Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nahm Restaurant - Bangkok

Often when we are in London, our friends say that what excites them the most about India is the buzz, the life, the noise, the feeling that so much is going on. They compare the hustle bustle in India with what they consider to be drab, lifeless, recession and depression in the West. On the surface, I agree, there is really a lot of activity in India, be it on the streets, the cars, the sheer cacophony. However, scratch a little deeper and you will realise that most of this activity is simply people chasing their own tails. Please do not react to this last statement, the point of this post is not to delve into the activity in India. My point is that if you think India and especially Bombay [sorry Raj and Uddhav -  Mumbai] has activity, you should come to Bangkok. My God [sorry Raj and Uddhav - `Arre Deva’] the level of activity in Bangkok is several notches up. The malls are absolutely crowded, the streets are chocker block full with cars, hawkers and people. The restaurants have customers busy eating all the time. It’s quite an active place.

Dinner on Day 3 was to be at Nahm. We had booked from Mumbai a few days ago when planning this visit to Bangkok. A bit of background on Nahm. David Thompson is an Australian chef who spent many years in Thailand. Deeply influenced by Thai food he started and ran two restaurants in his native Australia – Darley Street Thai and Sailors Thai. Then, he went on to open Nahm in the Halkin Hotel in London. It was the first Thai restaurant to gain a Michelin Star. This is quite an achievement. Despite all you read about the Michelin guys not knowing anything about non French food, the standards to get a Michelin star in Europe are very high, much higher than in Japan, USA, Hong Kong and Singapore.  Therefore to get a star in London is serious. In 2010 David Thompson opened Nahm in Bangkok. This too was seen as a revolutionary step. A foreigner opening a Thai restaurant serving classic Thai food in Bangkok was looked on with much surprise. David Thompson has also written 2 books on Thai Food. Both are really excellent. The recipes have been `codified’ tested and have actual measurements. The books have lavish photographs and are well worth buying.

A short taxi ride thru Bangkok’s horrible traffic brought us to the Metropolitan Hotel on Sathorn Road where Nahm was located.  A well decorated restaurant with lots of wood and the classic Thai orchids placed on each table. The restaurant manager was a European and the waiters, though Thai were rather well trained, efficient could easily comprehend what we were saying and had charm.

We got 3 menus. One was a wine list, one was the drinks card and the third was the menu. Since it was a celebration, a bit of bubbly was in order, so I asked for a bottle of Prosecco. Champagne is really prohibitive in Thailand as it is in India. Sister Stonethrower had done her own research and said she wanted a Tom Yumtini – a Martini with Tom Yum flavours. This was the restaurants signature cocktail. So why not, we ordered 3. Not bad, however low on alcohol and seemed like a spicy fresh lime soda. After a few sips the drink was abandoned.

The main food menu was extensive. The restaurant did offer a tasting menu of 6 courses. This seemed a very attractive proposition. You got all 4 starters on the menu. You then chose any one salad, any curry, any one relish and any one stir fried dish and each person chose his own soup. Desert was also offered. Since we all ate everything this presented no challenge to the waiter. In fact he proposed that instead of one curry, we could order two.

I am not going to describe each dish that we ordered. This post would become very long. I must say that the food was exceptional. It was classic Thai food, not made mild for foreigners, it was robust, genuinely `tikkha’. All the dishes were very good and probably the best examples we had of Thai food. The starters were beyond exceptional, they were really the stars of the meal. Each and every one of them was incredible. They were made with a high degree of skill. The textures and contrasts of each were admirable. You must have read about how Thai flavours are `fresh’ with the balance of lime, salty and sweet. The lemongrass and Kafir Lime notes, the blast of the chilli are all classic Thai flavours. All this was on offer in every dish. Therein lies a problem. Your palate is assaulted and it gets a bit much. The meal was well worth it for you to realise what good authentic Thai food can be, in a sophisticated atmosphere. The meal was not cheap, however after eating food of this quality, where, according to me, every Thai element is `full on’ you will reach you own conclusion as the whether you really like Thai food. I for one am confused. To me Thai food can get a bit much. But I once again clarify, this was really good food.

Great photographs, even if I say so myself. Enjoy.

Do visit this restaurant when in Bangkok. It is a culinary Tour De Force.
The beautiful Orchids on the table

Tom Yumtini

Amuse Bouche - Caramelised minced Pork and Chicken on a Pineapple slice

Starter - Chicken and Longan stuffed inside a Tuille or wafer

Starter - Smoked Fish Tapioca and Peanut Dumplings
Starter - Southern Grilled Mussels

Starter - Spicy Pork with Mint, Peanuts and crunchy rice  to be eaten with Betel leaves or `Paan'.
Soup - Crab & Snake Gourd Soup with Egg, Pepper & Corriander
Soup - Hot Sour Soup of Chicken with Straw Mushrooms, Lemongrass, Chilli & Lime
Soup - Clear Soup of Roast Duck with Thai Basil & Young Coconut

Salad - Salad of Deep Fried Soft Shelled Crab with Pomelo, Chillies & Coriander
Curry - Grilled Wagyu Beef with Bai Yar

Curry - Coconut & Tumeric Curry of Blue Swimmer Crab with Calamansi Limes

Relish - Minced Prawn & Pork simmered in Coconut Cream with young Chillies, red  Shallots and Coriander  + Fresh Vegetables + Fried Carp

Fresh Vegetables
Stir Fried Steamed & Grilled - Pork Cheek Grilled
Roast Tomato Relish with the Pork Cheeks
Raw Mango Sugar and Chilli

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



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