A Tasty Act to Follow

Jahann Bistro’s ambiance, specials and fresh oysters (among other things) sold at its pantry

As a son of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s famous executive chef Norbert Kostner, Christian Johann Kostner, 31, does have a tough act to follow.

Recalling his first day visiting his father’s vast glossy kitchen as a toddler, he said, “I remember always wanting to follow his footsteps, I often told him how I wanted to cook, but he told me to go on exploring the world before making such a serious decision. It was not until I completed a civil engineering degree and took a stint of the learnt profession that he took my plea seriously. From then on, there’s no looking back and I have been cooking and working my way in the kitchen ever since.”

Open kitchen revealing the tasty secrets, bread and crunchy shitake while you wait and the real meal began at a gratin of fin de claire

After spending 8 years working in many renowned kitchens in Bangkok (Zanotti on Saladaeng in Silom) and Europe (Mossiman’s Private Club in London, Don Alfonso in Naples and Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence in Italy), Christian received a call from a friend while in Paris, saying that he should come back to venture his skills at home. After months of hard thinking, he came back and now he is running his own show at this new bistro named after his family’s middle name. Johann Bistro serves classic European dishes with Thai twist. Like his father who is an advocate for using Thai ingredients, Christian adapts his cuisine to the freshest produce available locally and only some imported from the real sources aboard.

The house’s special Ceasar salad drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and heaps of black pepper

The restaurant looks easy going, yet posh in a way that you would expect a good restaurant to be. They are now serving both lunch and dinner, with a choice of set lunch (Bt250+ for 2-course and Bt350+ for 3course) and a la carte menu for dinner.

We started our dinner for three with a bottle of prosecco (they have a good wine list selected by one of Thailand’s best regarded sommeliers) and talked along into the crunchy fried shitake mushrooms served with homemade aioli sauce. This dish used to be served as a on-the-house snack while you wait for the real food to come. Made from bread-battered fresh mushroom, the mushroom has become so popular that now it has its own place on the menu.

Fresh oysters are one of Johann’s popular appetizers, but Christian insisted on serving us the lovely fin de claire oyster gratin for a change (good choice) before introducing us to more of his delicious creations.

Australian blue mussels steamed in white herbal wine broth served in a pot with yummy garlic bread

Johann’s ‘Ceasar’ salad (Bt250) is as creative as it is yummy. Arranged liked a blossoming cabbage and drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and heaps of black pepper on top of the usual creamy homemade ceasar dressing, this is one good choice to share. The salad was refreshing, yet fulfilling with the combination of crunchy leaves, creamy texture and the rolled cheese brittle that needs to be broken into pieces and mixed together with everything else.

Australian blue mussels which were steamed to perfection in a herbal white wine broth and served with garlic toasts (Bt450) is another dish that we liked very much. The mussels were fresh and vibrant, together with the aromatic herbal broth, this one suits to be mobbed clean with the provided toasts.

Seafood risotto scented with lemongrass, galangal and squid ink drops

Talking to us while dashing between the dining room and the kitchen, Christian said from his experiences, he is more confident cooking seafood because he thinks he knows how to make the best of them. He insisted we tried his seafood risotto for which he concocts a Thai-influenced broth infused with the staple herbs like lemon grass and galangal – the pals to Thai cuisine – which makes this dish, although retaining its famous creamy-n-crunchy risotto texture that makes it unstoppable, so familiarly aromatic especially along side the selection of seafood and effectively subdued the strong scent of black ink. Well done and I think those liking risotto will agree.

Below is the new creation of pasta – in this case the casarecia pasta – cooked with the kitchen’s leftover of Parma ham crust. “I just thought that what a waste of such a flavourful ingredient, so I diced the tough crust and stir-fried it until soft and mixed it with the classic olive oil + dried chili (in this case Thailand’s famed and powerful karieng chili that his father recommended) and arugula leaves for a punch.” This one is a simple dish cooked right. Pasta was wonderfully cooked and together with everything else, this is one good presentation of a careful kitchen administration.

Casarecia with parma ham crust, kareang chilies and arugula

Oh, and then came the main dishes. After all things we ate, who’d know if we still had a room left for more food. But miraculously, we did! So, we chose pan-fried duck breast with cranberry sauce and seared pumpkin wedges (Bt600) and white sea bass fried with market mushrooms served with bok choy and white wine sauce (Bt500) for three of us to share. The tender Thai duck itself was aromatic and also went lovely with the tangy sauce and this is a good choice for meat, not too heavy and then well-done with a healthy vegetable combination.

Pan-fried duck breast with cranberry sauce and seared pumpkin wedges

The sea bass, below, showcases a mixture of local vegetables in a European dish. Sea bass has become a ubiquitous fish that it goes well with anything you would imagine. In this case, a line of arranged bok choy and a mix of mushroom and diced tomato. The accompanying white wine chicken sauce drizzled together with the red wine sauce, nicely enhanced the taste of the fish.

White sea bass fried with market mushrooms, served with bok choy and white & red wine sauce

Below are Johann’s desserts, all home made except for the ice cream (for now; the ice cream maker is on the way). They are hard to choose when you are, like me, trying very very hard to watch the intake calories. But let me tell you, they are worth it, especially if you have a couple of friends to share. 😀

From top, left to right: basil panna cotta with strawberry compote, mango shot with milk jelly and fruit salpicon (salad), chocolate fondant with coffee ice cream and between-meal refresher of cherry smoothie and yoghurt

Johann Bistro, at Thong Lor Soi 5, is open daily for lunch and dinner at 11.30-14.30 and 18.00-22.00. Parking is available.  T: 02-712-5070. The restaurant also carries a gourmet deli section selling imported ingredients for those looking for special elements in their own cooking.


2 thoughts on “A Tasty Act to Follow

  1. Conventional fare. Overpriced. No style to the decoration. Looks like a luncheon place for upper middle class Thai housewives with nothing to do.

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