Saturday, July 30, 2016

Nahm (Bangkok)

March 2016

Hotel Metropolitan by COMO
27 South Sathorn Road, Thung Maha Mek, Sathorn, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 2625 3333

David Thompson's Nahm has been a prominent fixture in the international fine dining scene in Bangkok for several years, even if it has recently been overshadowed by the modern Indian phenomenon, Gaggan. The latter has also eclipsed Nahm in San Pellegrino's Best Restaurant in the Asia list having taken over the number 1 spot, which Nahn had a lock-on for many years prior.

Located in the über-chic Metropolitan Hotel along Sathorn, Nahm has a simple yet elegant ambience dominated by dark wood and dim lighting. At night, there are tables outside which overlook the pool, which is a romantic option during the cooler months.

We have dined at Nahm several times over the years. When it was first lauded as the 'best restaurant in Asia', we didn't have very good meals here, and always felt sceptical that a Thai restaurant run by a non-Thai in Bangkok could be regarded the best Thai restaurant in the world. In those days, we didn't even think that it was the best Thai restaurant on the street. Our earlier meals here were disappointing because the cuisine was too unbalanced, being too strong on the salt and the spice, and disregarding the other two key flavours of Thai cuisine; namely the sour and the sweet. We felt that the food was prepared in accordance with western perception of how Thai food should taste, hence losing its authenticity.

However, in the past year, we have started to enjoy the cuisine here. Whether it was because our tastebuds adjusted and learned how to appreciate the style of food here or if subtle changes to the flavours were made by the chef, we have had some very good meals at Nahm to the extent that it is now an unmissable dining destination of ours when we visit Bangkok, which could be as often as every month. In fact, we recently ate at Nahm's sister restaurant in Como Phuket and thought it was brilliant as well. If we avoid determining whether Nahm is the best Thai restaurant or whether its cuisine is authentically Thai, and just enjoy the cuisine as it is, we have to say that this is a very good restaurant.

The menu there is quite extensive but we have come up with a list of our favourite go-to dishes: The duck soup is amazing. Slightly sweetish and not too spicy, it was simply addictive. The blue swimmer crab curry is the best curry in the list in our opinion. The Wagyu beef was luxuriously flavoursome and tender. And the pandanus noodles dessert was refreshing without being too sweet.

Caramalised cane sugar with minced pork and nuts on a pineapple.

(1) Blue swimmer crab with peanuts and picked garlic on rice cakes, (2) egg nets with prawns, wild almonds and kaffir lime, (3) pork and lobster with shredded ginger and thai citron, (4) steamed red curry of scallops with thai basil and coconut.

Clear soup of roast duck with Thai basil and young coconut.

Coconut and oxtail soup with red shallots.

Stir-fried Wagyu beef with charred onions, oyster sauce and Thai basil.

Coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab and calamansi lime.

Guava palate cleanser.

Pandanus noodles with black sticky rice, water chestnuts, tapioca and coconut cream.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Eat Me (Bangkok)

March 2016

Soi Pipat 2, Silom, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Tel: +66 2238 0931

After several big meals of very spicy Thai food during my trip, I needed to take a break and wanted to have a more casual non-Thai meal in Bangkok. I sought the advice of the concierge at the hotel I was staying at and he suggested Eat Me, a hip and popular bar and bistro not far from my hotel. Located in a side street just off a main road, with a narrow nondescript frontage but opening up into a courtyard and a three-story complex, Eat M, is also quite well known to the local taxi drivers, and the taxi I got into who had no trouble bringing me to my destination.

The main dining floor is located on the second floor, above the bar area and below what I suspect is a private dining area. It was a midweek evening but the restaurant was packed, with a good mix of the local dining crowd and expats. The menu was on one sheet of paper which also served as a table mat. They also had a very competent mixologist who did a decent negroni for me that evening.

I ordered the Grilled Tiger Prawns with Tom Yum infused oil, which was a very good starter. The prawns were large and fresh and very succulent.

The Heirloom Tomato Salad with olive oil ice cream, mint, basil and parmesan was also very good. The olive oil ice cream was special and added a balanced creaminess to the sweetness of the juicy tomatoes.

The Australian Salt Bush Lamb Rack with roasted sun -chokes, chèvre and hazelnuts was very competently done but otherwise unremarkable.

The Sticky Date Pudding was done simply in a classic manner and very good. In all, this was a decent meal in a hip joint with very upbeat and friendly service staff. In fact, noting that I was dining alone, the waiters gave me special attention throughout the meal. They were also kind enough to help me call for a cab after I was done and while waiting at the bar for my ride, plied me with complimentary shots of their homemade liqueur, which was a nice touch.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Issaya Siamese Club (Bangkok)

March 2016

4 Chuea Phloeng Road, Thung Maha Mek, Sathon, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Tel: +66 2672 9040

Nestled in the heart of bustling Bangkok is a colonial-age bungalow which houses celebrity chef 'Ian' Kittichai's Thai restaurant. Chef Kittichai is well-known for his TV appearances and overseas restaurants but his local outlet has been recognised by the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list (no. 19 in 2016) as one of the more outstanding regional dining destinations. I visited the restaurant during lunchtime on a weekday. It was scorching hot that day but entering the premises was like going into an oasis of calm. The outdoor veranda would be an ideal hangout place in a cool evening, but the air conditioned indoor area was a refuge from the heat that day. The place was quiet when I got there (it was a late lunch) so I had a whole sofa area to myself. The interior had the comforting feel of someone's house, with eclectic furniture and colourful Thai silk cushions which encouraged lounging.

Issaya has a relative extensive menu focusing on Thai food prepared in a modern style with some finesse. The Nua Sun Seaklong (twice-cooked with wok-finished beef short ribs with sweet chilli dipping sauce) was cooked perfectly and was very succulent and tasty. Unfortunately it turned out to be a portion too large for one person to consume, though I gamely finished it off eventually.

I asked for a soup recommendation and was suggested the Kaew Warn "Like a Soup" Goong which was essentially a green curry prepared as a soup. The presentation at the table was quite elaborate; the ingredients were put into a pre-heated bowl to be seared, followed by the boiling hot curry sauce, stirred and served. It looked too rich to be drunk as a soup but surprisingly this was a lot less thick and heavy than I had expected. It had a lightness of flavour which got me more hooked as I drank it. In the end, I was literally trying to lick the bowl clean. It was an superb dish which defined this meal for me.

The Geang Kraree Gai Krob (Southern style chicken curry with rice) was also very good and the chicken was cooked to the right doneness.

The dessert was a western-style jasmine flower panna cottta with jasmine rice ice cream and jasmine rice tuile (Kanom Dok Mali) which was cool and refreshing to take the edge off the spiciness of the earlier dishes. It was a very enjoyable meal, with excellent food and comparable service levels, with my only grouse being my disappointment of the cocktails which I felt were too weak and diluted.