With all the Chinese culinary influences available in Bangkok, you might be forgiven for not immediately thinking of Yu Ting Yuan, the Cantonese restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River. If you miss this one, however, you’re missing a treat! As the first and only Cantonese restaurant in Thailand to be recognised with a Michelin star, Chef Qiu Xiaogui and his team have been working hard to design a menu that pairs dishes familiar even in the West with some traditional, yet less familiar, delicacies.
Stepping from the cool spacious central area of the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River into Yu Ting Yuan, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, the glossy black walls and bursts of red floral sprays have a decadent feel; your eye slides inexorably towards the downlit centre of your table as though the food will be the centrepiece of a modern art installation. Outside, the hotel has a still clear pool of water with large rounded stones that are perfectly visible when the amuse bouche arrives… on a thick, rounded dish that has been specifically designed to bring the shape of those stones right to your table (we had crisp salmon skin with salted egg yolk). Once the night falls, however, the window becomes another black mirror and your attention is cleverly focused entirely on the food.
The charming Assistant Director of Food and Beverage, Carl, was on had to oversee the smooth running of the service and to provide us with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Rosé to enjoy as we gave our order to the delightful Bon. Carl was also foresighted enough to put aside a duck for us so we could try the Peking Duck, although it’s worth noting that you usually need to order these 24 hours ahead of your dinner. Our first dish, a deep fried crab shell stuffed with crab meat had an excellent combination of succulent, moist meat with the crisp crumbly topping; the sweet hints in the champagne blended very well with the sweetness in the crab.
As is customary when one orders Peking Duck, the whole cooked duck was presented at the table, glossy and deeply browned, before being taken to be prepared. At Yu Ting Yuan, you can go and see your duck mid-process at the semi-open kitchen, which is a little closer to the pre-covid tradition of actually having the duck sliced at the table! During this brief interval we were also presented with a wine that would accompany our dinner: wine waiter Gok chose a Moulin à Vent 2019 by Philippe Pacalet, Beaune, which had strong red fruits on the nose and a balanced but substantial flavour.
In due course, our duck reappeared; its first iteration being the crisp skin and some of the breast meat artfully presented in sections that could easily be layered into the steamed pancakes that accompanied. The meat was juicy and the skin crisp with just enough give that the flavour of the fat, most of which had been removed, lingered on the tongue. The sauce had a lovely nuttiness and the julienned spring onion and cucumber were delightfully fresh. I am not sure if we were overkeen in stuffing our pancakes full of slivers of duck skin, but there was a whole second steamer served and we hadn’t opened it before we ran out of duck!
Fortunately, the duck’s second iteration was equally delicious: minced, wok-fried with some vegetables and a lightly spiced seasoning, then served with lettuce cups to wrap the meat inside. Our other menu choices arrived together with this dish in traditional Chinese family sharing style, rather than the separate courses of Western cuisine. We had chosen sautéed, diced Ranger Valley wagyu strip loin, cooked to absolute perfection and melt-in-the-mouth, served with dried chilli and crispy garlic. This wasn’t a particularly spicy dish, but more peppery and slightly sweet with the concentrated flavour of chili. We also enjoyed the regional speciality of clay pot-braised aubergine with minced pork, which was brought to the table in the pot and kept warm with a candle underneath in the traditional manner. The aubergine was cooked so that it retained its structure but was oozingly soft and the sauce, seasoned with the saltiness of the pork, had a slight kick to it.
Finally, and completely unnecessarily, we had ordered the superbly decadent fried rice with foie gras and truffle, which was a large helping possibly intended for a family of four. Finding ourselves replete (one might say as stuffed as a duck pancake), we were unable to order the desserts I had been fantasising about for a week, but were served a pile of (rather rude looking!) pink and white longevity buns filled with dense custard in order to celebrate Charlotte’s birthday, which was a lovely thoughtful touch by the restaurant. We moved from there to the BKK bar, also at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, in order to continue our night, thoroughly satisfied and impressed by the cuisine at Yu Ting Yuan!
My top tip here, apart from advising you to dine here at least once in your life, would be to order à la carte only if you have brought your family or friends with you as the portion sizes are substantial (especially if you are used to Michelin starred fine dining in Europe). There is, however, a fine tasting menu – the foie gras with black pepper sauce is a highlight – which is served in individual plated dishes and is a more manageable style of service for one or two people. Alternatively, head over at lunchtime for the dim sum and try a whole menu not available at dinner time.
Yu Ting Yuan might be new to the already vibrant Bangkok foodie scene, but it has caught the attention of Michelin for a reason. The refinement of these dishes is something to behold, as each traditional Chinese dish has enough of Chef Qiu Xiaogui’s personal stamp on it to make it unique and innovative without disrespecting the heritage of the cuisine. What’s more, the service has that indefinable Four Seasons charm, which means no trouble is too great for the attentive and friendly staff. This is the pinnacle of Chinese cuisine in Bangkok, no matter how many other options exist, and if you didn’t know about it before, you do now. You’re welcome.
Yu Ting Yuan at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River
300/1 Charoen Krung Road