Yann Bernard Lejard clearly wasn’t told to not play with his food while growing up in the sunny south of France. Thank goodness, because the result is a very grown-up dining experience that tantalises one’s inner child and dissolves the barriers between art forms.
As Ritz Carlton Bahrain’s director of culinary food and beverage, Lejard is responsible for about a dozen of the country’s most prestigious restaurants, but La Table Krug by Y, his recently launched eponymous restaurant in Manama, is where he really makes his mark.
What to expect and where to sit
The dining room is small with few tables. La Table Krug by Y features hallmarks of old-world European luxury ― wood-panelled walls, marble floors, crystal chandeliers, tufted velvet seating and obligatory white linen tablecloths. Just outside, there’s an al fresco dining area overlooking the beautifully lit pool and landscaping of the resort.
Lejard has added personal touches to the space that stand out because of their modernity. Placeholder plates bear his handprint. Instead of still-life oil paintings, there hang flat-lay photographs of his artistic platings.
The dress code is formal, business attire or national dress. It’s a good spot to celebrate an occasion, be it business, family, friendly or romantic. If you’re the type of tourist whose itinerary is guided by social media content creation, take note.
This is experiential dining and edible performance art composed of countless little details. Be prepared for a memorable multisensory and emotive journey on which, when your mouth is not full, there is plenty to talk about.
"Rough luxury" goes down smoothly at La Table Krug by Y. First to arrive is a warm and crusty sourdough cob, sliced at the table and served with decadent saffron rosebud butter. This sets the tone of rough luxury that defines this venue, and also serves as a useful vehicle for mopping up sauces throughout our meal.
My dining partner and I enjoy three elegantly composed starters. We whet our palates with a pea veloute topped with caviar and crunchy decoration. The layers of flavour and texture are highlighted by the impressive glass dome the dish is presented in.
The lightness and freshness of the creation is beautifully contrasted by the deep umami richness of a wild mixed mushroom raviolo bathed in intense truffle sauce with whipped cream foam. It is totally delicious and wholesome.
The most striking dish of the night is a large leg of octopus tempura served on a plate painted with reductions of strawberry, tomato, ginger, Espelette pepper and lime. The visual vibrancy of the presentation is reminiscent of anime food.
Next to arrive are the mains, with sides of potato so smooth and creamy, you shouldn’t tell health and fitness professionals about consuming them.
Chef Lejard responds to my love of the mushroom starter with an indulgent stuffed chicken in turkey gravy with herbed butter and fresh shaved truffle. The flavours are reminiscent of traditional roast dinners, yet elevated by the kinds of techniques that only experienced top chefs can master.
My dining partner is served a salmon souffle accompanied by scallop mousseline, caviar and beurre blanc. Al dente vegetable pearls pop on the tongue like their colours popped on the plate. Mostly, the dish melts in the mouth.
When the dessert trolley is wheeled in, eyes light up. Willy Wonka fantasies are fulfilled. Magical and magnificent, it features a colourful array of macarons, marshmallows, lollipops, bonbons, chouquettes, financier, floating island, apple clafoutis, fruits in syrup and more.
A lot of the spread is extremely saccharine and thus probably suited to those with a real sweet tooth. However, the plated dessert that comes out just ahead of this extravaganza on wheels ― citrus custard disguised as a pebble ― has an adult level of mouth-watering zing.
The star of the show is a fruit charlotte cake. This represents a treasured food memory for Lejard, because his mother made this for his childhood birthdays. Love and nostalgia are present in every delectable bite.
The sweetest and most special touch is the denouement, following fancy teas and coffees. I’m keeping this secret, so other diners may be surprised with the wonder and delight we felt.
A chat with the chef
Lejard is a charismatic chef with a quintessential French accent who conveys passion for his work. It’s not unusual to find him speaking with guests in the dining room.
In fact, he’s most in his element when plating live before an audience, developing the “Yannesque” culinary art movement. It is his avant-garde, painterly approach to food that attracts attention in an industry known for precision and consistency.
“My style is explosive. I am someone with a lot of emotion, so cooking for me is a form of expression where I release my energy. My life is 100 per cent food, beverage, the hotel industry, restaurants, art; I cannot imagine anything else,” Lejard says.
While his inspiration comes from within, Lejard says that after decades of honing his craft, his motivation is now to share creativity and a sense of the bon vivant with other artists and the wider world.
Embodying this is a large hardcover book entitled Pure Instinct. It is the result of a two-year collaboration with renowned Brazilian food photographer Sergio Coimbra. It’s sure to land on the coffee tables of the world’s glitterati when it’s eventually released, but for now the only place to see it is La Table Krug by Y.
We discuss other artisans, including botanical sculptors, ceramicists and musicians, and I find myself excited to see what collaborations Lejard comes up with next.
Price point and contact information
Considering this is high-end dining comprising high-end ingredients, the menu is competitively priced. Starters range from seven Bahraini dinars ($19) for a locally sourced blue crab soup to $45 for duck foie gras with caramelised fruit.
Main courses start at $32 for a 15-ingredient vegetarian farci, extending to $61 for the aforementioned salmon souffle. There’s also a $93 option suitable for two: leg of lamb cooked for seven hours, served with root vegetables and Lejard’s signature theatrical sauces. The unlimited dessert round costs $12.
Diners also have the $111 Experimotion option, letting the chef take the reins.
La Table Krug by Y is open Tuesday to Saturday from 4pm to 7pm for drinks and light snacks, and from 7pm to 11pm for dinner.
Reservations can be made by contacting 00973 1758 6499 or email@example.com.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant