Friday, August 11, 2017

German Dinner in Bangkok

"Huh?" was the most typical response we got when we told (most of) our friends that we were going to have German food while in Bangkok. It may sound like a strange choice but as the restaurant was highly ranked in the Asia's Top 50 Restaurant list (making its debut at Number 13 this year), we wanted to give it a shot.

We made a booking about a month in advance by email and a few messages were exchanged with the restaurant before we were confirmed for the table for 7 inside the kitchen with our friend R's family joining us, as they happened to be in town for holiday also.

The dinner fell on the first evening of our Bangkok weekend. We arrived right around our booking time for the early seating at 6pm (that’s not without a bit of drama as the driver were a bit lost on our way). Going through the garden near the entrance and by the stunningly beautiful dining area under the glasshouse and inside a restored townhouse, we were led further back into a long table set up for us right outside the open kitchen. Turned out it took a bit longer for everyone at our party to arrive, but that only meant I got more chance to survey the kitchen and caught all the action of the service led by Chef Thomas Suhring, who with his identical twin brother Mathias owned this restaurant.

The restaurant opens only for dinner service with two tasting menus available plus the a la carte option, but at the kitchen table only one choice was offered – the full-on 12-course tasting menu. It may sound daunting to go through all 12 dishes but they were served in tasting portion so turned out it’s just right in terms of amount of food served. And we went for the wine-matching option with 6 glasses served throughout the meal – turned out it’s a great decision, given our limited knowledge in German/Austrian wines which dominated the wine list.

The first five courses were bite-sized appetizers to be eaten with fingers, each filled with complex tastes. Beef tartare was presented as mini-sliders – the meat “patty” was soft and well-marinated and the sturgeon cornet was well-presented with the mini-cones sit on a glass with a strong hint of horseradish to go with the fish filling.

The "Toast Hawaii" was served with ham and pineapple inside a mini toasted bread rolls – who would have thought such humble combination of ingredients could be presented so elegantly? Curry 36 played tribute to the famous street food place in Berlin, with chunks of currywurst with ketchup served in a fast food takeaway box, to go with potato chips on the side (mashed, dehydrated and then baked, as the chef explained to us later) and a small glass of beer with citrus espuma on top.

Last but not least was the Frankfurter grune sobe – the "calcified sphere" (a la El Bulli) with the classic German green sauce inside, served with pickles and a thin crisp underneath. That’s perhaps the most creative of all and I was impressed with such sumptuous display of these fancy dishes based on the chef’s re-interpretation of classic home-style food.

We moved on to dishes served in more substantial portions, but following the same traits as being new interpretation of traditional German dishes. The combination of ocean trout, buttermilk, cucumber and dill was nothing new but then here it’s presented as a piece of ocean trout going through 24-hour of curing, with cucumber water, dill "freeze-dry" powder and a dollop of buttermilk espuma in the middle. It’s delicate, refreshing, and dramatic with the cold smoke coming out as the dill powder was spooned on top at the table.

Chef Thomas stopped by to present our next course of Brotzeit, essentially a glorified version of a picnic table (it literally meant bread time). In the center was a plate of freshly baked pretzels and sourdough - the bread was more yeasty than sour and very soft, made using a 2-year-old starter. On the side was a few spread served in ceramics jars. I particularly like the creamy, emerald-colored garlic butter cannelle, and one described to us as "egg salad". (the third one was an aged camembert) On the wooden board was slices of speck, and on a small plate was mackerel gravlax with a mild pickle juice with mustard seeds. For what it looked like something ordinary, we all enjoyed the course very much.

We started our meal late but the kitchen team kept the pace perfectly well and we never felt rushed. Our next course of Leipziger Allerlei was served soon after we wrapped up the Brotzeit. Introduced to us as "beggars food" (according to the legend of how and why the dish was invented centuries ago), on the plate was scores of various ingredients - a perch fillet with the skin slightly torched, morel mushrooms (one of the biggest we have seen), green and white asparagus, crayfish, pickled baby radish, pea and pumpkin purees served with a bisque sauce. Time has certainly changed from the days we considered crayfish and asparagus as the diet for the poor and this dish - now considered elegant of course - was full of excellent flavors.

Another traditional home-style dish was served next, in the form of a bowl of spatzles with creamy mushroom sauce. We were offered some winter black truffles (from Tasmania) to be shaved on top as an add-on option, which we complied with a few slices on each bowl just as an accent. It certainly added to the aroma and flavor, but I was happy even without with the hand-cut soft egg noodles traditional in German cuisine took in the rich and creamy sauce with the crispy sweet onion offered as condiment on the side.

Our main course was wagyu short rib marinated then braised, and served with an assortment of root vegetables and a small piece of Semmelknoedel, or traditional German bread dumpling. It's well executed as I would expect from a restaurant of such caliber. Then we finished with two desserts, first peach with elderflower syrup and the mild and creamy quark underneath as our palate cleanser, then it's marinated cherries with buckwheat icecream, nuts and tuile, as chef's new interpretation of a deconstructed black forest cake. I was amazed at the strong buckwheat taste in the ice cream and that contrasted well with the sweet cherry halves and coulis drizzled on top.

Their wine list featured good selection from Germany and Austria with special emphasis on organic, natural and/or biodynamic bottles. Not knowing what to pick, we reverted to the sommelier's wine-pairing option. We all agreed that each wine was matched brilliantly with the dish served, with four glasses of dry-style whites to start, followed by an Austrian red for our beef main course, then a sweet Riesling for our dessert (plus a small shot glass of egg nog at the end as digestif). Particularly, the Pittnauer Mash Pitt was an interesting one, with the white blend going through a brief maceration with the skins, giving the wine an unique aroma and deep amber hue (hence it's often called "orange wine"), and a distinct yeasty flavor from the natural wine-making process.

Just like almost everyone else, my previous impression of German cuisine has been restricted to pork knuckles, sausages and sauerkraut (and black forest cake perhaps), so needless to say, I was blown away by such refined dishes served by the Suhring brothers. They managed a fine balance between innovative cooking and traditional style, and presented them in such elegant form. All the dishes were fabulous with perfect setting to match plus the wine-pairing and the company - this meal was surely THE highlight of our trip. We couldn't have sung higher praises of that, taken account into how much food we have consumed in this short 3-day Bangkok journey.

More pictures in my Flickr album:

When? July 15 2017
Where? Restaurant Sühring, No.10, Yen Akat Soi 3,, Chongnonsi, Yannawa,, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Menu Highlight? Leipziger Allerlei
2014 Weingut Wittmann Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany
2015 Pittnauer Mash Pitt, Austria
2013 Koehler-Ruprecht Kallstadter Riesling Kabinett Trocken, Pfalz, Germany
2015 Hollenburger Gruner Veltliner, Austria
2015 Weingut Markowitsch Rubin Carnuntum, Austria
2014 Wagner-Stempel Heerkretz Riesling Spatlese, Germany

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