Mei Jiang, the fine dining Chinese restaurant at The Peninsula Bangkok, has relaunched with a brand new exclusive plant-based culinary experience. Helmed by executive chef Stefan Leitner, the restaurant will open its doors, offering only one dinner reservation per night and serving a nine-course, plant-based Chinese tasting menu – the first of its kind in Thailand.
In March last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Peninsula Bangkok’s renowned riverside Cantonese restaurant Mei Jiang shuttered its doors. But as the food industry began to reopen again, Mei Jiang wanted to come back bold and better. Led by the restaurant’s executive chef Stefan Leitner, the team began to brainstorm about a brand new concept.
“We went for very bold,” Leitner told Green Queen Media. Before joining Mei Jiang, the Austrian chef led The Hong Kong Club and its eight dining outlets across the city.
It is actually an experience, very exclusive, bespoken, personalised and not only a dinner.Stefan Leiner, Executive Chef, Mei Jiang at The Peninsula Bangkok
The new concept, the Mei Jiang Exclusive, is a one-of-a-kind vegan dining experience, serving just one dinner table with up to four guests per night. When guests walk through the door, diners are welcomed and escorted through to the kitchen to enjoy Krug champagne and two different canapés, tour the venue, before sitting down for their meal.
“It is actually an experience, very exclusive, bespoken, personalised and not only a dinner,” explained Leitner.
Taking the place of an a la carte menu is a nine-course, 100% plant-based Chinese cuisine tasting dinner menu, the first to arrive in Thailand. Each dish is crafted using traditional Chinese cooking techniques, using locally sourced high-quality ingredients and even three types of seaweed – green caviar, sea lettuce and gracilaria – grown right next to guests in a former fish tank that has been transformed into an aquarium to farm the edible algae.
In a true farm-to-table experience, the seaweed is featured in the dish, Seascape, a creation of crispy sea lettuce, seaweed dumplings and sea grape salad.
I fell in love with seaweed in so many aspects – the variety, taste, texture and health benefits – endless opportunities.Stefan Leiner, Executive Chef, Mei Jiang at The Peninsula Bangkok
“Every Chinese kitchen has a big fish tank, so our challenge was how to keep the tank and make use of it for our plant-based menu,” said Leitner. “Seaweed was the answer – we had to reach out to the marine department to teach us how to farm seaweed, something no other restaurant in Thailand does.”
“Honestly, during the time we developed Mei Jiang Exclusive, I fell in love with seaweed in so many aspects – the variety, taste, texture and health benefits – endless opportunities,” Leitner added.
Other dishes guests will enjoy over the course of their exclusive dining experience include Barbecue, featuring clay oven slow-cooked king oyster mushrooms, served with “char siu” and Chinese vinegar, and the chef’s favourite dish of all, the Ginseng Consommé made with 24-hour cooked Tibetan ginseng roots, winter melon, lotus root and puffed sago.
Even some of Mei Jiang’s most beloved former dishes will be veganised for the occasion, such as the Sweet & Sour, swapping out pork for plant-based meat, and White Asparagus, accompanied with garlic leaves, vegan XO sauce and crispy onions.
Once guests finish their savoury chapter of the tasting menu, they are taken into the Private Dining Room as their “final stop on the culinary journey”. While admiring the traditional Chinese garden that sits outside by the window, guests will be served the Soy Custard with a tofu-based panna cotta, ginger sorbet and black sesame, and the iconic Cantonese Eight Treasure syrup jelly made with taro, gingko nuts, jujube, rice mochi and coconut-based foam.
All of them were blown away in the end and didn’t miss meat at all.Stefan Leiner, Executive Chef, Mei Jiang at The Peninsula Bangkok
The entire experience comes with no light price tag at 8,180 THB (US$260) per person, and reservations must be made two days in advance, but it’s something that even the hardiest of food critics was impressed with.
“When we invited media for a fine dining Chinese plant-based dinner experience, all of them were blown away in the end and didn’t miss meat at all,” Leitner told Green Queen Media.
When asked about whether plant-based dining is going to shape the entire food industry in the future, Leitner says that time will tell, but the consumer-led shift is already underway.
“Definitely, the demand for plant-based dining is increasing, so we are very happy and proud to offer this special fine dining concept to get more followers for plant-based cuisine.”
Mei Jiang, The Peninsula Bangkok, 333 Charoen Nakorn Road, Bangkok, Thailand. Call for reservations at 02-020-2888.
All images courtesy of Mei Jiang.