Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dinner for US$25,000? Millionaires fly to Bangkok for night of gourmet indulgence

BANGKOK - Beluga caviar, truffles and Dom Perignon sorbet were on the menu Saturday for a night of fine dining in Bangkok that chefs, wine experts and organizers have dubbed the meal of a lifetime.

Some of the world's wealthiest food lovers have flown in for the dinner, which carries a price tag of US$25,000 (euro19,000) a head.

Tax and gratuities are not included.

Six three-star Michelin chefs from France, Italy and Germany will cook the meal's 10 courses, each paired with a rare fine wine.

"It's surreal! The whole thing is surreal,'' said Alain Soliveres, the celebrated chef of Paris's Taillevent restaurant, who was commissioned to prepare two of his signature dishes including the first on the menu: a creme brulee of foie gras to be washed down with a 1990 Cristal champagne - a bubbly that sells for more than US$500 (euro400) a bottle, but still stands out as one of the cheapest wines on the menu.

"To have brought together all of these three-star Michelin chefs, and to serve these wines for so many people is just an incredible feat,'' Soliveres said ahead of the dinner. "C'est fabuleux!''

Few expenses have been spared in putting together the event, titled "Epicurean Masters of the World.''

Chefs submitted their grocery lists to organizers and the ingredients were flown in fresh: black truffles, foie gras, oysters and live Brittany lobsters from France; caviar from Switzerland; Jerusalem artichokes and white truffles from Rome.

Diners will sip their way through legendary vintages, like a 1985 Romanee Conti, a 1959 Chateau Mouton Rotshchild, a 1967 Chateau d'Yquem and a 1961 Chateau Palmer, considered "one of the greatest single wines of the 20th century,'' said Alun Griffiths of Berry Bros. & Rudd, the British wine merchants that procured and shipped about six bottles of each wine for the dinner.

The wine alone cost more than 100,000 British pounds ($200,000; euro150,000), Griffiths said.

"Just to have one of these would be a great treat,'' he said. "To have 10 of them in one evening is the sort of thing that people would kill for.''

The dinner will be served to 40 people - 15 paying customers and 25 invited guests.

Organizers scrambled to fill seats at the last minute after 10 Japanese people canceled their reservation, citing safety concerns after the New Year's Eve bombings in Bangkok that killed 3 people, said Deepak Ohri, managing director of Bangkok's luxury Lebua hotel, which organized the dinner.

Guests jetted in from Europe, the United States, the Middle East and across Asia, and include executives of Fortune 500 companies, a casino owner from Macau and a Taiwanese hotel owner, Ohri said, declining to reveal their identities.

To ensure discretion, diners will be escorted to a restaurant on the hotel's 65th floor in a private elevator, and all staff holding mobile phones with cameras will have to check the devices at the door.

The chefs preparing the meal charge diners about euro200 ($260) for a meal at their own restaurants, and said they were stunned by the price.

"It's crazy,'' said Antoine Westermann of Le Buerhiesel in Strasbourg, France. "The fact that one meal could be this expensive,'' he shrugged. "After this, nothing can shock me.''

In a bid to give diners their money's worth, Westermann said he planned to shave 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) of Perigord truffles - worth about $350 (euro270) - onto each plate. "For $25,000,'' he -aid, "what do you expect?''

Source : STAR
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