
|Opening hours:||daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm|
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