Dinner on Top of the World (Sirocco at LeBua, Bangkok, Thailand)

Written by Mark McElroy

Given that we were staying at the LeBua in Bangkok, it seemed a shame not to snag a seat at Sirocco — the swanky open-air restaurant on the 63rd floor of the hotel. After all, how often do you get a chance to eat at one of Conde Nast Traveler’s “Ten Hottest Tables?”

As it turns out, online buzz about Sirocco is spot-on: the setting is stunning … and the food is just so-so.

After a claustrophobic elevator ride with a few too many fellow patrons, we arrived at Sirocco. The elevator lobby and reception area open up onto a terrace. From there, a set of wide, steep steps descends into what looks like a tiny bar and small restaurant suspended in space sixty-three floors above Bangkok.

On the night we were there, the sky overhead was an inky black dome. Bangkok’s towers and skyscrapers fanned out around us in all directions, glittering and shimmering like something out of Bladerunner. There’s not a restaurant in the world that could compete with this open-air setting, and, the first time you see the place, your first impulse is to just stand there, gawking, while the intensity of the vision washes over you.

Good luck with that, though — because Siroco’s staff doesn’t want tourists gumming up arrivals by lingering on the terrace. The second we were off the elevator, a hostess intercepted us and handed us off to a series of traffic control personnel whose only jobs seemed to be conveying us as rapidly to our table as possible. We didn’t even get a chance to snap a photo, due to the (very politely enforced, but enforced, all the same) photography ban on the terrace. Being whisked to our table this way — especially given what we were investing in the dinner experience — had us starting our meal with a bit of a bitter taste in our mouths.

About that investment: unless your income is dramatically different from my own, Sirocco isn’t going to become your “every Tuesday night” joint any time soon. As you’ll read in virtually every on-line review, a dinner at Sirocco is likely to be one of the most extravagant and expensive of your life. (Clyde confirms dinner there cost us more than any other dinner we’ve shared in our two decades together.)

Your bottle of imported water will cost you more than many good wines; bar drinks will run between $10.00 and $15.00 dollars. Online menus won’t show prices, but our tab will give you an idea of what to expect: for a bottle of water, one bar drink, two appetizers, two entrees, and a shared dessert, we paid just over $300.00. (I should mention, too, that we were very conservative in our drink and dinner selections … with no effort at all, you could easily spend many hundreds of dollars more.)

What kind of dinner does that level of investment buy you? Clyde started out with a tasty, but exceedingly average mushroom risotto. My own appetizer was simple — a buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomato salad — but featured some magical touches. One “tomato” was actually an alchemist’s trick: a bright red ball of juice that popped out of existence the instant it was grazed by a fork. The clever chef had also managed to hollow out another of the tomatoes and injected it with creamy cheese — another nice surprise.

My entree was the Wagyu Beef Sirloin, sided with crispy pork belly, fondant potato, and a port wine jus. With the exception of the first bite (which had been badly overcooked), the meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned — though far from the best I’ve ever eaten. Clyde’s Australian lamb, heavy on the garlic, and accompanied by mille-feuille (thinly shaved and layered like lasagna) potatoes were also tasty. Desserts were simply average: a forgettable warm chocolate cake and a small dish of coconut ice cream.

The view at Sirocco remains one of my favorite memories from this trip (and I’m happy to report that, on your way out, you can take your time enjoying the view … though you still can’t photograph it!). And while nothing can compete with that jaw-dropping vista, both Clyde and I agreed that the food at Sirocco paled in comparison to our meal at Auckland’s Clooney (a dinner that we enjoyed far more, while spending far less).

Are we glad we ate there? Yes. Would we do it again? No. And, for clarity’s sake, that conclusion isn’t driven so much by sticker shock as it is the simple principle that guides most of our culinary adventures: given a choice between amazing food from a hole in the wall and average food in an elegant setting, we’ll chose the hole in the wall every time.

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Mark McElroy

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