There’s been a lot of buzz about nahm, a new Thai restaurant that opened in Bangkok last year. The restaurant is run by an Australian chef David Thompson who specializes in Thai cuisine. Thompson opened a Thai restaurant by the same name in London and it was the first, and, for quite a while, the only Thai restaurant with a Michelin star.
The big hoopla about his restaurant in Bangkok is the chef himself. Many Thais did not appreciate the idea of a farang chef proclaiming how Thai food should be made. Thompson didn’t help with his open claims to go back to traditional Thai food that has been overlooked in favor of tourist fare such as pad thais.
We went to taste the food for ourselves. The restaurant encourages their customers to order the set menu option, seven courses. I went in thinking the set menu is a pre-determined collection of dishes featured for the night/week/month, where the chef likes to dictate what one’s ideal whole dinner should be. Instead, we are given a menu with a selection of all the dishes and told that the set menu is for us to pick which dishes we want. That quickly damped my interest in ordering the set dinner. I believe the idea of a set menu involves more work from the chef to pick out which variety of dishes complement each other. If we are to mix and match ourselves, we might as well pick a la carte and have more control over how much we are eating.
The restaurant charges an overlap steep 1200 baht corkage fee. What a disappointment as I had a couple of sauvignon blancs I was ready to pop open.
The food was delicious. I am not sure if I can say the food is true to its traditional roots. What I did notice right away was how well cooked the dishes are. I have found Thai food to be very indifferent to cooking technique. A lot of dishes are simply stir fried, everything mixed in all at once, tossed and mashed together until hot to serve. Or slices, shaved, dices, spiced, tossed then served. The food served in nahm, on the other hand, is a demonstration of how Thai food would look like when the culinary arts and techniques are applied.
Simple things stood out. In our chicken mussaman curry, the chicken was not deboned as they usually are. I was about to resign to myself to having to attack the meat on the bone in a very undignified manner. The meat peeled right off. That doesn’t happen unless the chef knows how to take great care in the preparation, treatment, and cooking of the meat.